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Whitney Houston: Determination, Disenchantment, and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Several directors such as Kevin MacDonald, Nick Broomfield or Rudi Dolezal now take the opportunity to review in the form of documentaries a lot of unpublished information about the life of Whitney Houston. They do it in an unwavering effort to give the artist a second chance, in the words of Rolling Stone magazine. If you think you already know the story, you are surely the best person to watch the documentary.

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Thursday, December 23rd 2021 ·.·★ Reading takes 16 minutes or 3196 words.


People who work in the music industry are up to 40% more likely to suffer from depression according to the latest statistics from Help Musicians UK. A superficial reading of this data could conclude that music is the cause of this trend, but going deeper we can discover that it is much more likely that this trend already exists when the person decides to get involved in music. Let′s say that art in general could be more the refuge than the cause of this tendency to depression.

What happens to professionals in the entertainment world would be in a sense similar to what happens to people who take refuge in religion. When Jesus himself, for example, literally said: ′Come to me who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest′, he was already in a sense marking from the beginning a psychological profile of what would be easier to find in his church . The profile of Whitney Houston is therefore a quite appropriate profile in a magazine about art and faith such as Entrelíneas.

The Preacher′s Wife at Beverly Hilton

Whitney Houston has not only gone down in history as the most awarded singer according to Guinness Record, she is also the star of the best-selling gospel album of all time: ′The preacher′ s wife ′, with eight million copies sold all over the world. The last song he performed in public was in fact ′Jesus loves me′, a popular children′s song in evangelical churches. During the last ten years of his career his performances had been mostly erratic and his personal life financially catastrophic and sentimentally speaking.

The recordings from those years show her confusing songs or staggering in public with her unkempt appearance, puffy eyes and blank stare, it didn′t matter if she was in front of the public or her own daughter. On February 11, 2012, the usual Clive Davis party was scheduled prior to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California. The party would take place at the same Beverly Hilton hotel where he was and he wanted to take advantage of the hours he had free to take a bath.

When more than an hour had passed, the team of stylists and bodyguards that accompanied him wanted to confirm that everything was in order and when entering the bathroom they found her dead in the bathtub, face down and with the plants feet up. The coroner confirmed that she had accidentally drowned as a result of ′a heart complication and cocaine use.′ During the autopsy, the analysis of her blood confirmed that she had recently used cocaine, diphenhydramine, alprazolam, cyclobenzaprine and cannabis.

Hope, the Baptist Church and funerals

The funeral was held a week later at New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey, New York, where she had grown up and had actually started her artistic career, Whitney Houston. The nice words of Pastor Joe A. Carter did not seem to be enough to avoid the tension, which this day especially could be cut with a knife. The artist′s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, whose criminal childhood and bad boy fame had not gone unnoticed by the Houston family, left the ceremony before it was over.

Bobby Brown had also started his career in the church choir and had shared not only the best and worst moments of Whitney Houston′s life, he also shared with her the fatherhood of Whitney′s only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. The devastated young Bobbi was rescued by the family hours later from the memorial in a hotel room and admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center detoxification hospital.

Three years later, at the age of twenty-two, Bobbi Kristina Brown was also found face down, in this case in the bathtub of her home in Alpharetta, Georgia. The coroner′s report had sinister coincidences with that of her mother: ′a death by immersion associated with drug intoxication,′ she said. Not surprisingly, her funeral at the Saint James United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, closed with the song ′Jesus Loves Me.′ Mothers and daughters tend to have many things in common, but the coincidences in some cases are especially sinister and, as we will see, reach the third and fourth generation.

The Drinkard Singers, gospel and the temptation of worldly music

Nicholas Drinkard had European, American and African blood but by some strange circumstance he had acquired large amounts of farmland in Blakely, Georgia. He had lost many of them when he brought his family to New Jersey, New York, in 1950, where he held out his interest in having all of his family participate in church activities. The result of that effort was The Drinkard Singers, the first gospel group to sign a contract with a major record company, RCA.

The Drinkard Singers was in 1959 a family group that had already caught the attention of the Newport Jazz Festival, where up to 13,000 people could gather to see musicians of the stature of Billie Holiday. The origin of the music played by the Drinkard family was clearly religious music but some of the singers who made up the group were unable to resist the temptation of what they then recognized as ′worldly music′.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe′s precedent left an enormous amount of possibilities open. The family and interracial group The Ronettes, for example, had formed in New York City in the late 1950s. Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin had not only grown up in the church, they were literally the children of shepherds. Times were changing and Emily Drinkard, who would soon also be the mother of Whitney Houston, was in 1960 the main protagonist in this metamorphosis that would transform a gospel group into a group of rythm & blues girls called The Sweet Inspirations.

