In the history of Music, only a few artists impact a generation of fans and transcend time. It appears as though artists who achieve greatness, battle personal demons and torment within their inner soul. There is a price to greatness. I mean, you can’t be blessed with remarkable gifts and elude every curse along the way. I truly believe the universe will not allow a perfect balance. It can also be said that your perfections and imperfections live on, manifesting within your offspring. A person with unlimited resources will always have access to the essentials of life, and the many dangers that life has to offer. The late Tupac Shakur once talked about whatever bad habits or desires he had before becoming rich, only intensified after money was no longer an issue. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people have addictive personalities, substance abuse challenges or an impressionable thought process. This is why it’s essential to have the right support group, management team, and love ones around you if you’re a highly successful musician. In the case of Whitney Houston, her life as well as her daughter’s life, ended in the fashion of a Greek Tragedy.
I remember following the life of Whitney Houston for decades. Growing up, Whitney was a favorite among people in my family, especially my big sister Robin. On several occasions, I recall walking past her bedroom hearing her singing the songs “You Give Good Love”, “Saving All My Love For You”, and “How Will I know” off Whitney’s debut album, affectionately titled Whitney Houston. At this very moment, Whitey took over the music world. Whitney became the star of stars in an era where Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Phil Collins and Bruce Springsteen were each in their primes. American Music would never be the same. Whitney Houston was carefully crafted into a safe, loving, and passionate Pop Star. Even with the Pop Star appeal, the Black Community had no choice but to embrace her. Yes, there were critics who couldn’t get passed the fact that she wasn’t Chaka Khan, Anita Baker or Patti LaBelle, but one thing couldn’t be denied, the girl could SING. It’s on record that I’m not the biggest Whitney Houston fan but I respect her gift, voice, and what she means to the musical fabric of this nation. At the end of the day, talent overrides opinion.
Over the years, Whitney built an incredible career as a Musician, Actress, Model and Producer. Whitney is one of the best selling artists of all time (over 200 million albums) and one of the biggest names musically, we’ve ever seen. I will not bore you with her numerous accolades and accomplishments as this can be satisfied with a simple Google Search. The purpose of this collection of thoughts is to dig deeper into her life from a psychological perspective. As a person who has been a Mental Health/Substance Abuse professional for 20 years, I hope I can come from a different angle. The pressure to be great, sustain a career, maintain a family, loving relationships, happiness and consistent sanity are a challenge for many people. This is especially the case for Celebrities. Celebrities are forced to be so many things to so many people. They often lose themselves along the way. This is also when individuals find a way to cope with life in general, at times by any means necessary. When this happens, their true love ones suffer emotionally and even physically depending on the situation. Whitney Houston falls in line with several American icons such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Marvin Gaye, who each suffered an untimely death due to personal demons finally defeating them.
As a Music Nerd, I often look much deeper than the actual Music. In my professional career, I’ve worked with people who had behavioral issues. The behaviors could be from mental illness, substance abuse or a combination of the two. I use to cringe at the stories that Bobby Brown was the reason Whitney Houston’s behavior became erratic. I remember hearing rumors that Eddie Murphy’s 1985 hit single “Party All The Time” produced by Rick James, was about Whitney Houston. Of course I have no idea if this is true but there were rumors about Whitney and her nightlife behaviors years before meeting Bobby Brown. In the 80’s Whitney was romantically linked to Eddie Murphy and the Football Star Randall Cunningham, before she started dating and eventually marrying Brown. In the prime of Whitney’s career, Clive Davis and her Management worked diligently to maintain the clean image necessary to compete with the MTV and VH1 Pop Stars. Unfortunately, all of this was about to change. During the 90’s Whitney Houston starting cancelling concerts, showing up late for rehearsals and scheduled interviews, drastic changes in weight and appearance among other struggles. Family and Friends reportedly showed concern. Whitney Houston was definitely battling something, and drugs appeared to be a coping mechanism. What didn’t help Bobby Brown’s reputation was the fact that he was constantly in trouble with the law and displayed issues with Substance Abuse as well. Years later, in comes their daughter Bobbi Kristina.
Being a Parent is a tough job. We all strive to set an example for our children and provide the safest path and environment for them to maneuver and flourish. The thing about our children is that they have a spiritual connection to us. They feel our energy. Our kids are watching and focusing on us more than we can imagine. Bobbi Kristina was just like any other kid who loves their parents. Bobby Kristina is like any other kid who mimics the behaviors of their parent or parents. Your economic situation doesn’t block what Mother Nature has put in place. You are your child’s Superhero and role model whether you want to be or not. As Bobbi Kristina started to come of age, she dealt with issues very similar to her parents. Bobbi was said to have substance abuse issues and had a few legal situations, just as her parents. Unfortunately, she was headed towards the same fate as her mother. The music world was taken by storm on February 11, 2012 with the death of Whitney Houston. Of course this was devastating to the music industry and the black community. I mean, this was Whitney Houston and even though we knew she had issues, we believed in her. Whitney drowned due to drug intoxication. We also know Whitney had battle years of cocaine addiction. If we were hurt, imagine what Bobbi Kristina had to endure. Whitney and Bobbi had a deep love for each other and it is well documented that Bobbi was never the same. In the fashion of a Greek Tragedy, Bobbi Kristina was found in a bathtub faced down from drug intoxication. She was revived and survived in a coma for several months before dying.
You often hear the saying “The Sins of the Father”, in Religion and Pop Culture. I use the terminology a little different. I look at is as if you are lucky, your child will embrace the best parts of a parent, or parents. There is no doubt Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown loved Bobbi Kristina with every fiber in their being. I would like to believe most parents do, as a result of their genetic connection, if nothing else. Of course we know there are some terrible parents out here, but I digress. At any rate, I was sad hearing about the deaths of both of these women. Whitney Houston is an American Treasure but her roller coaster lifestyle took some luster away from her amazing and legendary achievements. We still love Whitney Houston, which is why I have mixed emotions writing this piece. We miss Whitney Houston just as we miss her peers, Michael Jackson and Prince. There will never be another Whitney Houston. If you view her career based on number alone, she is almost unmatched. Young Women will continue to sing her songs and be inspired by her voice for generations to come. At the end of the day, there will be tragedies in life. At the end of the day, we each lose those that we love. Parents have to set an example for their children and children have to be conscious enough to follow the positive behaviors over the negative ones. Life is complex and all of this is easier said than done. I just wish both Whitney and Bobbi would have had a second chance to get on the right track. As Mos Def said on “Cream of the Planet”, life is fantastic, beautiful and tragic. The universe does not allow a perfect balance.
God Bless – Tony Hanes