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Monday, December 09, 2019

Why Whitney Matters

Connie Schultz remembers the life and legacy of the late Whitney Houston in her column, “Whitney Houston, Worth Our Time:”

You didn’t have to like Whitney Houston’s music to fall under the spell of her voice.

Lord, how that woman could sing.

Even people who never would buy one of her records — people like my dad, for example, who practically worshipped Dean Martin and wanted to be Neil Diamond — blinked fast and swallowed hard after 27-year-old Houston stepped up to the microphone at the 1991 Super Bowl and belted out the national anthem with a face of patriotic joy.

Houston was famous early. As a young African-American woman, she saw her career break ground in all directions, and she reeled from critics who claimed she wasn’t “black enough” because of her crossover appeal. She was an international superstar at an age when most of us still are trying to figure out who we want to be when we grow up. The pressure of public life took its toll. She married wrong, as my mother would say. For years, she struggled with addictions. She was 48 when her body gave up trying.

The news of her death broke last Saturday, in early evening. Within hours — minutes, if you were checking Facebook or Twitter — a chunk of the public had turned on her and the media, excoriating the coverage that treated her death as breaking news and condemning her for the addictions that had ruined her career and most of her adult life. There is a definite dark side to the Internet, and it was in full force Saturday night.

At such moments, it’s important to remember that the World Wide Web is not a window into most people’s souls. The majority of Americans, I suspect, either were indifferent about Houston’s death or cared so deeply that the loss felt personal.

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