Hey hey, my my. Rock and roll will never die. Neil Young didn't mention the fate of R&B dance pop. Maybe that's how Whitney Houston got away from us. "She was happy," fellow singer Kelly Price said the day after her death. "She was the Whitney I always knew." Maybe Ms. Price didn't know Whitney that well, or if she did, there was no way to keep her on the planet for more than forty-eight years.
The other thing that Neil suggests is that it's better to burn out than to fade away. Certainly I wouldn't be writing a tribute to Whitney Houston here if she had simply retired and gone to live a quiet life in the country with her family. Instead she found herself in a wicked dance with the media, searching for attention but hoping the vultures wouldn't pick at those moments when she was most vulnerable: drugs and the damage done to her once sonorous voice. To some degree she made herself a lightning rod for bad publicity, exemplified by her choice to show up on her husband's reality show. Whatever fond memories we may have generated from the eighties became sullied by the rehability of the nineties. Whitney Houston became a punchline.
And now she has her last headline.
My high school band director used to tell us not to drag the tempo of "The Star Spangled Banner." He reminded us that no one ever paid to hear that song. The possible exception I can think of for this rule would be Whitney Houston's rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl. At that time she was just about the same age as Amy Winehouse when she died. Burn out or fade away? The woman is gone, but that voice remains. Aloha, Whitney.