Jeric Kennedy remembers the living room of his home growing up in Cincinnati. If the TV is on, it will either be on MTV or BET – if it is Bodyguard Not working. Whitney Houston is the subject of Kennedy’s new book We almost didn’t have it all: Defending Whitney HoustonIt was always nearby. Even if it was the world he lived in and the world that Houston dominated with topping the chart after the hit that felt light years apart.
“It all felt untouchable. Kennedy told me that all of the music industry, all of the film industry, all of television, felt like a land so far away that didn’t really exist because all my friends, like me, were poor.” “We didn’t really have those aspirations for any of this. It wasn’t something we had never thought about. It was just pure escape.”
Publishers Weekly He calls Kennedy’s book “animation” and “a must-read for fans.” He calls it a “love letter,” but he’s not afraid to criticize…everyone.
“From her, from us, from the music industry, all of that,” he said. “There were some days that were a lot harder than others where I got to certain parts that I wanted to write about. But I ultimately wanted this conversation to be between us and how we dealt with it.”
The publication coincides with the 10th anniversary of Houston’s death at the age of 48 from accidental drowning in a bathtub at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Kennedy, who used to cover music and pop culture for los angeles times, I recently spoke with The Undefeated about the grief he had to overcome to write the book, how the world tried to dictate a black Houston to her, and how dating one of pop’s most famous and emotionally battered icons has transformed him as a writer and fan. He’s firm on one point: Many of us owe Houston an apology.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How did you see your personal responsibility in writing this book?
The idea of personal responsibility is really heavy because I kind of carried a few different things while I was writing. There was a part of me that was a fan who was then able to document this woman when I was in Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately there was a short window where I was only able to write about it when she was here on Earth, and it wasn’t always cool. I remember some of those performances on her last tour. They weren’t strong. In the post, this is the trend. You have to write about it. So, to go from that to meeting her for the first time and then dying two days later, there was this burden that I always felt in terms of the way people in the story saw me because I became a source. I became a part of it. I couldn’t change the fact that I was one of the last people they saw alive, so I had to say what that day was over and over again.
But I saw this as an opportunity to get rid of a lot of my grief. She is someone I love very much. She is someone who has followed his career path. I like her. She is the reason why I love so many other women in the industry. …so there was a lot of emotion going into that, because I also wanted this book to be really honest and I felt, to be honest, that we needed to have a conversation with each other about how we treated this woman when she was alive. life. And yes, she also made her own choices, obviously, so you have to hold her accountable for her choices as well.
Why was the debate about Houston and race so important?
After having a conversation about Whitney and race, I honestly couldn’t believe we didn’t do it any more. When you see the totality of how everyone saw it, but then how black people saw it about its blackness. Then also how the whites saw it in its blackness. …we can admit that she broke those foundations, blah blah, but we didn’t actually put what that meant into context, but also the cost of doing it, and what it cost her to be young and black and have a mostly white industry the people that shaped how people viewed her as an artist , as a woman, but many of them also wanted to shape how we saw her as a black woman.
When you think about the conversations about Whitney and race and that she wasn’t black enough, that’s what we often did. This was us. This was our people doing it. This was Al Sharpton doing it, you know what I mean? This radio disc jockeys were doing just that. It was rooted in our society that had this conversation that she wasn’t black enough that she dared sing these folktales. I think when you had these two separate conversations, you had black people saying, ‘You’re not black enough,’ you have white people like, ‘Yeah, you could do this and this and this and that,’ and then she gets with Bobby [Brown], and then we start doing the inverse being like, “Oh, well, you’re a little ghetto now.” Every time we saw Nippy, which was always the way it was when she didn’t switch the code, we then started turning into like, “Oh, well, it’s just too much now.”
How has writing this changed you as a fan?
As a fan, it has helped me to have more grace towards the moments when I was disappointed in her. She was constantly struggling with the ways she was seen. She was constantly fighting any time she showed a part of herself, which was, “I don’t feel like putting on makeup,” and “I like to dress like that,” and now she’ll call it her head when he does, which is what we’ve been doing. The ways we were so cruel with her that we laughed at her. We all did. Anyone who said they didn’t laugh at any of those jokes, you’re a liar.
Even the moments when she was hard on herself, others, or something else, I give a little more grace in writing this. She paid an incredible price for “I Will Always Love You” and “Star-Spangled Banner”. She paid for it for the rest of her life because she couldn’t hit those notes the same way she did in ’92, forever. We reminded her of that every time she walked on stage, every single time. This is terrible. We’d never tell Adele, “Do you remember that time you spoiled the Grammys?” We’d never tell Beyoncé, “Oh, yeah, the Super Bowl was great, but remember when she fell down the stairs on that tour 10 years ago?” We don’t do it to people, but we did it to her and we did it very, very harshly.
When you hear it’s the 10th anniversary of Whitney Houston’s death, what’s on your mind?
I try not to think too much about that weekend, and I know my 10th anniversary is coming up. …but I have, through the book, been able to get to the same place I am when I think of Aaliyah at this moment, Peggy at this moment, or Tupac at this moment. Or all of those people who have meant so much to us and woven not just American culture, but black culture and black music and the way I see it as a moment to be able to just celebrate their greatness. With Whitney, I’m really thankful that we’ve moved into a place that we celebrate more than we tear down. I like the fact that we get a certain level of discovering her music through the younger generations by redistributing the dances that happen.
In the end, I want this book to be the first of many writings. Because there can never be enough of Whitney, because she has done so much for all of us.
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