It’s still unreal for me to type in the words ‘the late’ Whitney Houston. It’s been over a week now that Whitney has been finally put to rest, and as a fanatic who’s grown up on a staple diet of flawless Whitney classics, this is way too difficult to fathom till today.
As fans and music lovers scramble to buy her records and sales sky-rocket, the incomparable Whitney Houston graces the cover of the March issue of Rolling Stone magazine, with a cover story that deals with everything from Whitney’s voice, her legacy as well as her struggles with addiction and her inner demons, that ultimately led to her tragic demise.
Here are some excerpts from the cover story :
From the start, Whitney Houston was a child of both the church and the charts. Her mother, Cissy, was a Newark, New Jersey-born soprano powerhouse who sang backup on classic records by Franklin (“Ain’t No Way,” “Chain of Fools”) and Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl”), and toured with Elvis Presley (when she was a member of the Sweet Inspirations). Her cousin Warwick had crossed over to pop in the Sixties and Seventies with hits like “Walk On By” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” Whitney, born in 1963, inherited her voice from her mother, and her elegant good looks and strong will from her father, John Houston, who worked variously as a truck driver and for the city of Newark, and who would later manage his daughter’s career.
With 200 million records sold, 11 Billboard # 1’s and the most music awards in history (according to the Guinness Book Of World Records), Whitney’s reign was undoubtedly supreme. It’s sad but true that apart from her inner demons, her gradual decline and untimely death was mainly due to her addiction issues, which were instrumental in silencing her voice, THE Voice, forever.
Diligent professional one moment, wild child the next: Those were the opposing sides of Houston in her last days – and, it turns out, much of her life. Blessed with a peerless combination of bravura lung power, model-perfect looks, and an image that was both warm and regal, Houston was that pop rarity: a genuine crossover star, juggling music and film, audiences young and old, black and white. “Because of her cousin Dionne [Warwick], she understood all those pretty-ass melodies from Burt Bacharach,” says Narada Michael Walden, one of Houston’s many producers. “But because she was young and from the era of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna, she had soul in her too – those rhythms. She had both sides. Plus, she was so damn gorgeous. You couldn’t say no to her.” But after she peaked with her 1991 version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and 1992′s The Bodyguard, her fans watched as, year by year, Houston’s demons were revealed to the world: Her voice grew huskier, her looks hardened. Her records, when they appeared, didn’t sell as well as they once had; her live performances revealed a performer physically and vocally rusty. People who worked with her still find it hard to comprehend her dark side. “A lot of us talked about that, and no one could come up with an answer,” says Gerry Griffith, the A&R man who brought Houston to Clive Davis’ attention around 1982. “Where is that rebellion coming from? It didn’t come out for a while.” When it did, it came out in force, nearly destroying her personal life, career and music.
I can only hope and pray that she’s found peace, something that was forever elusive to her during her lifetime, now that she’s gone.
Excerpts and pics from Rolling Stone magazine and Billboard.com