“Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” she asked in 1987. On Saturday, Feb. 18, for a moment in time, we got the answer: New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J.
Hundreds were there physically along with millions in spirit as the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston was celebrated and mourned during a nearly four-hour homegoing ceremony.
Praises and respect are due to those who chose to bid her life adieu where it began.
Through her meteoric rise, the “beyond our realm of comprehension” superstardom and the trials and tribulations through the past few years of her life, Houston was unapologetic and unwavering in her faith.
On an episode of “The Arsenio Hall Show” back in 1990, Houston shared fondly her spiritual and singing foundation.
“I started singing in church when I was about 5. Gosh, that was a longtime ago. I wanted to become a singer at about 13. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a professional singer, but prior to that I just sang. I sang in church and I loved to do it.” “Do you remember the first song you sang in church?” queried Hall.
She replied, “Yes, I remember the first song I sang in church was a song called ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,’…feed me till I want no more.”
Soft. Subtle. Soulful. Pure. Whitney! Why is this brought up? Well, in reading and listening to the coverage and opinions of her passing, a few things were said that made you scratch your head and question some things. Here are a few examples: “Houston had the greatest ‘pop/ gospel’ voice.” To my understanding, the letter G is before P alphabetically.
So why is pop first? You discover and hone your gospel skills (and ideally acquire some mores, morals and values) in church or place of worship. Where do you gain “pop,” the mall?
“Whitney transcended race. You didn’t think of her as ‘Black’ singer, you just thought of her as Whitney.” I get what is being suggested, but is that really a compliment? What does that mean exactly? Can you then please provide examples of Black singers who you hear and think they are “justBlack singers?’”
“Whitney was Clive Davis’ greatest creation.” Clive Davis is probably the greatest executive in music history, but be clear: A talent possessed by Houston was created in part by the genetics of parents John and Cissy and by God.
Davis is lauded and revered by almost all who have worked with him. In fact, Houston referred to him as “my industry father.” A lot was made of the “father” portion of the phrase, but how about the word “industry”? The world of entertainment is all perception. It’s not necessarily what you do, it’s what people think you do.
Now, one of the last things that we know he did was go on with his annual Grammy Award extravaganza on the night his “industry daughter” passed. I’m just saying…
“Whitney’s demise was due to her husband.” At some point, the music you performed and/or listened to determined what kind of person you were. When Houston was in her prime, the hip-hop music genre was thought to be in the 14th minute and 50th second of its 15 minutes of fame.
When it was reported that she was engaged to “rapper” Bobby Brown, it was met with a disdain and discernment that was once related to that of an interracial couple. It mattered not that at the top of his game, he was a platinum recording artist who was selling out arenas worldwide, acting as an ambassador of the new sound and attitude of R&B.
Brown didn’t fit the expectations America had for Houston, but he stayed true to who he was and it was good enough for her. For 15 years, the strife of their relationship was tabloid fodder and we all paid attention to it because venomous verbal assaults and sordid behavior became entertainment. So did she change or did people’s perception change?
In her sunset, here’s what we can say for certain. If a Mount Rushmore for singers is erected, Aretha Franklin’s guaranteed slot will be accompanied by Houston. She was a “once in a lifetime” vocalist, but as a former wife, mother, sister, aunt and daughter, she was every woman. Not to take a backseat to those qualities is that she was an African-American. If you’re in that club, we ride until the wheels fall off through peaks and valleys, thick and thin.
With all honesty and sincerity, Whitney, we will always love you.
I’m out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife