To be sure, after the shock of Whitney Houston's death wanes a bit and we can again feel the chill in the air and the heat emanating from the desk lamp, a professional sourpuss or two will attempt a cultural post-mortem on the event, excoriating media commentaries and fan reaction alike for reducing the singer's abrupt finale as "a tragedy" and "a shame" or ". There but for the grace of God go I..." The upshot of the objection will be that the gadfly (or two) loathes clichés and platitudes and that it's pathetic all we can do is mutter "ain't it a shame”, tsk-tsking instead of DOING SOMETHING!! Fuck those guys.
The irrefutable fact is that Houston's death is a shame and it is a tragedy. Let's be more emphatic: it's a goddamned shame and a goddamned tragedy. There is nothing else you can call the early death, brought on, no doubt, by a long-term addiction to crack cocaine and other chronic party favors, of someone as gifted as the suddenly deceased Whitney Houston. Hers was a voice that was, when all is said and the note cards are shuffled and rubber banded together, an instrument that was singular in her heyday, a voice that remains singular years after that day has passed, and will likely be one of those voices fans, old and new, and writers will refer to in glowing terms no less than what's happened to Frank Sinatra's reputation as a vocalist. Sinatra was a punk and a sociopath much of his life, but his voice and his songs made the stream of personal offenses forgivable ; Whitney was a train wreck for years who couldn't hide the effects of a drug habit, but her voice and her material will be enough, I suspect, for the lot of us to turn up the volume on her tunes when they play. Everything else that happened will be as if nothing happened at all.
The best one can do is hope that her talent, amply represented on her albums and hits, will outlive the infamy of her last decade or so, a time of stupid, inane, inexplicably moronic behavior driven by drugs, a period where the brilliant and beautiful Whitney was turned one of the least appealing people to make the gossip programs; she became less appealing than chewed pizza crust. Her death is a shame and the horror of it all is that there is NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT! Those who obsessed with celebrity culture and those obsessed with grousing the masses lack of more profound reaction have the momentary wish that they, whoever "they" happen to be, should pass laws against these terrible things, that being brilliant people dying "before their time”, and the banality of the collective opinion about celebrities that unbelievably few of us have met, let alone know anything about besides what's allowed on a press release.
My wish would be for us to turn off our television and computers for a day and instead take a walk along the beach, with a book, a pair of sunglasses, a nice box lunch, grateful that this day, this hour, this minute that we are alive with the full of our senses are working just fine, that we are engaged with a world that is phenomenal even without the metaphors we try to assign it, that we are not this day, this hour, this minute dropping dead from whatever is waiting for us and which we'll meet eventually, date and time undisclosed.