Before I begin I’d like to take time to offer my condolences to the Houston and Brown families who’ve suffered both a media and character lynching that was totally uncalled for. Also how the families have been presented as distant and not on speaking terms. Over the last week the media and all its power have made a shamble of the life of singer Bobby Brown in light of the world losing one of its greatest vocalist that was beloved by millions of music fans all over the world. How the media portrayed both Whitney Elizabeth Houston and Bobby Brown is nothing less than tabloid fodder and music fans as well as members of the entertainment have finally stepped up to the plate and had enough.
As you recall, two weeks ago Whitney Elizabeth Houston died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton where she was staying for this weekend’s Grammy-festivities. Police and medical officials concluded no suspect foul play was involved and she died of the lethal mix of prescription drugs and alcohol. Ms. Houston was found in her room around 4:00pm lying on the floor non-responsive and paramedics were called on the scene. For nearly 20 minutes the paramedics tried to revive her but to no success. She was 48.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was on August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey to Russell and Cissy Houston. Cissy, Whitney’s mother, is a successful Grammy-Award winning vocalist backing artists such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Mahalia Jackson. She’s also the aunt of Dionne Warwick. When she was four the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey where the young Houston would sing as child. It was the church where Whitney got her real training and also where she learned how to play the piano. She also went on the road with her mother as she hit the nightclubs and cabarets.
As a child she knew that she was going to be a entertainer but she left the world a icon at a cost.
Whitney’s teenage years were spent singing background vocals with Chaka Khan, The Neville Brothers, Jermaine Jackson, Lou Rawls, the Michael Zager Band, and Paul Jabara. She also was successful model who was the first African-American to appear on the cover of Seventeen Magazine. She also appeared in Young Miss, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan Magazines.
Her rise as a vocalist caught the attention of many noted record producers in the early 1980’s including Martin Bisi, Ben Dover, and Bill Laswell. A call from one of Clive Davis’s A & R guys suggested that he see the young Houston perform in a New York nightclub that her mother was performing in started the meteoric and rise of a new voice that would change popular music forever. Davis signed Whitney in 1983 but didn’t start to work on her project until he had the right producers, songwriters, and press to back the young vocalist. She appeared on the late Teddy Pendergrass’s single “Hold Me” reaching number # 5 on the R & B charts.
On April 29th, 1985 Whitney made her national debut on the Merv Griffin Show who was introduced by her mentor and record executive Clive Davis. Davis would tell the audience about her being so young(she was only 19) and having the complete package. Her self titled debut album “Whitney Houston” was budgeted to cost $200,000 but ended up costing Arista Records close to $400,000. The album took over a year and half to record due to the fact that the material wasn’t suitable for her gospel oriented voice. The record produced the hit singles “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “Greatest Love of All,” and “How Will I Know.” In 1986 she was nominated for four Grammy Awards including: Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Best Female R & B Vocal Performance, and Best R & B song. Houston won for Best Pop Vocal Performance. The record has sold over 25 million copies worldwide and made Whitney more than a household name.
Throughout her career she’s recorded 11 records selling over $200,000,000 copies worldwide.With appearances Hollywood blockbusters “The Bodyguard,” “Waiting to Exhale,” and “The Preacher’s Wife,” Houston was about to become one of those crossover artists like Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand to reign on the silver screen.
It was her marriage to singer Bobby Brown that changed the path of the talented vocalist. For 15 years their marriage reflected the highs and lows of the media tabloids. She and Bobby did their fair share of drugs and abuse to each other. And it reflected it over the years. Whitney didn’t record or perform for nearly 8 years and when she recorded her last album in 2009 “I Look to You,” music critics and fans were elated. The album was written and produced by the likes of Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Eric Hudson, Diane Warren, David Foster, and R Kelly. The project was overseen by her mentor Clive Davis. The album was Houston’s fourth number #1 album in her career.
On Saturday the world came to New Hope Baptist Church to pay their last respects to Whitney who died at the age of 48. It was star studded event with musical performances from The Winans family, Alicia Keys, R Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Whalum, and the New Hope Baptist Church Choir. Other important speakers included director Tyler Perry, actor Kevin Costner, and Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend Marvin Winans took home with his stirring eulogy on preparation by faith. This was beautiful home-going service for a vocalist that was beloved by fans including myself.
But on the other side of Whitney’s death the role the media played during these last two weeks were devastating. Members of the media not only further damaged singer Bobby Brown’s reputation, they were extremely disrespectful to the Houston family and helped create a rift between them and the press, something that added to media fuel fire.
All week leading up to Whitney’s funeral, Bobby, was implicated in many reports that members of the Houston family didn’t want the former ex-husband and father of Bobbie Kristina, not to attend the service. Even the day of the funeral Brown looked like the bad guy. Even up to him leaving his ex-wife and daughter’s funeral on Saturday. In a statement issued by a representative of Brown after Houston’s funeral he states: “My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions.” Brown stresses: “I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move,” he adds. “Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi-Kristina. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene. My children are completely distraught over the events. This was a day to honor Whitney. I doubt Whitney would have wanted this to occur. I will continue to pay my respects to my ex-wife the best way I know how.”
For whatever reason Mr. Brown was denied the right to see his former wife, the last I recalled, Whitney made the decision to marry Bobby Brown. For 15 years Whitney stayed with the singer and her career spiraled downward. That included her drug abuse, the physical and mental abuse by her former husband, as well as the up and down theatrics of her behavior. If memory serves me correctly, Whitney decided to do all this, not Bobby. For almost 17 years it was her that chose the path of Bobby, not Bobby! This is something the press didn’t cover at all. Yet, Bobby Brown was treated like a social Judas and was denied the most basic right, to pay his respects to see his former wife. And again, the press had a field day with this as well.
Before I close, I feel as a journalist and social critic that I should shed some light on a the role of hypocrites from a biblical perspective. In the book of James, chapter 3, verses 10-12 states: “10)Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11)Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12)My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” Simply what this verse stresses is that the media praised the life and homecoming of Sister Houston, yet, the press were major hypocrites in starting a rift between the Houstons and the Browns. Also, the press did a very bad job presenting a one sided view of Bobby Brown when Whitney was much a part of her personal demons that she created. Remember, my job as a journalist to present both sides of the story. And in doing that, it seems that Whitney seems to be the one a fault here. Also the fluid slippery slope view of the press. Bobby and Whitney were young and at another place in time where they married up into the time they divorced. So maturity plays unto their marriage both on a spiritual and physical level.
Both you and I aren’t perfect in any shape form or fashion. Neither was Bobby or Whitney. Leave Bobby alone and let him live a life of dignity and love despite what his past used to be.
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