May Flights of Angels Sing You To Your Rest, Whitney Houston

Dolly Parton, who wrote what would become Houston’s signature song, I Will Always Love You, said in her statement: “Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song.”

 With her incredible vocal range and purity, runway good looks and girl-next-door charm, Whitney Houston was an out-of-the-box superstar when she arrived on the music scene in 1985. Her meteoric rise included record-setting hits, groundbreaking videos and a promising film career.

Whitney Houston, whose stellar voice made her a superstar but who was long plagued by personal problems including drug abuse, died Saturday. She was 48.

Her stellar voice made her a superstar but who was long plagued by personal problems including drug abuse, died Saturday. She was 48.

Word of the 48-year-old singer’s death broke early Saturday evening as the industry gathered in Los Angeles for the official Pre-Grammy Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel hosted by her mentor Clive Davis, chief creative officer of Sony Music Worldwide. Her publicist, Kristen Foster, confirmed that the singer died in her room at the Beverly Hilton, but the cause of her death is unknown. Houston had been expected to attend the gala.

“It’s so stunning and unbelievable,” said Aretha Franklin in a statement. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.”

Producer Quincy Jones said in a statement that he was “absolutely heartbroken … I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare.”

By Mladen Antonov, AFP/Getty Images
A Beverly Hills police crime lab truck leaves the Beverly Hilton Hotel where Whitney Houston was found dead.

Dolly Parton, who wrote what would become Houston’s signature song, I Will Always Love You, said in her statement: “Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song.”

At the Staples Center, site of Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, executive producer Ken Ehrlich was wrestling with how to tweak the awards show to pay tribute to one of its onetime brightest lights, Whitney Houston.

The veteran Grammy producer confirmed that he was in contact with singer/actress Jennifer Hudson about honoring Houston at the show.

In recent years, Houston had struggled to regain her past glory — a career that spawned sales of more than 42.7 million albums, singles and digital tracks since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

In 2009, she released I Look to You, her first studio album in seven years and first since going through rehab and divorcing Bobby Brown, her husband of 14 years, in 2006. While the album did debut at No. 1 and sold more than 1 million copies, it failed to produce any massive hit singles, or receive hoped-for Grammy Awards nominations. Her subsequent overseas tour met with mixed reviews, with disappointed fans demanding refunds.

“She don’t want to come, my soprano friend,” Houston crooned from the stage after stumbling through her signature songs at London’s O2 arena in April 2010. “Sometimes the old girl sings, but not tonight,” she said of her voice. “I want to do it, but she doesn’t want to. … She’s getting a little … temperamental, even.”

It was a sad end for the once incandescent star who paved the way to pop success for other African-American singers such as Janet Jackson, Anita Baker, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, and has been cited by the likes of Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Leona Lewis for inspiring them to become singers. The gospel-trained Houston was the daughter of singer Cissy Houston, goddaughter of Aretha Franklin and cousin of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick.

Houston was already an up-and-coming magazine model (she was one of the first women of color to grace the cover of Seventeen) when record mogul Clive Davis signed her to his Arista Records label in 1983. In an interview accompanying the 2010 reissue of her debut album, Whitney Houston: The Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition, Davis recalls first seeing her backing up her mother at the New York City club Sweetwater’s.

“She did two solo numbers, one of which was the song The Greatest Love Of All. Whitney sang the song with such fervor, with such a natural vocal gift, with such passion, that I was stunned. I knew really right then and there that this was a special talent, and I was blown away by her,” Davis recalled. “There was no hesitation. I wanted to sign Whitney.”

Together, they would make music history. Davis spent more than a year grooming Houston, lining up producers and collecting the right material. Her first hit, Hold Me, a duet with Teddy Pendergrass for his 1984 Love Language album, went to No. 5 on the R&B chart. It was a precursor to Whitney Houston, which arrived in 1985 to rave reviews.

First single You Give Good Love was a top 5 pop hit, and its follow-up, Saving All My Love for You, was even bigger. It went to No. 1, as did How Will I Know, the video for which became one of the first by an African-American female to get heavy rotation on MTV. The Greatest Love of All also spent three weeks at the top of the charts, and Whitney Houston wound up selling 13 million copies domestically.

She earned three nominations at the 1986 Grammy Awards, including one for album of the year. Saving All My Love for You won for female pop vocal, and her performance of the song on the show would win her an Emmy Award later that year. The Greatest Love of All would also be nominated for record of the year at the following year’s Grammys.

