(FinalCall.com) – The world is still reeling from the shocking death of legendary singer and cultural icon Whitney Houston. As condolences continue pouring in from fellow musicians, entertainers and fans, the eternal and tremendous legacy of the woman critics say is arguably one of the best vocalists of all time is unmistakable.
The songstress whose multi octave vocal range, beauty, grace and style endeared her to millions, sold 200 million albums and singles and garnered a successful film career was found dead Feb. 11 in the bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel, a few short hours before she was scheduled to attend a pre-Grammy awards show party. She was only 48.
Her family scheduled a private funeral Feb. 18 in the singer’s birthplace of Newark, N.J. and reports at Final Call presstime said Governor Chris Christie ordered flags to be flown half-staff that day in her honor. While the immediate cause of her death is still under investigation as media outlets continue unsubstantiated speculation and innuendo, what is known is that Ms. Houston will be sorely missed.
Though she was an American artist, Ms. Houston’s impact was felt worldwide and touched generations through her gift of song. According to The Christian Science Monitor, five of her songs rocketed into the Top 40 on Britain’s musical charts a few days after her death. Mikal Ameen, 23, an up and coming U.K. based hip-hip artist told The Final Call Ms. Houston’s music had a profound impact on him growing up.
“When it comes to Whitney Houston, I was in love with her voice. Any time her vocal was on something it had a real kind of angelic resonance to it. It always touched the heart. I’m in love with her music, her earlier stuff as well,” said Mr. Ameen.
Mr. Ameen added that young artists growing up wanting to test their vocals would often do so to Ms. Houston’s music. “She really brought up the soul era and for the most part I feel like she carried herself very dignified as opposed to some of the female artists of today. She really upheld that soulful diva rather than the kind of out there woman of today,” he added.
Yavonka Muhammad, a.k.a. “Lyricist 19,” admired Ms. Houston’s courage to allow God to use her and to use her gift to affect people. “She was unique in her gift, unlike any other. Even when she first came out there was something divinely different about her,” said Ms. Muhammad, a poet, writer and artist who has performed in various cities across the United States.
“It’s like she sang from her soul and with her having background in the church of course you heard the gospel roots but she was a different kind of R & B singer. For young Black girls in the ‘90s around that time, she was iconic. She was like our princess,” added Ms. Muhammad. She remembers performing the singer’s hit, “The Greatest Love of All” at her eighth grade graduation.
Ms. Muhammad credits Ms. Houston with helping to shape the image of young Black women in the 1990s. “She was modest. She was never unclothed, never naked. She was regal and beautiful,” said Ms. Muhammad.
“Her voice is phenomenal and is something that was to be studied and is to be studied by anybody that is a songstress or a vocalist. She’s one of the greatest vocalists of our time. The tone of her voice, everything about her voice was just phenomenal,” singer and songwriter Azizah Lisa told The Final Call.
Azizah Lisa has opened for such notable artists such as Erykah Badu, Nancy Wilson, Anthony Hamilton, Raheem Devaughn and a host of other artists and described Ms. Houston’s vocal ability as “effortless.”
“Hearing her for the first time, I was in awe at just how beautiful the sound of her voice was. I studied her, admired her and just enjoyed her music,” added Aziza Lisa.
While Ms. Houston was highly regarded as a superb vocalist and entertainer, others note her contribution and support to cultural and socially conscious efforts should not be overlooked.
Ms. Houston attended the historic Million Family March convened by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 2000 along with then husband Bobby Brown.
“If you remember, she went to Israel to visit the Hebrew Israelites although the press kind of played it down,” said Truth Minista Paul Scott, a journalist and social and entertainment commentator. The Hebrew Israelites are a community of Black Hebrews. Ms. Houston and Mr. Brown visited the community in Dimona, Israel in 2003.
“I think that was critical, someone making a connection with the Hebrew Israelites. So to me that’s one of her greatest contributions that’s very underplayed, by the mainstream media,” said Mr. Scott.
In a commentary, Dr. Benjamin Chavis of Occupy the Dream, pointed out that Ms. Houston was more than a star in the music and entertainment industry.
“She gave to numerous charities in Newark and across the nation. In fact, Nelson Mandela and the Mandela family considered Whitney as a member of their extended family because of her longstanding support of empowerment in South Africa and in other nations,” wrote Dr. Chavis.
Yet like so many in the entertainment industry that pass away, their humanitarian accomplishments are often overshadowed by their struggles. Additionally, the value of their estate grows tenfold, after their deaths. Michael Jackson, Tupac, and Christopher Wallace a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., are just a few examples of artists that are “worth more dead than alive.”
Hilary Muhammad, UK representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, said though the death of Ms. Houston is indeed tragic, it is unfortunately nothing new in an industry motivated by greed and money. “The talent is dead and gone but these corporations continue to maximize their profits,” said Hilary Muhammad. Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston are the latest examples of talented entertainers that have shared their gifts and talents with the world only to pass away; making record companies wealthier, added the student minister. He questioned who owns the valuable musical catalogs of entertainers that die.
According to businessinsider.com, the day after Ms. Houston’s death, “iTunes increased the price of her songs from .99 cents to $1.29 (.63 to .82 pounds) from which her label Sony will profit.” Though Sony has since claimed the price increase was and “error” and apologized, many critics don’t buy it.
In an interview on CNN with Piers Morgan music legend Chaka Khan, a close friend of Ms. Houston, criticized Sony for the price increase and agreed that the music industry is money driven.
“I think we all, as artists, because we’re highly sensitive people, and this machine around us, this so-called music industry is such a demonic thing,” said Ms. Khan. “It sacrifices people’s lives and their essences at the drop of a dime…I had a manager once say to me, ‘You know you’re worth more money dead than alive,’” she said.
Analysts predict the songwriters that penned most of Ms. Houston’s hits, including country star Dolly Parton who wrote “I Will Always Love You,” stand to make millions.
“All of our greats who die give them (corporations) a second bite of that cherry in terms of profits,” noted Hilary Muhammad.
“The industry will chew you up and spit you out. The industry doesn’t care anything about our entertainers so it’s up to us to fill that void and we have to care,” said Mr. Scott.
For anyone in the entertainment industry the level of creativity and freedom that comes along with the craft is beautiful but the industry is “full of sin,” said Azizah Lisa. “There’s so much freedom, there’s just so many pitfalls you can run into, so much that’s offered to those especially those that are making big money,” she added. Artists really have to stay cautious, she warned.
Whatever her personal struggles, Ms. Houston’s legacy has endeared her to many who will continue to honor her as a gifted talent but more importantly as a human being.
“Whitney artistically is the epitome of what every woman strives for when she accepts her gifts creatively. Personally, Whitney is us. She’s a microcosm of the macrocosm of the struggles that we go through as sisters,” said Yavonka Muhammad.