What Can Be Learned From the Tragic Life of Whitney Houston
By Todd Strandberg
Death has claimed another member of entertainment industry. Singer Whitney Houston was found in the bath of her Beverly Hilton hotel room with her face underwater. It will be six to eight weeks before the final lab results come back, but early signs point to a cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol as the cause of death. Los Angeles cops are said to have found six prescription pill bottles—Xanax, Lorazepam, Ibuprofen, Midol, Amoxicillin, and Valium.
Houston had a long history of drug problems. She and her ex-husband Bobby Brown helped keep the tabloid industry fully employed for over a decade. Brown has been widely criticized for being a bad influence on the diva, with one friend saying: "He was there every step of the way." But Houston steadfastly refused to blame her husband for her drug addiction.
Being a pop singer is one of the most dangerous occupations on the planet. You would actually be much safer as a coal miner, which has a death rate of less than one-tenth of one percent per decade. On Billboard's list of top 30 selling musical acts, 47 percent have lost at least one member to an untimely death.
There are dozens of websites that track the premature death of musicians. One of the most extensive sites that I found averaged all the deaths and came up with a life span of 36.9 years. The average for the general population is 75.8 years.
The longevity of the Rolling Stones is often talked about. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are now sixty-eight years old, but they're just lucky to be alive. When you consider that Brian Jones, the group's original lead singer, died at age twenty-seven, Mick and Keith will need to live into their hundreds to break the curse. Since Mr. Richards looks and talks like he died in 1980, there is something to be said about the quality-of-life factor.
The high-profile deaths of Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse have had little impact on the danger that drugs pose to singers. I'm sure the news organizations have already prepared obits on the likes of Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga.
The solution that Hollywood likes to offer is to make drugs legal. CBS spoke to music producer Quincy Jones about Houston's death, and he agreed with a suggestion made by Tony Bennett: "In Amsterdam they legalized drugs and it calmed everybody down," Bennett said the day after Houston's death. "It stopped a lot of gangsters who sneak around and get people to take drugs. Everybody gets wounded that way. By legalizing it, you won't have that problem."
People take drugs to escape from pain, and it's not the physical kind. Whitney Houston wasn't doing handstands the day before she died. I don't think she needed narcotics for back pain. Before Michael Jackson died, he was taking enough drugs to tranquilize a team of horses.
The pain that celebrities are trying to escape from is the realization that success can't bring happiness. Mike Tyson is one of the best examples. The former heavyweight boxing champion manage to do the seemingly impossible: He blew the $300 million he earned from his career. He had excessive spending on mansions and expensive cars, but these item would hold their value. What put him in the poorhouse was women and parties that would cost $200,000 per night.
Rapper MC Hammer only had one-tenth of Tyson's money, but it only took him a few months to go bankrupt when his album sales began to dwindle. He told Ebony magazine, "My priorities were out of order...My priorities should have always been God, family, community, and then business. Instead they had been business, business, and business."
Most people who die never have time to set their priorities. It is because death normally comes unexpectedly. Even people who die of terminal cancer are often caught off guard because it's never the cancer that gets you.
The tragic death of people like Whitney Houston is a warning for us to be ready. Even though you and I are nobodies in the eyes of the world, we have a precious commodity that dead celebrities no longer possess: the opportunity to seek God's will.
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).