The older I become, the more people I know and love who seem go off and die on me.
That’s just a part of growing older, I know, but the the past couple of years the pace seems to have picked up a bit. I’ve lost three good friends and a dear uncle to cancer-related illnesses and an accident in the past year alone, and all of them well before their years.
So when I heard the news about Whitney Houston over the weekend, like so many others, I was stunned. We hadn’t heard much from her in recent years, and when we did, it was often initiated in tabloids.
But back in her heyday, when we heard from her regularly, it was from that whopping, stunning, belting angelic voice — it was like she could reach out and sing to the whole wide world.
Judging from the outpouring of love, sadness, sympathy and fond remembrance in the social realm this weekend after the news was out, she did reach the whole wide world. I never knew there were so many Whitney Houston fans out there. Yesterday afternoon, Facebook was literally a living memorial to the singer.
I also immediately felt bad for the Grammys producers. To receive such momentous and tragic news the night before the Grammys broadcast, and then to have to try and figure out how to both remember Whitney and continue to fete the year in music??!
Not an easy balance to strike.
In 1998, I had occasion to work with the Grammys team when IBM sponsored and produced the official Webcast. That year, the Dixie Chicks broke out, Monica was celebrated, and Will Smith won for best rap album. But what I always remembered was how professional and capable were the people behind the scenes at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
So I was hardly surprised when this year’s excellent Grammys emcee, LL Cool J, walked onstage after Bruce Springteen’s opening act and addressed Whitney’s passing head on and with a prayer, explaining “This night is about something truly universal and healing. This night is about music.”
Or when several of the other artists tipped their hat to Whitney in some way during their own respective performances.
Or, of course, during Jennifer Hudson’s haunting performance of the song Whitney made famous, “I Will Always Love You.” I’m not sure how Hudson got through that song without breaking down onstage herself.
However carefully orchestrated the tribute was, it was tastefully executed and left me thinking this was one of the most exciting Grammy’s broadcasts in years.
I hadn’t planned on watching the Grammys this year, but curiosity got the better of me — not only because of Whitney’s passing, but also because I knew I’d likely see a lot of music I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
Like Adele. I missed Adele on the first go around at the Grammys, and though I have heard a couple of her songs, I never put the name and the face together. She was just a name I kept hearing.
And before you suggest I live under a rock, the fact is, I don’t listen much to the radio anymore, and I certainly don’t live on iTunes (you’ll more likely find me on Pandora). So for me, the Grammys is as good as a place as any to find out about new music — and to find out who Adele is.
Well, after seeing Adele interviewed by Anderson Cooper before the broadcast, and after watching her rendition last night of “Rolling in the Deep” during the broadcast, I became another instant in her otherwise millions of fans around the world.
Adele seems like she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She doesn’t seem to take all this fame and fortune stuff too seriously — but then she walks out on that stage before a few hundred million people and delivers that powerful singing punch like nobody’s business.
I hope she keeps it that way. Too many of our other great artists were taken too soon because of a combustible mixture of drugs and alcohol that are always, quite literally, a recipe for disaster.
We ask so much of them sometimes, our celebrities. We want to know everything about them. We want them to be perfect. We want them to be always on.
Instead of letting them just be human like the rest of us.
Elvis Presley. Marilyn Monroe. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Michael Jackson. Amy Winehouse. And now, it seems, Whitney Houston.
I don’t know about you, but that list is enough tragedy to last me a lifetime.
So, I suggest we let Adele take her six Grammys and disappear back into the English countryside and that we leave her the hell alone until she’s ready to leave her compound and go back on tour.
Let her enjoy her gramophone trophies and hanging out with her new love — we’ve all got our own lives to get on about.
As for Whitney Houston, may she rest in peace. I, like so many others, will choose to remember her when she belted them out like in the video below, where she took the U.S. national anthem to a whole other level.
Whitney, you will be missed.