I won’t always love you Whitney Houston

No. I won’t always love you Whitney. I will always be intensely annoyed at the phenomenal waste you made of your beautiful life and gift. The only thing that I will be forever grateful for is that no one thought to say that you died doing what you truly loved. Which was, of course; drugs. A phrase I wish people would use less often when talking about the dead.

It wasn’t like anyone was really surprised that you ended up dead in a bath. There were people – your friends I guess – pretending they were shocked to the newspaper people outside the hotel door – it seemed like the polite thing to do. They’re performers for God’s sake. They’re good at acting.

No one likes to say; “Yeah I knew my mate was a raving drug addled looney but hey… the money was still coming in and damn but that girl could still sing.” It would seem parasitic – creepy even to admit that everyone loves a party girl and perhaps the sober straight Whitney was just a bit of a drag. Whitney the drug addict probably spent a lot of dough when she was wasted – I bet she was just one of those nice girls that just didn’t like to say no. No, to an abusive husband. No to the parasitic vampires that sycophantically follow the rich and famous hoping some of it will wear off on them. No to agents and money men who knew a good thing when they saw it and wanted to squeeze every last drop of it out of her until she really did need the uppers to keep going and the downers to get to sleep at the end of it all. I’m hoping that Whitney is the last of a particular lineage of female artists going back before Billy Holiday and then Janis Joplin, a one-off throw back of the good girl gone bad variety. There are plenty of examples of women who have managed their careers and money and remained entirely drug free throughout. Madonna could be counted – if you exclude an addiction to much younger sports studs and the new stable of music’s thoroughbreds seem far more concerned with managing their talent and business than focussing on fostering their substance abuse – Beyonce and Lady Gaga come to mind.
Yet there was a cultural blindness around Whitney’s demise that still rankles. Why do we still love and worship the archetype of the suffering artist who must self-medicate their creative demons into obeisance? Why is there a secret communal applause when Keith Richards resurfaces from zombie hell after falling out of a coconut tree or from a court room after shacking up with a 13 year old while completely out of his mind? Why do we, as a culture tacitly approve of the wild wasted ones? Is it because there is admiration for someone who has the courage to spit in the eye of destiny and throw away outrageous talent by being literally and figuratively wasted? Are they our underground shamans who play out some psychic shadowland fantasy that most of us can never indulge while being responsible citizens of the upper world? Or are they just lazy losers who don’t have to work anything out or get over anything or get through any emotional tough times because they get to buy the antidote from their nearest pusher – and does some part of us envy that just a little? Whatever the case it’s intensely annoying to watch the spectacle of public grief that surrounds the death of a cultural icon when they die young from doing drugs. They become glamorous deaths in a way that morphs their talent with their drug use and gives the implied message that their gift is an intrinsic part of their chemical relationships. The eulogies never talk about the really ugly side of dependency and what is not heard is the fact that the one so loved –spent a good part of their life truly deeply and utterly; wasted.

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