The Sweet Inspirations then offered the music industry an updated solution not only in terms of music, but also in terms of race. The female workers then recorded the required annual album for Atlantic Records, but also, not in vain, they were continuously hired as session musicians. They had already recorded collaborations for Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix or Aretha Franklin as well as others from the parallel universe of whites such as Dusty Springfield, Paul Simon or Van Morrison when they caught the attention of the king of rock.

Elvis Presley and Emily Drinkard′s Last Season

The fireproof Elvis Presley had also learned to sing in church. He was preparing his return to the stage in 1969 and called Atlantic Records to sign The Sweet Inspirations as a female backing group. The four girls recognized their ignorance of the songs but Elvis Presley was determined and sent them two hundred records with the aim that they were preparing for an audition. Elvis Presley not only wooed them with jewelry gifts as he usually did, also with countless details typical of gentlemen, which were not common coming from the whites. Her companions assured that Emily was delighted!

Whitney Houston had memories of being a spectator of her mother at those first concerts of the tour in the city of gambling, in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the night of August 26, 1969, during the obliged soprano that she was supposed to do to her mother during the song ′Are you lonesome tonight′, Elvis Presley began to laugh. At first Elvis Presley thought he could get out of the way by changing the lyrics, but Emily′s voice steadfastly followed the song′s own funeral march tone, causing Elvis Presley to laugh even more for the next two minutes and medium.

Eighteen years later ′Are you lonesome tonight′ was precisely the last song that Elvis Presley would perform in public, before also accidentally dying, surrounded by anxiolytics in his bathroom. The Sweet Inspirations continued with Elvis Presley until that day as a trio but Emily Drinkard had reached her last stop. It was somehow the ridiculous end of Whitney Houston′s mother′s musical career, that she returned to New Jersey with the firm intention of taking care of her family and a solo career as Cissy Houston that would never give her any. type of recognition.

The Whitney Houston Training

Whitney Houston and hers, two older brothers of hers had been cared for by her father, until her mother then took over and began to try to mark on them with a strong hand the customs more typical of the church . Contrary to what has been so often thought, Whitney Houston did not discover drugs with Bobby Brown but with her brothers, who had been obtaining drugs for her since she was 10 years old on the depressed streets of Newark in 1973. Whitney Houston was 11 years when she began singing in the children′s choir at New Hope Baptist Church and 17 when she began posing for teen magazines.

Michael Jackson had dominated record sales in 1982 and then Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, was looking for a black woman he could mold into a pop star shape. He tried it first with Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin — who was also Whitney Houston′s godmother — but he had to discard them after realizing that they had already created her own character. Whitney Houston was ideal for Clive Davis until the end of her career, precisely because of Whitney Houston′s tendency to let herself be molded, according to another Arista Records executive named Kenneth Reynolds.

Clive Davis′ goal was to reach out to white audiences so any little detail that could be related to black music was returned to the studios. Madonna′s costume was too big for her and Whitney Houston danced awfully, but not much worse than Cyndi Lauper, so the result was an undeniable best-seller in any case. Only of the first album released in 1985, twenty million copies were sold worldwide, which is twenty times more than what Amy Grant, the most important vocalist in contemporary Christian music, had sold that same year, who was also starting her own at that time. metamorphosis.

Whitney Houston sold only of her first album forty times what BeBe & CeCe Winans would sell in their prime. And from the album ′The Bodyguard′, where ′Jesus loves me′ is included, she would sell almost double that amount. Whitney Houston took every opportunity to speak of her faith in interviews and songs like ′Greatest Love of All,′ but how did she relate to contemporary Christian music? To answer that question, it is essential to notice the reaction that she provoked in 1998 when she performed at the Dove Awards, the decaffeinated version for Christians of the Grammy Awards. Let′s say that from the height of Whitney Houston, she could hardly be aware of the existence of that subdivision of the entertainment industry.

