If you get a few years on you there are some Great Truths about substance abusers that are going to appear as often as a full moon and should surprise you just as much. Chief among the Great Truths is there are those people out there who are not going to quit. Next among the Truths is there are drugs out there that will kill you dead no matter how good you are, how good you were, or if the Grammy Awards are happening the day after you die.
In the Grand Scheme of Things, Whitney Houston is just Amy Winehouse with a tan. Houston hadn’t gotten near the charts in so long the last time anyone saw her was on a milk carton. Those who didn’t go to High School in the eighties will only remember her as some has- been who was famous for slurred speech and erratic behavior in public and being married to someone who was likewise a former famous person with a penchant for domestic violence.
Houston’s last real hit was twenty years ago. “I will always love you” was one of those songs that struck a chord with the pop music crowd. Everything Whitney was bright and beautiful, oh, except her drinking, cocaine, and the fact that her husband batted her around about once a week when he was loaded.
Whitney’s death has been touted as “unexpected” and “mysterious” and “a tragedy” but only the last part is true. The woman had a life she could have really done something with and she snorted it away. Her eighteen year old daughter is in the hospital and her mom isn’t there. That’s a tragedy. The death of a pop singer in and of itself is not.
Popular music, top forty stuff, radio stuff, Justina Barbara stuff, none of it interests me at all. Houston’s music never impressed me much and the fact that everyone on earth was falling all over themselves because of “I will always love you” just made Houston one of the many irritants found on commercial radio. No, truly, I had a coworker who stopped his truck one day and explained to me why that song, which he turned up loud enough for the world to hear, was his song, or rather, the song that reminded him of his ex-wife. She took his house, his paycheck, his kid, and his best friend and she left. When someone pours their heart out to you there is an obligation not to use the word “moron” but you also don’t want people passing by on the sidewalk to think someone is proposing to you in the middle of a song like that. And a lot of people really liked that song a lot. I just wasn’t one of them.
Houston’s later career was highlighted by drunken performances, cancelled shows, black eyes, and poorly lip synched versions of her hit. The rumors that she lip synched the Star Spangled Banner at the Superbowl in 1991 dogged her for years. Another of the Great Truths is that drugs and alcohol will kill your ability to sing well. No matter how well you think you are singing, the truth is you sound like Celine Dion having a helium overdose. Houston had a good voice, but she wasn’t one of the greats.
Amy Winehouse died young and there is a lot of fuss over a life wasted but it was her life. The woman had a good voice but she wasted her time on trying to kill herself. It took Houston twenty years longer, but the results are the same. And, oh, by the way, I do know what killed her. Look back at the people who were pop stars during that time and if they didn’t die young they did enough coke to permanently damage their hearts. But I think they’ll find very bad things in her blood.
That, too, is one of the Great Truths of Substance Abuse; if you have ever had one good song, and one mg too many, people will remember you fondly.