Whitney Houston Dead at 48

Whitney Houston, once one of the biggest stars in American popular culture, has died.

Whitney Houston, once one of the biggest stars in American popular culture, has died.

AP (“Whitney Houston, superstar of records, films, dies“):

Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

News of Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony. Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.

“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney’s passing,” music producer Quincy Jones said in a written statement. “I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

She had the perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

A tragic waste.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Popular Culture, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Rest in Peace, Whitney. Poor woman. I wonder what demons were driving her to try to self-medicate so relentlessly. (In my opinion, the major reason why people use drugs.)

  2. It’s sad when a talent like that ends up getting squandered. I was also suprised to find out she was only 48. I thought of her as being of being of my parents generation, so it was weird to find out she’s only 13 years older than me.

  3. Eric Florack says:

    It is a sad story, a very sad one. What I saw the news come over the wire, I was watching Betty White on TV. The thought occurred that the reason Betty is still alive even at this advanced age is she didn’t marry the likes of Bobby Brown.

    Perhaps less fancifully there is something to be said for the idea that driven people once they actually achieve their goals don’t know what to do with themselves. We have seen that syndrome all too often, previously.

  4. Brainster says:

    Million-dollar voice and a 2-cent head.

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yup R.I.P. Crack sucks…yet some idiots still want to legalize drugs……sigh…

    Million-dollar voice and a 2-cent head.

    Ever been hooked on crack?

    I am glad your worth more head never let you try it, you would not be so proud or judgmental me thinks…

  6. @G.A.Phillips:

    yet some idiots still want to legalize drugs

    I don’t think anyone is advocating legalization because they think crack is great. They advocate legalization because, as this story shows, the war on drugs does nothing to stop self-destructive people from self-destructing, but causes tons of collateral damage that is worse than the drug problem was to begin with.

    It’s easy to comment how tragic the end of Whitney Houston’s life was. How many hundreds of Houstons never began because of drug convictions for simple posession when they were in their teens or twenties?

  7. Franklin says:

    In terms of pure talent, she was probably one of the five best singers of the 20th century. Every new pop singer who shows any actual talent is compared to her, and never favorably.

    One might also note that she produced one of the finer patriotic moments in modern U.S. history with her singing of the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl during the first Gulf War, IIRC.

  8. @G.A.Phillips:

    By way of example:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/play_full.php?play=457&act=2

    Do you think that we are, as a society, better off as a result of that? Do you think the tens of thousands of dollars spent on it was a good use of resrouces?

  9. Eric Florack says:

    the question of course becomes what happens…… what kind of message get sent when the stuff is legalized.

  10. Brainster says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    No, I never tried crack, so I have never been hooked on it. All I had to do was look around to see what it did to people. And yes, most of them had 2-cent heads.

  11. Franklin says:

    @Eric Florack: I think that’s a valid point. Personally I’m more for shifting money from the current “Drug War” (meaning bombing, raiding, incarceration) over to some sort of rehabilitation system. I certainly wouldn’t make meth outright legal, though.

  12. jfoobar says:

    One could argue that meth is only the problem that it is because much less harmful alternatives (such as powder cocaine) have had their supply and/or cost so adversely affected (from a would-be user’s perspective) by the War On Drugs. You don’t need to legalize meth. You don’t even need to legalize crack. Legalize cocaine and a few other choice narcotics and the meth problem dries up in six months.

    Maybe then some of those burn units that have closed down due to massive influxes badly-burned and uninsured “shake and bake” meth cooks could re-open.

    As for Ms. Houston, the actuarial tables got this one right. It is a shame that her memory will be so honored at events like The Grammys. Any retrospective on her life should rightfully doused in a tone of cautionary disapproval.