An Extraordinary Songbird No Longer Sings

It’s the kind of silence befitting the middle of winter, when the only singing you can hear is the whistling of the north wind through the window shutters and the only birds who remain are sparrows, blue jays and crows. They offer no tunes but only plaintive chirps, squawks and caws as if to beckon warmer weather – when the songbirds finally return to serenade us through a languid summer. But their number is diminished and the chorus less glorious in its symphony when one of the songbirds does not return in the spring.

Whitney Houston – that magnificent diva with the voice of an angel  – no longer dwells among us, having passed away yesterday at the still tender age of 48.

I won’t bother recounting the lurid details of her demise, made possible largely by the tragi-comedic train wreck that comprised much of her adult life. After all, the candle that burns twice as bright burns only half as long – and her astounding fame and fortune were purchased at the sacrifice of any inner peace she might have otherwise have enjoyed had she remained with the choir of the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ and settled down to a life of  comfortable anonymity.

But since the world would have been deprived of what little joy still remains in a largely cold and graceless age, it was strangely proper that she set forth on what would become a paradoxical Via Dolorosa, wherein her singing lifted countless hearts and soothed God knows how many troubled spirits even as she edged ever closer to her own Golgotha, which she ascended yesterday.

With one exception (the execrable “I Will Always Love You”), I enjoyed her singing tremendously and will always remember the great justice she did to our national anthem at Superbowl XXV in 1991. She didn’t have to grandstand and stretch out a two minute anthem into a ten minute aria for the sake of impressing the world with her voice.

Whitney sang The Star-Spangled Banner as only Whitney could:

I’ll spend the next week studiously ignoring any further reports or maudlin tributes: Whitney Houston is now the exclusive property of both eternity and my memory – and I choose to remember her in precisely the manner I first encountered her in 1987:

Blessed repose and eternal memory.

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