A Requiem Before The Sepia Stain


“She was a drug abuser, a talent wasted… took her own life, pissed on her fortune and pissed away her beauty.

I know. God, Whitney knew. She said it 10 years ago to Diane Sawyer: “I am my own worst enemy…. pray for my soul… pray for strength.”

BUT… I mourn anyway. Not in spite of the countless other “quiet” deaths that have occurred lately. No, in ADDITION to them. I lost a godsister a few days ago myself. But my heart still mourns. If you don’t care, God bless. That still won’t change the sadness.

So like countless others I admire, but were gone abruptly- Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Biggie, Sam Cooke, Tammi Terrell, Aaliyah, John Lennon, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Selena, Tupac, Michael Jackson- I’ll add Whitney. I hope that now, in eternity, she’s found that strength that so desperately alluded her in this life.”

I wrote that as a rather long status update this morning after reading a few Facebook friends status updates that referred to the late diva as a “crackhead”, an “idiot” and a “waste”. I was upset when I typed that up and hit “post”.

I still feel upset somewhat now. Why? Well, I am a fan. Growing up, not much secular music was played in a home that was still very much full of music. We just heard a lot more Carmen, Be Be & Ce Ce and Kirk Franklin than most of our neighbors. But there were exceptions. And Whitney was one of them.

I could say it was parental hypocrisy, pride for a Jersey girl gone global or Whitney’s obvious gospel-tinged vocals. But I think the truth is, she simply was The Best. So even though her songs were on constant rotation on radio stations that were typically taboo, they still found their way on play at our house. So I wanted to dance with somebody, too. I always loved “YOOOOUUUU”! I was every woman, shooped and stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel. 

Now that the childhood Little Li bopping montage that just played in my head has ended, I  can continue. 

What angers me is the attitude held by many that celebs like Whitney are simply idiots who got what they deserved. Her and Michael and Amy. There is such an attitude of superiority. Almost gleeful mocking of their demise. It’s so very ugly.

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse

Sure, as time passes, society tends to put a sepia stain on these troubled celebs’ memories. No one bats an eye at the girl who tucks a big white flower behind her ear in homage to Billie Holliday. I get many compliments on my small bejewled Dorothy Dandridge pin whenever I wear it. Mock covers of Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath’s books hang on Barnes & Noble walls across the country. I’ve never heard any derisive comments while sipping a macchiato in the cafe about either.

Sylvia Plath

So I suppose given enough time, history will place our recently departed on the “Tragic Greats” shelf along with the many others.

There’s no condescending from me, though. I don’t view them as weak. Nor as mere “cautionary tales”. No, because I know if not for the grace of God, go I. This is not a pass for destructive behavior. I can’t condone that. Just an acknowledgment that not having walked their paths, I cannot judge how perilous the journey was.

I pray now, they all may truly rest in peace.

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