By Robert Williams
I grew up with Whitney Houston and loved every moment of it. I was watching MTV in the early 80’s at Eastern Illinois University as a student when this tiny caramel glazed Whitney sequestered my attention. At eighteen or nineteen I became frozen, first just seeing a Black artist on MTV, but equally as well seeing a young Black sister blazing such sensational vocal cords. Oh yea and she was hot, I mean good-looking. I knew immediately she was a superior talent. I was enthroned such that I wanted my girlfriend to look like her. She was a quantifying symbol that success albeit in show business was a possibility.
Like most Black College students at that time I understood Black videos wasn’t available for public viewership. As a matter of reference, Don Cornelius’ Soul Train was the nearest channel to music videos in those days. However, MTV revolutionized cable television with Hollywood produced style music video for viewing. But there was a catch, Pandora box only spilled out white artists on the small screen. As a result, the ‘No Color Artists Need Apply’ atmosphere was apparent at MTV. Yet, it would take Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean video to break the color line on MTV. Michael’s talents and music videos provided the pathway for Whitney and other Black artists to mainstream society. (As a reminder, my generation grew up with Don Cornelius, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston, all who have now moved beyond, their talents will be missed.)
A Wasted Talent?
Some Americans will remind us that Whitney was talent wasted; I would say to them, keep your hero-worshipping mythology to yourself. You see Whitney and Michael each were ordinary humans with exceptional talents: Singing and show business. Some believe however they are mandated by this talent to be without flaws. Bullshit! In fact, they are especially receptive to make more mistakes than other. Why? Because they often mis-perceive and overreach their talents, in other words, they may begin to believe they’re more than humans. Consequently, this is never true, we’re all flawed humans. You would think people would understand that outside those talents artists are like you and me. Yet plan to see and hear on discussion boards, “Whitney wasted her talents and life”. This is an egotistical statement supporting the hypothesis, “That much is given, much is demanded”, this is a modern-day myth of enormous proportion. Here’s a poorly kept secret, exceptional talent is not synonymous with perfection, Godliness, or any other mythological standards.
My Hero is Not a God
I am not here to remind you of Whitney Houston’s shortcomings, I’m too busy categorizing my own. I however would like to remind you of her impact in my young adulthood. She was a frozen figurine in her music video but, on the other hand, her voice would pound like a boxer submitting his final blows to his helpless opponent. She was a magnetic force attracting young men and women in my generation, I never heard someone say Whitney Houston could not sing, not once. Was she special? No more than the average person on the street. Did she light up and disappoint her fans? I suspect. Nonetheless, she never had to provide anything but her music for our pleasure or scorn. Those who mock her for the numerous shortcomings will dread my commentary, so be it.
However, I loved her talent, her life, and the limitations; only because I believed my heroes are human.