When the passing of Whitney Houston was announced recently, I was quite taken aback. It was a Sunday and I was having drinks at a coffee shop in Singapore whilst my better half was running some errands in the vicinity of Pasir Panjang. I was reading the ticker on TV and as my order arrived, it was announced that Whitney was found dead in a hotel in Beverly Hills. My immediate reaction was a stunned silence.
It was not much different when Michael Jackson’s death was announced. I can’t remember what I was doing when they announced it but my reaction then was disbelief and sorrow.
These two musically gifted giants died when they were no more at the height of their popularity. Michael died when he was about to embark on a tour to resurrect his flagging career with a world tour.
The man who brought us countless unforgettable musical moments, the man who revolutionised the making of music videos, the man who introduced the Moonwalk, the man whose dance moves were much anticipated as was the release of his new musical masterpieces, died before he could even sing the first note of his new world tour.
If his intention was to revive his musical fortunes, then his death achieved what his world tour may not have done for him – resurrect interest in his music. It may sound cynical, but the world has not changed in this respect. It takes a death for someone to get noticed, and in Michael’s case, to get noticed again.
Today, Michael is once again recognized as the genius that he is. Or rather, he was. And like in ‘The Girl is Mine’, ‘there will be no other’.
As for Whitney, what more can be said about her that millions more have not. At her prime, she had THE VOICE and THE STYLE that was unmistakably Whitney’s. She was that special. There was a remark, I believe, made by Simon Cowell during one of the American Idol series, as an advice for female singers wanting to go far – Don’t do a Mariah, don’t do a Celine and for goodness sake, don’t do a Whitney.
The remark was apt. If you don’t have it, don’t try it, cos if you do, you’ll most probably suck. Totally. And for Whitney, that was one of the highest compliments that any one can possibly give.
True, she had her problems, some well documented and some widely publicised. Some unwanted, some unwarranted, some downright nasty. But then again, she is, after all, Whitney and hell, the whole world knows who Whitney is.
And now that she has passed, true to form, her music is suddenly back in vogue with demands for copies of her recordings far exceeding supply. Hopefully, as they lay her body to rest, all the negatives that has followed her in her life shall be buried with her and whats left to remember her by are just the positives.
The ways of the world dictates that whoever is born and lives shall wither and die some day. High born, low born, gifted or otherwise, it makes no difference. We are all, at the end of the day, just human after all and mere mortals whom death can make its acquaintance at any time.
There are other musically gifted artists that I have come to admire over the years, who have passed on. Luther Vandross, for one. His soothing soulful renditions, what can I say? ‘Dancing with my father’ still affects me the way that it did when I first heard it back then. And I sincerely believe Richard Marx never thought that his song could have been that beautiful.
Barry White is another. He has this unique voice that when you hear it, you know its him. For me, Barry White always reminds me of Ally McBeal and her gang of quirky lawyers. They were good for each other, Barry White and Ally McBeal. Each reminded me of the other and I believe, each made the other more famous than before.
For Malaysians, we still remember P Ramlee. For non-Malaysians, they may wonder just who is P Ramlee? Multi talented, he too received his recognition for his works in films and music after his passing. Posthumously decorated and honoured many times over, he passed away in 1974. That was more than 25 years ago and today he is still remembered for his works.
But prior to his passing, he was humiliated by so-called intellectuals, who branded his films and music as being outdated and of no intellectual content. Hounded and disgraced, he died penniless. Today, Malaysians of all ages remember him but none remember the so-called intellectuals who pronounced him the village dunce.
Over the years, there have been many of these musically gifted artists who have come and gone, regardless of where they come from. Lets just hope that they received recognition when they were still amongst us, and not only after they have gone. And that people also accept that they are also just human beings, mere mortals who are prone to making mistakes, like the rest of us. Then maybe the world would be a better, kinder and a more enriching place for all of us.