Houston’s superstardom was solidified in 1987 with the release of Whitney, which sold 9 million copies in the USA and spawned four No. 1 singles —I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional and Where Do Broken Hearts Go— to give her a record seven chart-toppers in a row. A fifth single, Love Will Save the Day, was a top 10 hit. Thanks to her record sales and concert grosses for 1986 and 1987, Forbes ranked her as the eighth-highest-earning entertainer at the time.

Her crossover success was unprecedented for an African-American woman, but she soon found herself defending it against critics, who claimed her hits lacked soul. Her third album, 1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight, took her in a more urban direction thanks to production by L.A. Reid, Babyface, Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross, but its reception was less spectacular. The album peaked at No. 3 while selling 4 million copies, though singles I’m Your Baby Tonight and All the Man That I Need topped both the pop and R&B charts.

Still, big things and big changes were on the horizon for Houston, whose 1991 Super Bowl performance of The Star Spangled Banner remains the yardstick by which other singers are judged. Two things happened in 1992 that would profound alter her career: She made a move into acting and making soundtracks with The Bodyguard, and after a three-year courtship, she married R&B singer and former New Edition member Bobby Brown.

In The Bodyguard, she starred as a singer being protected from a stalker fan by Kevin Costner‘s title character. The film grossed more than $121 million at the box office, and the soundtrack had an even bigger payoff for Houston. Her cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, distinguished by Houston’s a cappella intro, stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record 14 consecutive weeks and had significant stints atop the R&B and adult contemporary charts as well.

The album also spawned top five hits I’m Every Woman and I Have Nothing. The album sold 17 million copies in the USA, won three Grammys, including album and record of the year, plus a slew of other awards.

Two years later, Houston performed at a state dinner at the White House honoring newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela, and she would later be the first major artist to perform in that country, playing three shows to 200,000 people.

Her next film, 1995’s Waiting to Exhale starring Angela Bassett, was also a hit with a huge soundtrack. This time, she teamed with Babyface to co-produce the star-studded album, and she contributed to its success with Exhale (Shoop Shoop), Why Does It Hurt So Bad and Count On Me, a duet with CeCe Winans.

She earned $10 million for her next role, 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, which starred Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance. While it didn’t do as well at the box office as the previous two films, Houston got her best review yet as an actress. The soundtrack saw Houston cutting loose in a gospel setting. It featured six songs with the Georgia Mass Choir, including He’s All Over Me with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. I Believe in You and Me and Step By Step were both radio hits.

Houston branched off into TV in 1997, producing a remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Brandy with Houston as the Fairy Godmother. The highly rated ABC special earned seven Emmy nominations. That set the stage for Houston’s first studio album in eight years, My Love Is Your Love. The album sold 4 million copies in the USA, and spawned a successful world tour, but peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard album chart, making it her first album to fall short of the top three. Still, with production by Wyclef Jean, Missy Elliott and Rodney Jerkins, it had the hits When You Believe with Mariah Carey, Heartbreak Hotel, It’s Not Right But It’s Okay, My Love Is Your Love and I Learned From the Best.

As the ’90s closed, Houston’s popularity was beginning to wane just as rumors about drug use with Brown swirled and reports began surfacing about erratic behavior and weight loss, along with missed interviews and canceled concerts. On Jan. 11, 2000, marijuana was discovered in Houston’s and Brown’s luggage as they passed through security at a Hawaii airport, though they boarded the plane and left before police arrived. Two months later, she was conspicuously missing when Clive Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was also to have performed on the Academy Awards, but was fired by musical director Burt Bacharach.

She signed a $100 million, six-album deal with Arista/BMG in 2001, but after appearing on the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, her extremely thin frame fueled more rumors of drug abuse. Those rumors were confirmed a year later when she did an interview with Diane Sawyer to promote her upcoming Just Whitney. She admitted using drugs in the highly watched TV interview, which included her infamous declaration, “Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. OK? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack.”

Just Whitney was her poorest-selling album to date, and none of its singles made the Hot 100’s top 40. She got positive reviews for 2003’s One Wish: The Holiday Album, but only modest sales.

