“The day I could not kick nearly as high and as fast as I once did in my 30’s, I knew the martial arts had to become something I know how to do, yet could not do quite as well as had before. That reality hurt a lot!”
Since last week, after Whitney Houston’s passing and funeral, I’ve been going over in my mind the many things that bring a person to that place in their life where they say, “Damn, I can’t seem to play golf like I once did years ago, (Tiger Woods). Or “Darn it, my chops on the horn aren’t what they once were when I was in my 20’s and 30’s,” (Trumpeter Al Hirt after being hit in the mouth with what was said to be, a brick while riding on a parade float). How does the arthritic sculptor feel when he or she knows that this could very well be the last bust that they will ever work on? How do you paint your last painting and be ok with that? It always a shame to see a great Nobel Prize winning mind turn to grey matter jello from Alzheimer’s.
When you are noted for your art, your writing, your sporting abilities, your music and lets say, even your singing voice; for some strange reason, you become whatever it is you do. Imagine this talent or gift not being there for you like it once was. That could be devastating to that person! Some of us keep our talents, and our good looks, and abilities most all our lives. Look at Tony Bennett. He’s 86 years young, and he looks great, and sounds even better than he did 40 years ago. My hero, Dame Shirley Bassey is 76 years young, and she sounds better than she did when she first sung “Goldfinger” (theme song to the 007 James Bond movie of the same name), back in 1964. Grant it, the Olympic Speed Skaters, Heavy Weight Power Lifters, Boxers, Football Players, Motorcycle Stunt Riders, Full contact Karate fighters (Except for Chuck Norris… seemingly) have that time in their lives when they have to say, “I cannot do this (if at all) anymore, or not nearly as well as I once did way back when!”
I feel that Whitney Houston had one of those moments (and probably many more of them than we may ever know) in recent years. We all watched and heard Whitney’s singing voice begin fading and go into a slow decline compared to that powerful riveting voice we all knew and loved since the 1980’s. A voice that she seemed so proud of! Personally, I feel that her comeback album a few years ago was a bit premature. Speaking on a more personal level, I felt that Whitney Houston needed quite a bit more healing. The kind that would only occur from the inside out. She may have been clean and off drugs, and that was and always is a good thing; but what Whitney needed was to fall back in love with her voice and singing again, not making a comeback!
The record industry is a very difficult and competitive business. The pressures to succeed and get a hit record, and to stay on top are ridiculously demanding. As much as we all loved Whitney, in my opinion, she just wasn’t ready to make a comeback. As much as I know about playing guitar, and for as long as I’ve played, I know that my plucking’ skills aren’t what they were 12 years ago. So I would never go to a blues, open mic-night and guitar cuttin’ head’s session with all those young B.B King/Albert King/Eddie Van Halen/Steven Via/Jimi Hendrix virtuoso’s, who have mastered the art of guitar unto a science. My chops on the guitar just aren’t there like they once were, and I’m kind of ok with that. I can afford to feel comfortable in my guitar apathy. Of course if I wanted to, I could sit up on my guitar and practice all day-everyday, and get my Clapton/Benson fire back… after a long while of course; but I don’t feel the need to rush, nor the need to compete anymore. There’s no record company producer barking down my throat, shouting, “Ok, where’s the product Glenn!”
But when you’re Whitney Houston, You feel as if you’ve gotta perform; you’ve gotta please the fans, and because of this, there’s that little voice inside telling you… “You’ve got to get it all back! I can do this!” And as her fans, we wanted Whitney to get it all back too, didn’t we? Sadly enough, that doggone reality show with Whitney and Bobby had done a job on her image, and didn’t do wonders for her self-esteem (I feel) either. I look at some of the greats like Aretha. Its not a big secret that Aretha Franklin smokes cigarettes; and that’s her right to do so! I don’t begrudge The Queen of Soul from doing anything she wants to do! Its just that if it was me, and I had a voice like that, I’d be scared to death to smoke given the precious gift that I had been blessed with. But then again, don’t we all (most of us) do something that sabotages and eventually destroy’s us and our talents along the way in life?
We all are victims of our own vices and shortcomings. It’s called being human! Barbra Streisand Tweeted about Whitney, “She had everything, beauty, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us.” How many artist out there are just like that? The list is too long to even start mentioning names! We all have that part of us that is never satisfied. Yet and still despite our troubles, some of us could always go back and rely on our talents as a refuse to express ourselves, to vent and relieve tensions and blow off some creative steam! How frustrating it must have been for Whitney to not be able to do this. To not be able to hit those high notes with the same power and ease she had back in 1994. Imagine the hurt she must have experienced inside!
