Art is one of the most perplexing elements of the global culture. So many purport to be artists and so few actually are. I have seen, read, heard so much junk down through the years, it boggles the mind.
I remember when, as a young, confused frightened man, listening to some bizarre Rock ‘n’ Roll music, entitled, “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood,” I think it was called, or Joe something-or-another and the Hippies doing something involving dying. Up to that point, I had been driven by “The Four Tops”, the “Temptations”, Bob Dylan, to name just a few. This other, bizarre music introduced me to another form of art. Yes, art. Different, but equally as profound.
Actually, my first exposure to live music was Frank Zappa’s “Mothers of Invention” when I was barely 16, and then even earlier “James Brown and the Famous Flames.” God, how I remember that show. I was all of 14. It was 1964, and I fell in love with James Brown and his song, “Please, Please Me.” I played it and played it as I tried to unsuccessfully to sing-along and move to the music. Then, when I saw him live, it was electrifying. I was never the same after that. Art, to say the least. A high form, in fact.
I bring all this nonsense up because as they lay Whitney Houston to rest today, I remember the soaring rendition of the Dolly Parton song, “I will always love you.” I know that’s what everybody remembers and for good reason. I must have a moment of candor here, I was never a big Houston fan, but there is a moment in that song that flies above the clouds, with a voice as pure and fulfilled as ever in our history.
I cannot here it without tearing up. I cannot survive it without suffering excruciating pain driven by joy. Art, for sure. Beyond art, absolutely. Such an ability is a gift from the Gods, as they say. But Ms. Houston had to do it and she did.
Her gift, also, was our gift. When we are fortunate enough to hear such majesty, it changes our lives. We are so much the better for it. When people express their love of Ms. Houston they do so because of the art. They are saying, ” I love the art called Whitney Houston.”
And, yes, they love the person. The will miss the person. They love and will miss this beautiful, African-American woman. They will miss her taking all of us for a soaring flight above the clouds.
Left to our own devices, sans art, we are grounded. Being grounded is dull and daily. We work. We toil. We pay bills. We provide. We are responsible. The trouble with daily living is that’s it too gol’darn daily.
Art takes us above the clouds, where we fly, effortlessly and free. We don’t get there often. It is rare. Art does that. Ms. Houston did that. We will miss those flights.
Godspeed Whitney Houston. Godspeed.