Can We Honor Whitney Houston by Taking a Stand to End Addictions?

With the sudden and tragic passing of Whitney Houston, there’s no doubt there will be scores of tributes. There was a tribute last night at music executive, Clive Davis‘ famous Pre-Grammy Party. There will be one tonight at the Grammys.. Rumors are singers Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan will sing in her honor…

There are already tributes on various radio stations as we can tune in and hear Whitney Houston Music Hours… Many deejays are digging into their grates working on Whitney Houston mixes…

There’s no denying the artistic talents Whitney possessed.. If we had to take a poll and ask who has/had the best voice in music, Ms Houston would no doubt be in the top 10.. Songs like ‘I Will Love You‘ and  ‘Greatest Love of All‘ best personify her greatness.  She was a giant among giants who will surely be missed.

With that being said, as great as her singing has been. As inspiring and as jaw dropping as her songs have been.. As engaging as she’s been on screen and in concert we will have to do a lot more than a mixtape or Grammy tribute to honor Whitney Houston. We will have to do lot more than induct her into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame or grant her a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.. . Our honoring Whitney will be us taking some decisive action and making a long-term commitment to end the scourge and dirty little secret that has long plagued this entertainment/ music industry-Drugs and substance abuse. It’s hard pill to swallow. It’s an ugly truth.. But we all have to step up to the plate.

Atthe time of this writing, I along with most of us have no idea as to what ended Whitney’s life so suddenly at age 48.

Sadly as people came out of their initial shock, speculation of drug abuse was on many people’s minds and tongues’.  CNN’s Don Lemon said during his breaking news broadcast yesterday that we have to talk about Whitney’s addictions because it was such a big part of her…Correction Don.. Addictions have been a big part of American society. I’m gonna come back to that in a minute..

During various broadcasts about Whitney’s passing, we heard discussions about her losing her voice and making a comeback. A comeback from what? Her demons.. Eventually all conversations about Whitney came back to that infamous interview with 20/20’s Dianne Sawyer where she talked about drugs and how crack is wack

Whitney & Bobby

Today everyone wants to honor Whitney, but yesterday she was the butt of jokes and comedic routines. While everyone pointed fingers at Whitney and acted all righteous about her abuse, many of us were ADDICTED to watching the train wreck that her life had become. We were addicted to the reality show with her and former husband Bobby Brown. We were addicted to the gossip around her. is she still dating Bobby? is she dating singer Ray J? Was she drunk or high at the last party?  How many times did we wake up and turn on some urban radio station to hear  a host getting their clown on about Whitney Houston..Now many of those hosts wanna lead the way to doing tributes for someone they routinely

She became the poster child for drug abuse and addiction in an industry that is chock full of people dead and alive who have all succumbed at one time or another to some sort of addiction. Over my 25+ years in this music industry I’ve seen a whole lot of ugly truths we like to keep hidden behind the glitz and glam. Anyone in the music/ entertainment industry can tell you stories of  executives & shot callers who routinely do lines of coke, pop pills, do speed, take ecstasy or drink themselves under the table while ‘moguling‘. Those abusive habits are far too often shared with the talent/ artists.. In a business where egos are massive and insecurities shallow, taking a ‘lil something something‘ to get amped up or ‘get you open’  is all too commonplace. People don’t wanna talk about it, but its true.

Even the King of Pop had addiction problems

If we look at the pantheon of great Black artists hooked on drugs of one type or another the list is long.. Billy Holiday, John ColtraneJimmy Hendrix, Dorothy Dandridge, Dinah Washington, Richard Pryor, Ole Dirty Bastard, Sly Stone, David Ruffin, George Clinton, Frankie Lymon, DJ Screw, James Brown even the King of Pop Michael Jackson and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Keep in mind these are just Black artists. If I start adding names outside our community like Amy Whinehouse, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix , Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison to name a few, the list gets substantially longer…

Why are we not doing anything about addictions  in our community?

During the pioneering days of Hip Hop which is the generation many of us are a part of, many of those early pioneers who paved the way had serious bouts with an array of drugs.. cocaine, angel dust, freebase, sherm, alchohol etc..If you really look at the history you see by the mid 80s, many pioneering figures disappeared for time. Many had to deal with those demons. Some returned to the fold, many didn’t.  Many are still struggling 30 years later.

By the time the crack era hit in the early 80s all the way up to the 90s.. if folks weren’t hooked on taking it, they were hooked on selling it…A lot of that is outlined in the VH1 Documentary Planet Rock the Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation .

