2017: Immediate Change

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Gone, Just Like That… RIP Etta, Don and Whitney


Sunset Over The Highway of Life

Sunsets in Our Lives

The most appropriate song for this post is by the late Rev. James Cleveland, ‘Give Me My Flowers While I Yet Live,’ found on YouTube here.

On this post-Grammy 2012 evening, it is amazing that the old saying that death comes in threes has been fulfilled. One weekend, it was Etta James. The next, Don Cornelius. Then, before he could be buried, Whitney Houston [http://www.whitneyhouston.com/us/home]. It’s almost too much to bear, to come face to face with our mortality once again. We put it in the back of minds while going about our daily business, but it’s always lurking just beyond the bend. All we can do is pray and walk circumspectly.

Ms. James had aged and had been sick for some time. It was expected, but that doesn’t make it better when it happens. Her voice was of one who’s lived hard and survived to sing about it, like Billie Holiday. Her voice was so rare, a voice of the people. There are only a few song stylists in history who had the ability to take a song and make it unrecordable by anyone else, no matter how hard they try. Maybe the imitations are her flowers. God rest her soul.

Don Cornelius’ Chicago version of Soul Train was something that my friends and I rushed home to watch, because before there was Saturday syndication, it came on after school. In fact, two of our neighborhood folk were on the show, and it caused a commotion all over Tilden Tech [go, Blue Devils!]. I remember his predecessor show, ‘A Black’s View of the News,’ because of that voice; another rare, melodic voice; a master of the spoken word. It created its own song when he spoke. We were so glad for him to take his show national. However, it seems as if he didn’t get his flowers, even after that fantastic 40th anniversary at Millenium Park last summer. God rest his soul.

Whitney was the result of a family of great women – her mother, Cissy, cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, distant cousin Leontyne Price, and grandmothers on both sides. She was the 3rd generation of gospel singers, which is why her childhood was spent in church singing. Her mother, aunts and cousins were the Drinkard Singers, well-known around NJ and NY. Dionne was an original Sweet Inspirations’ member, doing background work all over NYC before meeting Burt and Hal.

Whitney was raised as a proper Black church lady, but ran into something that was out of her experience when she became ‘famous.’ There are no words to describe her voice; only a few others had a 5 octave range, like Minnie Riperton and Sarah Vaughan. Angelic sounds emanated from her when she sang, and the world took notice. Whitney got plenty of flowers for a while, but I guess they dwindled when her life took a different turn and she wasn’t recording as much. It’s really a shame. God rest her soul.

The conclusion – appreciate those around you who help you, whether with extravagance or  minutia, because they will provide your flowers while you can still smell them. What’s more, make sure you pass some out as well. And as always, please feel free to comment.

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One comment on “Gone, Just Like That… RIP Etta, Don and Whitney

  1. Pingback: How Late ‘Soul Train’ Host Don Cornelius Reshaped Independent Black Media « The Diary of a Lost Soul

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