Whitney Houston's Final Performance Reveals Tragedy of Fame (VIDEO)

Whitney Houston had a talent for the ages. Now dead at 48, it is easy to look back and see the places where she went so wrong -- her drug addictions, her drinking, her tumultuous marriage and bad choices. But to look at her in the 1980's and early 1990's is to remember a different Whitney.

The fact is, it was not JUST her addictions that hurt Whitney. The kind of fame she had -- adoring, all consuming -- leads to enormous pressure. The fact that she could not always handle that fame on her own is hardly unusual. Her death is an absolute tragedy.

Does anyone remember her performance of the National Anthem in 1991? It was soon after Desert Storm started at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Her voice electrified the nation and has become the gold standard against which all National Anthem performances are judged.

See below:


Chills, right? That was at the top. In the next 20 years, Houston's life took a surprising and, ultimately devastating turn. Below you can see her last performance. This time she is singing "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and there is something so haunting about it. See below:

She could still sing, of course. But her voice is different. It is obviously ravaged and hoarse and she can't hit the notes as well as she once did.

But it is more than that, too. She is overpowered by the voices of her fans screaming, wanting more from her than she had to give. This performance is dated February 9, 2012 and was clearly taken with a cell phone. But what we see in that short clip is a glimpse of the pressures that she had.

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She was a diva, a star and everyone wanted a piece of her. Is it Hollywood's fault that she had addiction problems and a troubled marriage? Of course not. But one can see, even in this final performance, after years and years of drug use and addiction, that everyone still wanted a piece of her.

In her infamous 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Houston admitted that the pressures of fame were sometimes the reason she appeared so troubled. She said the pressure to look perfect, be perfect and SOUND perfect were sometimes overwhelming.

If you look at these two performances, it makes perfect sense, no? Once a person hits that level of perfection, there is enormous pressure to keep it. Otherwise, you disappoint a legion of people who don't know you. They just think they do.

It is a heartbreaking truth about fame and the kind of strength it takes to withstand it. Is it any wonder so many stars end up like Britney Spears during her breakdown or Michael Jackson?

Whitney was more than her voice, but few really got to see the person who she was behind the voice and, in the end, it was both her biggest savior and her biggest downfall. We can all say she should have protected her gift and taken care of herself. And certainly there are a million other things to blame for how her life ended up. In the end, we don't even know yet what caused her death. 

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What we do know, though, is that her final performance three days ago is a haunting reminder of the price of fame and the toll it takes on the immensely talented. Houston's death and the end of her life is a cautionary tale and a great tragedy.

In her 2002 interview with Sawyer, Sawyer asked Whitney what she saw for her life in 10 years (2012), Whitney said:

Retired. Look at my daughter all grown up, become a great woman of God. Grandchildren.

She never got there.

Do you think fame played a role in Whitney's unraveling?


Image via jetcityjimi/Flickr

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