Houston’s image took further pummeling on the sordid 2005 Bravo reality series Being Bobby Brown, which gave an inside look into their family life. Critics savaged the show, but morbidly fascinated viewers tuned in to see just how low they could sink. The show was canceled after Houston decided to no longer participate. She separated from Brown in September 2006 and the divorce was finalized in 2007, with Houston given custody of the couple’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

In a 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey to promote I Look To You, Houston blamed an emotional abusive and jealous Brown for many of her problems, confessed that she laced her marijuana with rock cocaine and revealed that she’d spent time in rehab and had undergone an intervention by her mother.

The album made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart with a career-best opening week of 305,000 copies sold. It was her first chart-topping album since 1992’s The Bodyguard. But the title track and the Alicia Keys-penned Million Dollar Bill had only modest success.

Her post-release TV appearances were also spotty. Though the fans responded warmly, she had to apologize for her voice cracking at a three-song Good Morning America concert in New York’s Central Park. It came not long after the Oprah interview, which she says wore out her vocal cords. She gave a much better received performance of I Didn’t Know My Own Strength on the American Music Awards two months later.

But the savage reviews of what would be her final tour in 2010 remain a stark reminder of the gorgeous voice she once had, and how much she lost to years of drug abuse and personal turmoil.

Contributing: Edna Gundersen, Marco R. della Cava and Elysa Gardner

By Steve Jones, USA TODAY

http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/obit/story/2012-02-11/whitney-houston/53053070/1

 

Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

 First Published on :

 

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

February 12, 2012  |  
 
 
 Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today’s progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasise the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won’t drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics“. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today“. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter”, or the “misinformation voter”. While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.

The madness hasn’t gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires’ feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord MoncktonLord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down.

George Monbiot is the author Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Read more of his writings at Monbiot.com.

 
54diggsdigg
 
 
 

Urban Legends Website Routs Conspiracy Theorists

Analysis:We are asked to believe that Barack Obama, who for over 20 years has professed to be a devout Christian and spoken publicly of his “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” is in fact secretly a Muslim who has lied all along about his true religious affiliation. 

No proof of any kind is offered by those who make these claims — no sightings of Obama attending a mosque, no pictures of him reading the Koran, praying to Mecca, or observing Islamic holidays with his family. The entire case, such as it is, rests on a confused and error-ridden recitation of Obama’s upbringing and purported childhood influences. It also rests on — that is to say, exploits — a deep fear and mistrust of the Muslim faith.

At no time has Barack Obama publicly evinced a belief in, or commitment to, any other religion than Christianity.

    • CLAIM: Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a “radical Muslim who migrated from Kenya to Jakarta, Indonesia.”

      STATUS: FALSE. Though Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was raised a Muslim, he had lost his faith and become a “confirmed atheist” by the time he attended college, according to his son. Obama’s parents separated when Barack was two, his father moving not to Jakarta, but to the United States, where he attended Harvard. Eventually he returned to Kenya.

  • CLAIM: Obama’s mother went on to marry another Muslim named Lolo Soetoro who “educated his stepson as a good Muslim by enrolling him in one of Jakarta’s Wahabbi [sic] schools.”

    STATUS: PARTLY TRUE. When Obama’s mother remarried, it was indeed to an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, whom his stepson later described as a “non-practicing” Muslim. But it was his “secular” mother who directly supervised his education, Obama has written, sending him to both Catholic and Muslim primary schools after the family moved to Jakarta.

    There’s nothing on record to indicate Obama attended a madrassa (Muslim religious school) run by Wahhabists, and in any case it’s unlikely his mother would have chosen to expose him to such an extreme form of Islam given her stated abhorrence of religious closed-mindedness and her stated goal of giving her son a well-rounded education, including in matters of faith.

    (Update: CNN tracked down the Indonesian school in question, the Basuki School in Jakarta, which a deputy headmaster describes as a “public school” with no particular religious agenda. “In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment,” the headmaster told CNN. A former classmate of Obama’s describes the school as “general,” with students of many religious backgrounds attending. Obama entered the school at the age of 8 and attended for two years.)

 CLAIM: “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim while admitting that he was once a Muslim.”

STATUS: FALSE. Once a Muslim? When? Unless I missed it while skimming his two books and a great many news interviews, Obama has never mentioned, let alone “admitted,” being a Muslim at any point in his life. Yes, he lived in a Muslim country during part of his childhood, but there’s no evidence he was literally raised in the Muslim faith, nor has he ever been, so far as any public evidence shows, a practitioner of Islam.

 CLAIM: When Obama was sworn into office he used the Koran (Qur’an) instead of the Bible.