Our collective pride and addiction to looking good and being cool in the face of danger has not allowed us to even talk about this in any sort of honest way.. It’s not a pretty picture. But we lost another star way before her time and she was apart of that legacy-whether it was directly related to her cause of death or not..

Addictions are prevalent… They’re all around us and underscore the hypocrisy of America.. We got folks clowning Whitney for substance abuse problems while they sip syrup, shoot up, snort cocaine, do meth or literally sell their souls and their mamma’s soul for 15 minutes of fame..

Daughter Bobbi Kristina Lost Her Mother-Are we thinking about that?

So many of us our addicted to gossip, celebrity culture, living the fast life or a version of it. We’re addicted to money, cheating on spouses, material possessions. Many of us are addicted to high drama and raucous discourse. We’re addicted to shouting down one another, being vicious vs compassionate.  We’re addicted to pushing each others buttons. We’re addicted to wanting to know more about the drama behind Whitney’s death more than we are the state of her daughter Bobbi Kristina who just lost her mother. How many of us took a moment to say a prayer or reflect on what she might be going through?

Hell many of us are addicted to our iphones, ipads  and other gadgets that we feel we must have at all costs even as they make us go into debt to own them or give us brain tumors to use them..

Someone said Whitney represented a generation of people. Yep she sure did .. She repped the good, the bad and the very ugly and painful.. She was not alone in her addictions.. We all share them. Some minor some major.. In honoring Ms Houston will we talk about that or remain addicted to painting rosy pictures and acting like we aren’t touched by the scourge of addictions that’s systemic in our society? And if you don’t think our addictions are systemic, I suggest we take a long hard look at the so called war on drugs and the current carnage taking place South of the border in Mexico and Columbia.. Who do you think is the economic incentive for all the drugs being shipped into this country from those places? It’s us… Who do you think was the one behind funding secret wars ala Iran-Contra through the sale of cocaine?  Us again..

Heck if we really wanna get deep, lets talk about what our troops are dealing with on the battlefield and how they cope after 3 or 4 tours  and what many wind up doing to deal with life on their return.. No we don’t wanna talk about those addictions.. We wanna act like there’s no such thing..

In 2012 if the best we can do is a mixtape and few tribute songs then we missed the mark

If we wanna really honor Whitney, how about helping put an end to the demons that plagued her and so many others? If we wanna honor Whitney, how about us having a honest, impactful and earnest discussion about addictions and mental health so we can spare future generations of this pain.

Something to ponder..RIP Whitney Houston

Davey D

Comments

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Davey D.

    I’ve been thinking about some of the points you raise here. Why do some many vastly talented people turn to drug abuse? Last night, as I heard the news of her passing, it was difficult to reconcile the memory of her as a luminous, insanely talented singer to who she became towards the end of her life. I think I had always explained someone like Billie Holiday or Edith Piaf’s addiction as a result of their incredibly difficult childhood (and perhaps I thought that that pain and suffering somehow made their music resonate more deeply for all of us that was touched by their voice). But Whitney didn’t have that pain in her past, so far as I know. Why, then, did she self-destruct?

    Here is the best explanation I can come up with right now. There are some people who, when they perform, come close to God/Transcendence/Spirit. Maybe even they merge with this, and something bigger than them sings/performs through them. I saw this when I lived in Zambia and attended church there, I have seen that most recently in seeing Prince perform. We see that in Whitney. Jimi Hendrix is a perfect example of this, Santana, Eric Clapton. Some saw this so strongly in John Coltrane that they started a church here in San Francisco. I’m currently reading a book, Musicians in Tune, that discusses musicians transcending while playing.

    I don’t know the link between this and drugs: if drugs makes the doors to transcendence more open, or if it helps those “normal” moments when you are not transcending, and trying to figure out your sense of self (ego) when you are idolized not for who you are but for what moves through you. People who have this connection are both literally blessed, and in a way cursed, because sometimes the intensity of what they experience is bigger than they are (more than their sense of self/ego can handle). And they turn to drugs, or an entourage of people who say “yes”, to try to balance this all out.

    There are likely other things at work here: like someone who is creative and thinks outside of the box might be more open to drug experimentation, and someone who has a personality where they singularly devote themselves to a craft in order to master it perhaps would be more likely to have that focus when it comes to other aspects of living, such as drug use.

