Unless you have been hiding under a rock in the middle of nowhere, you will no doubt have heard the news about Whitney Houston's passing. Whatever you're opinion about her and her undeniably turbulent life, you can't deny that the woman could sing. She had the kind of voice that, once you heard it, you'd never forget it. 'Effortless' is the word that comes to my mind when I want to describe her vocal ability. Her songs, boy were there some great ones, remind me of specific moments from when I was younger and, if I try, I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard a few of them - don't worry, I won't bore you with the details!
Anyway, following the death of Whitney, some people (predictably) started making comments on online news reports about the fact that millions of people were mourning the death of someone they didn't actually know. A lot of the comments conveyed the opinion that many people were merely sentimentalising the death of someone who had a high-profile battle with drug addiction. However, in my opinion, these people are somewhat confused and I feel like I need to stick my two-cents in and attempt to explain things a little.
First of all, no one is condoning drug use/abuse and I don't think anyone is trying to say that Whitney didn't have a problem when it came to drugs - although, I (and many other speculators) am not sure what her relationship with drugs was at the time of her death. She previously admitted she had a problem - the cat is out of the bag on that one people. Whatever is going on, drugs and drink are not the answer to the problem. However, I think it's wrong of people to pass judgement when most of us don't have the first clue about the pressures of being in the public eye.
Whitney has previously stated that she became famous because she wanted to sing, she didn't sing to become famous - does that make sense? So, due to the fact that she had this voice which can only be described as incredible, she became famous for it. Also, it's worth bearing in mind that fame came to her at an extremely young age and when many people her age were going through a rebellion stage - drinking, partying and generally making the mistakes that they would grow up and cringe at - she was being made into the greatest pop star that the world have ever seen. I am not saying that any of that provides her with an excuse to be reckless (it doesn't); I am just saying that you can't deny that all of that probably impacted on her and her behaviour.
Second of all, who is anyone to say that people can't grieve the loss of someone they don't know. It happened when Diana died, when Michael Jackson died, when the Queen Mother died, when Amy Winehouse died and now when Whitney died. I don't really know what way to say this, so let me try and take you to the place where you need to be to understand it. Have you ever heard a song and in those three minutes of whatever, it felt like the singer was singing to you or the singer was singing the words that you were feeling? Or, have you ever heard a song when you're feeling completely low and the words, the accompanying music, the way the singer sings certain words and the general feeling that the music invokes in you, fills you with hope and makes you actually believe that things can and will get better? Well, that's the power of music.
You don't have to personally know the musician to have some kind of connection with them. I've seen it with the Goo Goo Dolls, Jessie J, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Adele and a number of other musicians. Now, imagine if the one musician that you always identified with was suddenly taken away from you. Obviously, you didn't know they but you connected with them through their music and from now on, you would never have that same connection again. You'd never feel the excitement of hearing them sing new songs, you'd never be able to see them live in concert and all you have left is the stuff that they have already released or were working on before they passed away.
Just because you don't personally know someone doesn't mean that they didn't help someone in some way, shape or form - music goes beyond those sorts of boundaries and that's the beauty of it. Musicians can't heal the problems in the world, but they can help make them bearable and music can sometimes pull people from the depths of depression. You might think I am being dramatic or whatever, but that's my view of what music is and it's how it has often helped me.
So, let people grieve the loss of Whitney, but don't for once second confuse their grief with a tolerance for drugs because they are not one and the same.
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