STATUS: FALSE. According to news accounts Barack Obama placed his hand on his personal Bible during his Senate swearing-in ceremony, which was conducted by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Those making this allegation have apparently confused Obama with Congressman Keith Ellison, who actually is a Muslim and was sworn in on January 4, 2007 using a copy of the Koran.

Here is another story which resurfaced recently on Facebook:

Obama Faces More Questions on Citizenship
April 1, 2009AP – WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College.

Released today, the transcript indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the school. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship. This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Obama’s detractors have been seeking.

The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about Obama’s legitimacy and qualification to serve as president. When reached for comment in London, where he has been in meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama smiled but refused comment on the issue. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the report stating that this was obviously another attempt by a right-wing conservative group to discredit the president and undermine the administration’s efforts to move the country in a new direction.

Britain’s Daily Mail has also carried the story in a front-page article titled, “Obama Eligibility Questioned”, leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Obama’s first official visit to the U.K.

In a related matter, under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as President in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey. This lawsuit claims Obama’s dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. Donofrio’s case is just one of 18 suits brought by citizens demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship or qualification to serve as president.

Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation of Obama’s campaign spending. This study estimates that Obama has spent upwards of $950,000 in campaign funds in the past year with eleven law firms in 12 states for legal resources to block disclosure of any of his personal records. Mr. Kreep indicated that the investigation is still ongoing but that the final report will be provided to the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder. Mr. Holder has refused to comment on the matter.

Analysis: Hoax. The original April 1, 2009 posting date suggests it may have been intended as an April Fools prank, but given that the text does little else but parrot actual tenets of the so-called “Birther” movement (those who claim Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency due to a forged or invalid birth certificate, etc.), it barely qualifies as satire.

    • Is it really an AP news story?

      No. The Associated Press (“AP”) never published such a story. It didn’t run in any real newspaper, nor on any real wire service. It can, however, be found posted and reposted on hundreds of anti-Obama blogs and websites.

  • Is it true that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on Obama’s citizenship and eligibility?

    No. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the Donofrio case, not to mention every other Obama citizenship case submitted to date.

 

  • Did a group called “Americans for Freedom of Information” release Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No. The organization doesn’t exist — or didn’t at the time the above message first began circulating, at any rate. A similarly-named website went up after the fact, but there is no evident connection between that website and the fake news story.

 

  • Has anyone released Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No, the transcripts haven’t been released (federal privacy laws forbid it), nor has any court of law “ordered” them released. (Source: Occidental College)

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under the name “Barry Soetoro”?

    No. Soetoro was the surname of his stepfather, but there’s no evidence Barack Obama used it when he attended college. Fellow alumni quoted in the press remember him as “Barry Obama.” According to an Occidental spokesperson quoted on FactCheck.org, the college has no records showing Obama used his stepfather’s last name.

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under a Fulbright Scholarship for Foreign Students?

    No. According to various news sources Obama did attend on a scholarship, but it wasn’t a Fulbright scholarship, let alone a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program accepts Master’s Degree and Ph.D. candidates only. Obama, an undergraduate, was neither. He couldn’t have been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students even if he had been born outside the U.S. (Source: Fulbright Program)

 

  • Did the Daily Mail discuss these “revelations” in a news story entitled “Obama Eligibility Questioned”?

    No. No such story turns up in a search of the London newspaper’s archive.

 

  • Did Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation release research showing Obama has spent $950,000 or more “to block disclosure of his personal records”?

    I’ve found no record of any such “research” being published. The U,S. Justice Foundation does exist and its executive director is indeed a man named Gary Kreep, but he’s on record saying the above claim is a hoax.

    The fact of the matter is that specific expenditures pertaining to litigation on Obama’s Constitutional legitimacy aren’t a matter of public record. What are a matter of public record — and what have have been continually misrepresented as moneys spent fighting citizenship lawsuits — are the total year-to-year legal expenditures of Obama’s campaign finance committee. Anyone who purports to know exactly what portion of those funds were spent responding to citizenship challenges is merely speculating.

    Moreover, it’s disingenuous to characterize Obama’s legal expenditures on these cases as funds dispensed “to block disclosure of his personal records.” While various personal documents have been requested in the filings, securing their release wasn’t the point of the litigation, which aimed to have Obama’s candidacy ruled unconstitutional on a variety of different grounds.

    Lastly, it isn’t as if a presidential candidate whose legitimacy is challenged in court has the option not to mount a legal defense — just ask John McCain.