The disappointment of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was at the peak of her popularity in 1989, she was lavish in gifts, she owned three companies, and earned enough money to employ her entire family including her father and siblings first. her. Her mother, on the other hand, assured the four winds that her daughter was really the result of her hard determination, she truly believed that the merit was nothing but the impression that her own character had caused in her daughter. To top it off, when Whitney Houston performed at the Soul Train Music Awards, the black music industry awards show, she was greeted with a memorable boo.

Whitney Houston was not characterized for having an iron character precisely and that same shameful night she met Bobby Brown, the one who towered over all the other heads of the Soul Train Music Awards awards ceremony as the baddest boy and interesting of the moment. From the aura of security she gave off it was easy to conclude that he was the perfect match for her. The turbulent relationship that she would maintain with him has occupied many pages of the most yellow press and deserves little attention from me.

Suffice it to say that Whitney Houston lost the appreciation of her family and her best friend to win Bobby Brown′s, not knowing that she would also lose Bobby Brown′s in 2006. In 2002, moreover, her father sued her to get a she a hundred million dollars. The thesis of the documentary ′Whitney: Can I Be Me′ is clear: Whitney Houston had compelling reasons at the end of her life to be depressed and find herself completely alone. I was powerfully struck by the fact that she then sang over and over that song ′Jesus loves me′.

Religion and the paradox of sinners

Many gospel songs like ′Cryin ′ in the chapel′, ′Will the circle be unbroken?′ or ′Precious Memories′ hardly speak of nostalgia for religious life. The church songs that Whitney Houston rescued, however, such as ′The Lord is my shepherd′, ′Joy to the world′ or ′I love the Lord′ were mostly Christocentric, explicit when referring to the relevant themes of the faith. and they made a big difference from many other gospel records like the one Aretha Franklin had recorded in 1972. Paradoxically, moreover, her confessions of faith seemed more honest, as her life and spirit were breaking down.

′People think that success can bring you happiness, but I know that is not true - said Whitney Houston at the end.′ During my childhood or when I was young I did not know much about God. As I grew older and began to experience life for myself, I began to understand many things better and many things made my relationship with God closer. I felt him inside me and I know that is the way, through my own experiences, through my own life. ′′ Although you may not believe it, I pray and read the Bible continually seeking his help, ′he says in the documentary. a Whitney Houston with a chastened voice.

Whitney Houston had turned 48 years old. Welshman David Roberts, who was for seven years the real bodyguard who inspired the movie ′The Bodyguard′, said that he did not imagine that it would take so long for Whitney Houston to die. The party that Clive Davis had scheduled at the Beverly Hilton was not canceled and many shared the hotel with the body of Whitney Houston, in a death-defying gesture since as we all know ′the show must go on′. The show also supports the music industry.

The popular tunes we learned in the schoolyard or in our early television years often come back to our memory at times when we feel most fragile. For those of us who have grown up in the church, in addition, songs that we learned in Sunday school also assail us in those moments, like that of ′Jesus loves me.′ It is something that cannot be avoided and in fact, many times, we do not want to avoid either. They are songs that take us back to the moment when we totally depended on our tutors, it didn′t matter too much if they were comparatively better or worse than the others.

Christ loves me, the Bible says so

′Christ loves me it is true, and he cares for me in his goodness / when I die well I know, / I will live there with him′ -the Spanish version says at the end. Paradoxically, what we need is the greatest of all loves, which is the one the Creator has for us: the one who loved us despite really knowing us from the beginning. And this is certainly not easy as the song ′Greatest love of all′ says, it is a miracle! Or what is the same, it is impossible !!

Seeing the song ′Jesus loves me′ on one of the four best-selling albums of all time, only behind ′Thriller′, ′Back in black′ and ′Dark side of the moon′ makes me remember what unusual of many events in the gospels. Like the one in which during the bloody crucifixion the only voice that was raised publicly to declare the justice of Jesus was that of a thief. His death and resurrection is Christ′s way of making it possible for his disciples to make the dream of getting what they really need come true.

All of our planning, determination, and achievement will never be able to achieve the redemption we desperately seek, while pursuing our own illusions. Whitney Houston knew this, we know that for sure. ′The young people left their songs′ - writes the author of the biblical book of Lamentations. ′She ceased the joy of our hearts. Our dance turned into mourning.′ ′But you, Lord, will remain forever.′ -He continues saying. ′Your throne from generation to generation. Why do you completely forget about us and abandon us so long? Return us, oh Lord, to you, and we will return. Renew our days as at the beginning.′


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as Whitney Houston: La determinación, el desencanto y la luz al final del túnel


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