Reflections on the death of Whitney Houston, from a show-business standpoint:

My sympathies to her family. I hope her daughter is OK. Heaven knows, she must have been witness to a lot in her young life. Already I have read that Whitney Houston was a modern-day Judy Garland.

The people who work behind the scenes at the Grammy Award ceremonies must have thousands of stories about the musicians they assist. I wonder if they are under contract not to publish all that stuff.

Based on my own behind-the-scenes observations, I know that one doesn’t just turn up one day too drunk/high to perform. It’s a cumulative thing, where a performer can get completely wasted the night before and go on to sing a surprisingly, consistently beautiful performance the next day. I have seen this happen. For a while, it actually works. And then at some point it doesn’t. But as long as it’s working, as long as one can deliver, there will be little motivation to change that behaviour.

Sudden fame has been blamed for the downfall of so many people. The way I see it, we are all working in this business with different sets of personal emotional baggage. Some people are pretty stable even at a young age. Some people spend their careers trying to win some elusive approval to fill a gaping hole of need in their hearts. Some people break at the slightest criticism. Some people don’t listen to it at all. Some people need to self-medicate their insecurities away. Should fame suddenly shine on you, you are still going to be bringing those qualities/faults with you wherever you go. Money and your face on magazine covers doesn’t make any of that just go away. But the little dramas are now much larger and more public ones, and your drug of choice is now a lot easier to get. And now you can pay people to clean up the messes.

Media is an incredible thing. Voices just hundred years ago have been forgotten, unless they were lucky enough to be preserved in the new recording technology. Now, thanks to the internet, every one of us lives on. Strange to contemplate.

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