The loss of Whitney Houston wounds the hearts of all who gloried in the sheer virtuosity of her unique voice. She died too soon, like Mozart, Edith Piaf, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and so many others.
But beneath the keen sense of loss is gratitude; it's a wonder we had Whitney Houston at all. A famed music teacher said, "Having a great voice is like being born with a Stradivarius in your throat." Add musicality, artistry, temperament, beauty, all in one human being who must also inhabit an environment that can recognize and cultivate such gifts.
But celebrities live under pressure. Erving Goffman's landmark. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, reveals that all people show one life to the world, keep another private. But celebrities, dogged by snooping, leering public media, have little privacy. Instantly recognized, they are unable to go anywhere without drawing hordes who offer admiration and awe, but also possessiveness. "We put you up there You'd better be grateful!" And among them can lurk the deranged. A Jody Foster fan, imagining it would impress his idol, tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. After asking John Lennon to sign the cover of his album, which Lennon did, a demented fan fatally shot him in the back. What can it be like to endure such pressures all the time?
We don't yet know what caused Whitney Houston's death, and I, for one, don't want to know. Her recordings and films remain, and like those of Edith Piaf, will long be played. And yet they are mere echos of her talent, and the glory she brought to all her talent touched. And if such a talent is snatched away, the whole human race is bereaved.