Contributed by Liz V.,  A Bolt from the Green

The untimely death of a remarkable angel, the legendary, Whitney Houston occurred on February 11th.  I keep thinking that this shouldn’t have happened, but it did.

Her music brings me back to the early 80’s when I moved to Bleecker Street.  I lived in a modest duplex apartment on the fifth floor with a small outdoor balcony.  Standing on the balcony, I could see the neon sign of Village Gate across Thompson Street, the marquee of the Circle-in-the-Square downtown theater, where Al Pacino starred in “American Buffalo,” and under my building stood the Bleecker Street Cinema.  I recall listening to the recordings of Cissy Houston, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson and Aretha Franklin.   They were the reigning divas of jazz, gospel and blues. In 1983, I watched Cissy and her daughter Whitney sing together on the Merv Griffin show.

I clearly remember it as a major moment in music history.  Whitney received her big break into the mainstream and became an overnight sensation. My favorite Whitney song is her rendition of “The Greatest Love of All”.  I loved the song when George Benson first introduced it.  Whitney’s heartfelt interpretation of the lyrics connects wholly to the core of the meaning.  I danced to her music at the clubs, and watched as a fan her career ascend to the top.

What most impressed me about Whitney Houston is her grace.  She came from music royalty.  Her mother, Cissy Houston is an accomplished singer, who chose her family over her career, her cousin is Dionne Warwick and her godmother is Aretha Franklin.   Whitney Houston is an embodiment of music.  She treated others with human dignity, and generously shared her wealth as a philanthropist.  She spoke up against Apartheid when it was not popular to do so, and befriended Nelson Mandela.  She dedicated her rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” to him.


Her signature song, “I Will Always Love You” vocally soars with such perfection that it transcends time.

I could only speculate about her drug and alcohol addiction.  It seems that her life should not have turned out the way it did. She appeared to have had a fatal attraction to the thrill and danger of sudden fame.  Consequently, she avoided her responsibility to herself and her gift.  She chose to marry Bobby Brown, chose to stay in a bad marriage for 15 years.  Having her beautiful daughter, Bobbi-Kristina with Brown may have prolonged the inevitable breakup.  She chose alcohol, pills, pot and cigarettes to cope with her emotional problems.    She got swept away from her family and church values.  The fatal mistake is that she neglected to take care of her inner being, which is easier said than done.

I watched the four-hour funeral service.  The people in her life who cherished her by their words and music moved me to tears.  The church service provided an invitation to her beginnings.  Her family tastefully shared that with the world.  We must be grateful for that invitation.

Whitney Houston’s death rocked my memories of my time on Bleecker Street.  After 30 years, Bleecker Street between MacDougal Street and La Guardia Place lost all of its quaintness from the yesteryears.  The charm and the artistic vibrancy disappeared.  Banks, CVS, Duane Reade, and a high-rise condo replaced The Village Gate, Circle-in-the-Square Downtown, and The Bleecker Street Cinema.  Now, Le Figaro Cafe closed too.  How could this be?