The Greatest Love of All
I think my ears went numb and it was a good long minute until I understood. What?!
I don't understand. I don't understand why Whitney Houston died. I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense to me. How could this have happened?
I did not cry when Kurt Cobain died. I did not cry when Amy Winehouse died. I did not even cry when Michael Jackson died.
It seemed that Michael had been suffering for so long. And for some reason, I just felt relief that somehow he was relieved.
I did cry for Michael's children. It's not that I wasn't sad those other times, I just didn't cry.
However, I have been crying since the news of Whitney Houston's death. Her passing is hitting home on a very personal level for me and for many of my friends who grew up with her music.
And the only way I know how to deal with this surprising amount of grief, for someone I have never actually met but felt close to, is to write about it. And I have been trying not to.
What high school choir didn't sing Whitney's greatest hits? Even today, there is no one like her. No one.
No one had more poise, more control over her dynamics. No one had a purer, stronger, brighter tone. No one understood and interpreted the lyrics of a song better than Whitney. She sang the story in every song.
And no one, to date, has sung our National Anthem better than Whitney Houston.
Yes, the Star Spangled Banner is a hard song to sing, but some pop singers can't even remember the words. They end up re-writing the melody while they are singing it, making the song more about showing off their vocal acrobatics than about the unity of our great nation.
When Whitney sang, it was a spiritual awakening. When Whitney sang, it was emotional liberation. When Whitney sang it was technique, interpretation, and phrasing at its best. And she made it look so easy.
Like most people, I googled everything I could find about Whitney Houston in the days after her death, as an attempt to hold onto her or deny the truth. I found the interview on Oprah from 2009. Thank you Oprah.
After watching this interview, I understood more viscerally, that a person's sense of self-worth and self-esteem, especially if they are working in the chaotic highs and lows of the entertainment industry, must be firmly based on their life and their spirit, not their career.
And I more clearly saw how self-love is the greatest love of all.
I can not conceive of that kind of global fame, pressure and lifestyle. I can only draw from my own experiences which are microscopic in comparison.
However, it must be easy, as a superstar, to juxtapose your box office/billboard chart topping numbers, which are transitory, with your individual worth and spiritual purpose, which is invaluable and infinite.
Meryl Streep, said in an interview with Mike Huckabee, "I had a lesson early on in life...get your life right first, then everything else will follow."
No one is immune to insecurity, doubt, or fear. And no one should be judged simply for being human. And all artists are more than their art.
But as a fan who loved her, who was inspired by her for so long, who saw her the way most of the world chose to see her, I am so sad that Whitney may have had anything other than completely loving and compassionate thoughts for herself.
I am so sad that addiction took her from herself, for so many years. I am so sad that her daughter will not have her mother at her side.
I am so sad that Whitney could not see herself as we all saw her. Whitney was everything. And the fact that she was so close to shining again is the greatest loss of all.
Whitney sang songs that taught us so many of life's great lessons. And I know I am naive to think that stars like her, that shine over our lifetimes are immortal or impervious. They are not.
But I am sure, I am one of millions today that can not bear to let her go.
So let's not.
Let's keep listening to her, to her voice, to the sound and strength of her spirit at its best. Let's keep listening to her songs as only she could sing best.
Thank you Whitney for giving us so much. Rest in peace, but I just want to believe that you'll come back to us soon, someway, somehow...
(photos and videos courtesy of Superbowl XXV, Arista Records, and the Oprah Winfrey show)
Yours Truly -- Ann Hu