When I read that Whitney Houston had passed away I was stunned. Stunned because part of me has seen it coming for years, and stunned because it actually happened. Whitney’s fall from grace is well documented. America’s pop darling in the 80s, she managed another strong decade in the 90s musically while her marriage with fellow 80s megastar and Boston’s own Bobby Brown was a constant storyline playing out in the media. Run-ins with the law, drug and alcohol abuse, curious interactions with the media, and an honest yet crazy reality show kept both Whitney and Bobby in the public’s view. In 2007 they divorced. Bobby seemed to clean up his act and has gone back to performing with New Edition. Whitney appeared to continue to struggle with drugs and alcohol, but musically pressed forward with her 2009 release ‘I Look to You.’ It debuted at number 1 and went double platinum worldwide, and that’s not to be overstated. Despite an obvious drug and alcohol problem and well into her 40s, the woman still had mass-appeal – a testament to both her God-given vocal talents and years of well-deserved success establishing a very large fan-base.
Unfortunately her drug and alcohol addiction seemingly caught up with her body. We await the autopsy reports and while anything’s possible as far as a cause of death I think it’s fair to say that had Whitney committed to sobriety, or at least cut back heavily on the hard-stuff, she’d probably still be with us. She would’ve likely thrilled the audience at the Grammy’s tonight and she likely would’ve recorded more award winning music with that angelic voice of hers. But that’s not the case. She’s gone. And while Bobby lives on, their story should finally be laid to rest as well.
The hidden tragedy in Whitney’s passing is that a significant amount of people out there want to blame Bobby for Whitney’s downfall. This was a regular occurrence before her death. All too often when people spoke or wrote about Whitney, they’d mention Bobby Brown as the defining negative influence in her life. Bobby Brown the husband was 80s Whitney’s kryptonite. He was the turning point that led to the drug-addicted, crazy, and often unflattering Whitney that we’ve seen all too often since. And to those who spew such rhetoric Whitney’s death is an affirmation that Bobby is in fact an awful human being. A careless, crack-smoking husband who reeled his wife into his web of substance abuse and finally won. This stuff bothers me a lot.
While I won’t argue that Bobby enabled Whitney, I will say that they enabled each other in that drug riddled matrimony of theirs. And I’m not judging anyone in this equation. Whitney and Bobby were two grown ass people with a lot of money living their lives together. Yes, it’s easy for most to see where they went wrong, that drugs and alcohol was crippled their personas both individually and as a couple. But that was them and I, for one, am not here to pass judgment. I’ve struggled with alcohol myself.
The worst things that have happened in my life have all been alcohol-related. My dad passed away when I was 10 years old, in part because of the damaging effects that alcohol abuse had on his health. I’ve seen holding cells in two states because of drunken lapses of judgments and alcohol infused anger-driven mood swings. I’ve damaged, at times irreparably some wonderful friendships and relationships that meant the world to me, because of dumb shit I’ve done and said while drinking too much. All that money lost, all those black-out nights, all the dealings w/ courts and years of probation, and all the remorse I’ve felt and tears I’ve shed due to alcohol related incidents puts me in no position to judge anyone for their drug and alcohol related mishaps. What I’ve learned from it all is that I’m responsible for my own actions. It’s on me to decide to drink and it’s on me to deal with the repercussions of making that decision. And it’s on me to either clean up my act or continue to face the ramifications of my alcohol issues. That decision is mine and mine only to make and mine and mine only to live with. The same principles were true for Bobby and Whitney.
Whitney did the drugs, Whitney drank the liquor, Whitney took the pills, and it’s a shame that she never cleaned up. But let’s not give her a pass because she was married to Bobby. Bobby was the top selling R&B male artist of 1980s. Then he married Whitney and never topped or equaled his prior career success. They did the drugs together and together they suffered for it. And as previously mentioned, to his credit Bobby finally cleaned up. Too late for many of our likings and any past addict is prone to a relapse, but he’s clean today and by all accounts very remorseful of his past mistakes. He’s also currently mourning the loss of his ex-wife and mother of his child. Bobby did not force-feed Whitney the drugs, she made her own decisions.
It’s a tragic loss and the pop world is appropriately mourning the loss of one of its queens. But let’s stop finger pointing at Bobby and adding fuel to the Whitney and Bobby flames of controversy. Let’s learn what not to do from their struggles with addiction, re-affirm our accountability for our own actions, and remember Whitney’s musical being without demonizing Bobby’s entire persona. It’s a sad enough story as it is without the appalling element of pinning all the blame on Bobby Brown. Let’s let Whitney rest in the after-life, and let Bobby rest amongst us as well. And while that’s admittedly a long shot in today’s highly opinionated mass social media spectrum, it seems like the right thing to do. So let’s focus on celebrating Whitney Houston, the woman, the artist, the pop sensation, and let’s just let the whole Whitney and Bobby thing rest easy, once and for all.