I came across this video from what I guess was one of Whitney Houston’s last appearances on French TV for Le Grand Journal (a nightly show on Canal +). Of course there was a barrier in terms of language but the emotions that she communicated were clearly understood and well received. That is perhaps the power of being driven by passion and of communicating messages that are at the core of our shared human experience – love, heartache, loss, redemption, fear, faith and the emotions that accompany these states.
There is no need – or utility – in talking about the path of self destruction that she was on during the last days of her life. It is a very familiar sounding story: A powerful woman who has everything in life by the standards of the world but is consumed by her inner demons until they snatch her very life away from her. In French popular culture Edith Piaf comes to mind – and so does The Diva herself, Maria Callas (well, she was not French but Parisian). What a familiar sounding story. It has unfolded before and will probably repeat itself as long as we inhabit bodies of mere flesh and try to reach for our dreams and the intangible.
There is no doubt that these two legacies of hers – of a tortured Diva and that of a chanteuse who communicated powerful emotion will compete in the hearts and minds of those who loved her, even those who did so without fully comprehending what she was singing. I am certainly one of those who greatly appreciated her amazing voice of old. Whether one loved her or not it can be agreed that her best moments are forever immortalised and captured for future generations to enjoy. May her soul rest in peace.
Here is a snippet from a Paris performance of hers in the 90s, accompanied by a French TV report: