In memory of Whitney Houston : 9 August 1963 - 11 February 2012
I felt very sad to hear about the death of Whitney Houston last week. She was not someone I knew personally, and I never went to her live performance, but her voice was so present for such a long time that she felt very familiar to me.
I haven’t been in a movie house for years, but I remember going to see “The Bodyguard” when it came out, where she sang the song “I will Always Love You.” I liked her voice very much. It was an extraordinary voice with such a reach. I would hear her on the radio in the car, or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, in the grocery store, almost everywhere. Her voice was unmistakable.
In the 1980s in Nepal, Charles and I used to listen to "Voice of America" on the radio and they’d play a lot of music from the United States. They’d play Blondie, Patti Smith, Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and the whole break dancing craze at the time made it all the way to Nepal. I remember going to see a Nepalese break dance performance in Kathmandu. There was a huge crowd and I saw Nepalese men break dancing to Michael Jackson music. In New York there was Studio 54, and while the party was going on, there was always Donna Summer singing “Hot Stuff.” And I remember being in Greece, where there was a station that played American Country Western music, which is where I first heard Dolly Parton sing “9 to 5” and I liked her too. I listened to an interview with Dolly Parton and I liked the way she spoke in her southern accent. Something about the way she talked reminded me a little of Mae West; “Come up and see me sometime.” Another singer I liked was Celine Dion.
Thinking about Whitney Houston has made me think of all these other singers, but that’s what happens. They are all cultural icons. Losing one calls to mind the others. I think Whitney was my favorite. She’s the one I’d always hear in the car; her soothing voice, and it makes me sad to think of her dying so young.
When I heard the news of her death, I realized that I had assumed she was much older than what she was: just 48. Somehow I thought that she must have been at least 60, perhaps because she seems to have existed on this earth for a very long time. I understand that she struggled with alcohol and maybe drugs, and that probably played a part in her demise. When I read that she was found in her bath, it made me think of stories I’ve heard on occasion about people falling asleep in a hot bath and just not waking up. That happens, where a person relaxes in hot water and their heart stops. If you have a sedative in your system it’s probably more likely to happen. But life and death is mystery. Charles used to say, “Die young and leave a beautiful corpse.” Whitney had her troubles, but I imagine that she probably did leave a beautiful corpse.
I know I join many in being thankful to her for all the music she’s left for us. I will pray for her departed soul and for her eternal life, and also for her mother, her daughter and her family.
- Indra Tamang