by C. A. Jude Stewart
Well, a shooting star in the black cultural firmament is gone.
She’s another in a long line of elite black musical talents who perished prematurely because of her demons within.
Strangely, Whitney’s “sudden” death at 5:55 pm Pensacola time (last Saturday 2/11) was — like a lethal hurricane gathering Gulf strenth as it approaches the Panhandle coast — a long time comin’. The dark, tumultuous clouds indicated that when landfall happened, the eye of this calamitous storm — Whitney herself — would perish in the wind.
Her family, friends, fans, rehab doctors/specialists/counselors, lawyers, publicists & enablers all knew The Reckoning was nigh. Yet, none stopped the final catastrophe.
They were all passengers on TWTWATH (The Whitney Train Wreck About To Happen), but nothing prevented the final, destructive crash. She died alone, under water in a tub at The Beverly Hills Hilton.
Those with an historical memory of great, inimitable, indomitable singers, musicians, arrangers, composers & band leaders know just how fragile — & sadly brief — were the lives, contributions & careers of the world’s most sublime, influential, trailblazing black American geniuses.
Here’s a pithy list of those tragic, died-too-soon, cultural giants who preceded her. Southern towns cited are places of musician’s birth.
Males & females are listed, in no particular order.
All died — from murder, drugs, alcohol, disease, insantiy, suicide, bad life choices or a combination thereof — well before their time, & we’re all the poorer for the songs, sounds & musical compositions left undone.
Robert Johnson (Hazelhurst, MS; “Daddy of the Delta Blues”), 27
Otis Redding (Dawson, GA), 26
Art Tatum, 47
Tammi Terrell, 24
Marvin Gaye, 44
Eleanora Fagan (a/k/a Billie Holiday, “Lady Day”), 44
Jimi Hendrix, 27
Nat King Cole (Montgomery, AL), 44
Florence Ballard (Rosetta, MS roots; 1 of original 3 Supremes), 32
Charlie Parker (Kansas City, KS, “Bird”), 34
Sam Cooke (Clarksdale, MS), 33
Jason Mizell (Run DMC), 37
John Coltrane (Hamlet, NC), 40
Lester Young (Woodville, MS), 49
Paul Williams (Birmingham, AL; 1 of original Temptations), 33
Canonball Adderly (Tampa, FL) 46
David Ruffin (Whynot, MS), 50
Eddie Kendrick (Union Springs, AL; original Temptations singer), 52
Michael Jackson (Moonwalker; The Gloved One), 50
Mahalia Jackson (N’awlins, LA), 60
Thelonious Monk (Rocky Mount, NC), 62
Miles Davis, (E. St. Louis/Alton, IL), 65
Tupac Shakur, 25
Chris Wallace (Biggie Smalls), 24
Only one singer died at 48. She now joins this Heavenly Choir.
And child, just imagine what a sweet-sounding chorus these 25 deceased brothers & sisters will sound like together. Forever. Refreshed by Whitney, in the ever-lovin’, eternal presence of God the Father, Christ the Son & Holy Spirit.