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Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11-12, 2012: Remembering Whitney Houston

A brief tribute to one of late 20th century America’s most talented and troubled stars.

Whitney Houston, who died Saturday, wasn’t nearly as significant a historical and cultural voice and presence as the folks on whom my Black History Month series focused. Moreover, since I know very little about her career and life, I’m not particularly qualified to write a tribute to her at this tragic final moment. But there’s no question that she was one of the most talented singers in American pop music history, that for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s she was one of the most potent cultural icons on the planet, and that with those qualities she inspired many listeners and fans. And there’s similarly no question that her descent since that time into a spiral of, apparently, drugs and poverty and self-destruction is one of the sadder American cultural stories in recent memory.

So here’s to remembering Whitney Houston, not in this tragic moment, nor during that long spiral, but as she was, when she was as good as they get. More next week,

Ben

2/11 Memory Day nominee: Lydia Maria Child, about the many facets of whose justified status as “The First Woman in the Republic” I wrote at length in that linked post—and for further details of which I cannot recommend highly enough Carolyn Karcher’s comprehensive cultural biography with that title.

2/12 Memory Day nominee: Cotton Mather, partly because he helps us understand the complex and telling national tragedy that was the Salem Witch Trials, but mostly because the rest of his life and work, especially in advocating for smallpox inoculation, were so important and inspiring.

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