    I think the best example of someone who is supernaturally gifted but not lost in drugs is Prince. He seems to balance the intensity of his gift with religion; he is a devoted Jehovah’s Witness. If Whitney had stayed rooted in the church, would that have made her more grounded and prevented her addiction issues? How can a community best support a person who has such a huge gift?

  2. Reblogged this on The Z List.

  3. just a brotha says:

    Good read..you are correct my brother..Billie Holiday not Billy :)

  4. Thank you for this insightful and thought-provoking post. You are right, we need to be honest about addictions and help each other conquer them.

  5. Daena Petersen says:

    Thank you.

  6. Thank you for your insightful comments.So much much truth in what you expressed.last night as I visited on u tube I saw some interviews that Ms.Houston gave of her life and her music….I began to understand her somewhat….She like all of us had her own issues ,but the industry does not provide any help in overcoming the issues she had .nor did it offer a safe place here she could have felt safe to unload….The industry so it seems only wanted product…a bunch of greedy self centered persons looking at the greenback dollar bill. Took no notice of the soul that brought the product….just a vessel that could give the “Master”what he wanted at any cost…providing the product with poison needed to produce never looking at what the damage the poison would do to the soul….when the soul became corrupt from the poison she was cast aside as not valuable the product is not producing the right crop…not of worth ….so the soul that helped to produce the bumper crop was cast into oblivion…and great light was shone on the soul who is now not…..We need to sound out about the drug abuse that you spoke of, tell the authorities drop a dime on all these fat cats make them dry up…when it comes to these greedy people,help our young people to understand….who they are and that they can say no….that their gifts are gifts from the God Who created the universe…help them to understand not to bargain their product to the loss of self…

  7. Reblogged this on BROTHA WOLF.

  8. AMEN , Davey D !
    I was already Praying for her Daughter,….her Mother,….and others whom she held Dear .
    Davey D you have given us a VIVID-PARADIGM to follow , SO THAT WE CAN TAKE THE NEXT STEPS IN FIGHTING THESE DEMONS ……..
    GOD Bless You Davey D ,…..FOR “CHOOSING” to SHARE ALL Your GOD-GIVEN-GIFTS …
    Mona Scott

  9. I always prayed for Whitney to overcome. i will continue to pray for her family to recover from all of this. She always said you can look but dont judge her. If anyone and im sure we all went through this have compassion and love in your heart. I lost a lot of friends in many years the same way. We must fright aganist this cause too many of our love ones are leaving and have left too soon.

  10. Great post bro. While I agree that these conversations need to take place on all levels. I’m not sure its that simple to just end addictions. Most people that are addicted don’t want to be, and feel as though they can’t. But to your point, more awareness will help on many levels. In the natural with giving people the societal and institutional help they need, and in the spiritual with more people praying for those addicted.

    Love your work bro. Been reading you for years. Great post.

  11. Thank you, Davey D. You have it right. Please check out our Blog on shifting the discussion from the tragedy of substance related deaths to implementing policies to prevent and treat the disease of addiction.

    http://www.new-futures.org/articles/how-whitney-houston-headlines-should-have-read

  12. We need to leave a door open for friends and family to call out for help with any addiction or mental health issues, which I feel are sometimes going on at the same time. Pressure from the world, pressure to be more than we are capable of being are ever present in this world. There is so much emphasis on being a star in all areas of life, whether it be sports, the work place, the entertainment industry, school. Loving someone and really meaning it, does not mean “they” have to be what “we” want them to be, God has already blessed them with their life! It’s time for us as a society to realize that no matter what we do in life or who we are, we all have feelings, needs to be met, privacy to be respected and have shortcomings like anyone else. I pray that others will come forward and say they are ready to get off the fast lane of life and reach out to those that really love them! Family is the place to start along with “church” family. Thank God for such a beautiful church family and family Whitney had. Let’s honor her life, her love, her beauty she graciously shared with the world, and God bless you Bobbi, my heart is broken for you honey. Thank you for allowing us to share.

  13. We all have secrets and someone who is as famous as Whitney her secrets were revealed nationwide and when you have problems and issues you can’t see how you are because of the drugs and alcohol make u seem that you are the same but the world and others around can see so prayers from my family to the Houston family one thing that’s true she was talented, she loved God and her family and who are we to Judge

  14. Peace Lord! Thanks for sharing. This is by far THE MOST insightful assessment of Whitney Houston’s death and our loss that I’ve read.

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