Whitney: A Moment In Time

Each day I live / I want to be

A day to give / The best of me

I’m only one / But not alone

My finest day / Is yet unknown…

Rare. Perfect. Glorious. Soaring. Whitney Houston’s voice was all these and so much more. From “I Want to Dance With Somebody” to the powerful “One Moment in Time” and, of course, the immortal “I Will Always Love You”, no singer, male or female, has had such an astonishing voice.

Her range was extraordinary, her pitch was perfection and those who were privileged to hear her perform live say she sounded better live than on a record.

Whitney Houston was an inspiration for millions of young women. Her aunt, Dionne Warwick, was a star of epic proportions by the time Whitney burst onto the music scene, but even Warwick was impressed by her niece’s power and grace. I’ve always thought that if there is a Heaven, the singing there might sound like Whitney Houston.

Like Amy Winehouse, Whitney’s problems were well documented. My reflection this morning on hearing of her death was how huge a challenge a life in the limelight must have been, and how always having to meet others’ expectations can so easily become the measure of one’s own self evaluation and validation.

But for now, I won’t remember the bad moments and I won’t dwell on the mistakes and stumbles. What I will remember is her smile, and her laugh and her voice. That incredible voice! And I will remember this Grammy Awards performance of one of my favourite Whitney songs, where she simply glowed with emotion and talent.

Today, I will mourn the loss of one of the greatest talents in the history of music.

R.I.P. Whitney Houston

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A sad farewell to Amy

Today, we lost one of the most talented young women in the music industry — a girl famed for her amazing contralto vocals and jazz background who created songs that stormed the charts worldwide and were popular to multiple generations.

Amy Winehouse, who has passed away at the tender age of 27, has shocked the nation with her death, as she had with her drug- and drink-fuelled life. To say this is a tragic loss is an understatement. Along with her father Mick and her mum Janis, the public have watched Amy deteriorating for years, hoping and praying that she would finally put herself on the straight and narrow and come back into the limelight a raving success and (more importantly) a healthy young woman.

This has sadly not been the outcome. Her death has been confirmed so far as unexplained, but it is known she was found dead in her Camden home around 1600GMT today. I was in the Camden area just around that time and noticed the commotion but didn’t know what was going on until I got home later and heard the news.

No one knows what really went on so we can only speculate for now, which usually leads to assumptions and lies. All we can take from her death is to learn the lesson she never could — drug abuse is a fool’s game and if you care about your body, health and life in general, you will steer clear of the stuff.

But it is all too easy for us to judge. As a writer, I know only too well the loneliness, inner turmoil, anguish and even self-loathing that can accompany the creative process. Often, it is only through his/her chosen medium that an artist truly finds an outlet for releasing the pressure. I believe this was the case with Amy. Drugs might have given her a false and temporary respite from her inner demons, but she found her wings when she poured her heart and soul into music — and we were enriched by it.

I had the privilege of seeing and hearing her perform back in 2006, I think it was, as she was launching her acclaimed album Back To Black. I’d never even heard of Amy Winehouse before then, but that one concert was enough to make me a fan. She wasn’t the same fresh-faced girl when I saw her in a Camden pub some years later in 2010 — her well-documented problems had taken their toll — but she was sweet, friendly and nothing like the drugged-up raving lunatic often depicted in the press. She even chatted a bit with me and my mates, and I remember observing what lovely eyes she had.

And this is why I don’t wish to dwell on her death, nor on the controversial way she lived her life. I just want to celebrate her at her height, with soulful songs that smashed the top charts and that beehive hairdo that only Amy could rock.

Amy, we will all miss you, and I hope you’re finally at peace.