I stood in front of the television one morning in 2009 watching Good Morning America, where they featured this big concert set up in Central Park for Whitney Houston’s comeback CD and tour. These morning shows (The Today Show and the (old) CBS Morning Show) have been great places for recording artist to showcase their new roadshow tour, launch a new CD, or just boost their fan base and image, all at the same time. This particular stage set up was huge! This GMA show was offhandedly billed as her Comeback Concert. I was glued to my TV; and like millions of other americans, I watched Our Whitney Houston fight and struggle through three songs that just a few years subsequent she would have sliced through like a hot knife through butter. My heart broke as I watched Whitney walk off the stage in the middle of a song and not return. They went to commercial and that was it! What went through her mind that morning? Later on that day, it was said that Whitney blamed her interview with Oprah the day before as the reason for losing her voice. Well, maybe so! All I know was I really felt for her that morning. I really did!
It just seemed to me that the passion that was in her vocals during her heyday just wasn’t there that morning, and she so wanted it to be there! See the evil thing about drugs (especially crack and/or cocaine) is that they affect the Endorphins in our brain. The endorphins are the pleasure centers of the human brain. Some people increase their endorphins by exercising, while some other folks can do this byway of a musical rush that pumps up their endorphins by singing or jamming on an instrument. Once something captures and overtakes these pleasure centers of the brain, these endorphins, along with this new overpowering stimuli (such as Crack) basically becomes the only way that that person can achieve or derive pleasure. Thus why the preverbal crack head is always trying to obtain that introductory jolt they received from that very first high they experienced when they first used this hellish drug for the first time! I can imagine that using crack can almost wipe out the joy and natural high that one was use to achieving from singing or playing an instrument! Not to mention the physical damage that can occurred from ingesting or inhaling those chemicals that could destroy the voice box, the bronchioles, the airways; and even the very lungs of anyone who’d smoke this stuff for any length of time.
Rehab from Crack Cocaine on a realistic tip is long and is a tremendously hard fought journey trying to get back even the slightest assemblance of oneself. There are no quick fixes! There’s no easy way out! So with our Whitney Houston, her fight must have been hard and doubly frustrating to say the least. One thing I can say about our Whitney is that she tried! She really did appear to try to do the right thing! On a more personal note; fighting asthma, I know the frustration of what its like to not have your voice available to you when you want it to perform. The difference for me and people like me is we don’t have vocal deadlines, or recording studio sessions adhere to, adoring fans to please, and concert dates to fulfill. Imagine what it would feel like to see your once beloved fans walk out of your concert shows because your voice isn’t what it once was! Strange, when you’re up, people appear to love the hell out of you, and when you’re down, some of those same people just find it that much easier to kick you in the teeth, rather than to hug you and tell you everything is gonna be alright! If it were me, fan’s walking out of my concert would have hurt me to the core, as I know this had to have hurt Whitney. If you are a user, enough experiences like that alone could drive you to want to fall off the wagon. In the words of my dear Publisher, Trish Brown; “Love the addicts in your life!” This is so true! Believe me, they are most times broken and in the deepest despair. If you love them, show it. They truly need it!
The one thing I am glad of is that we live in a world where all Whitney’s music and recordings are available to us in various formats. I wanted so badly for Whitney to make more movies, as I thought she was a damn good actress! It is my comfort that I know Whitney is resting well despite greedy people further exploiting her pain by taking photos of her lying in her coffin; and spreading awful tabloid rumors, much like they do all celebrities when they pass on. The rag mag’s literally feed off demeaning and destroying people like Whitney Houston, and all for profit. To them the Whitney Houston’s are the people they love to hate, and that is a shame because Nippy gave so much, and loved even harder! I am ordering my copy of the “Body Guard,” on Blue Ray and completing my Whitney Houston music collection (no matter how high they raise the prices), and just as I have to date, I absolutely refuse to look at that picture folks have been posting of her lying in her coffin. This is not the Whitney Houston I want to remember! My Whitney Houston is still that same ole‘ feisty Jersey Girl with that big ole‘ voice, and the skinny legs, and larger than life laugh. I call her Our Whitney because she was just that! “Our Whitney Houston!” Ask any woman about Whitney Houston and they will say, “Whitney? That’s my Girl! She was real!” Whitney Houston to me always seemed like she could have been anybody’s big sister! That’s special; and no one can ever take that away from me, or you!
Glenn Peppers February 25, 2012