Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston

Abrams. Feb. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781419749698. $28. MUSIC
Journalist and cultural critic Kennedy (Parental Discretion Is Advised: The Rise of N.W.A. and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap) presents a different take on the highly scrutinized legend Whitney Houston, focusing on her humanity and her vilification by mainstream society. Kennedy offers a well-researched background on the talented Drinkard family, whose members included Cissy Houston and Dionne Warwick. Whitney Houston was guided—first by mother Cissy and then by producer Clive Davis—to be a crossover star. In their haste to market Whitney as an innocent ingénue, they erased all that made her who she was—her love for another woman, her Blackness, her addictions that began when she was still a teenager, and the abuse she suffered. Kennedy studies the evolution of Whitney’s music, her genius at manipulating her voice and the words, and the downward spiral her life and abilities took. It was her inability to deal with the overwhelming shame consistently heaped upon her that led to her tragic demise.
VERDICT An empathic and heartbreaking account of a woman haunted by her past, in a society that refused to accept her despite her amazing accomplishments.
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