Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Raising a Glass to My Mom

On the window ledge of my home office there's a framed black and white photograph of my mother, captured in her twenties. She looks so pretty, wistful, and hopeful for what her life may bring. Every day I kiss this picture, and/or say a few words to it; apart from a few others and a clutch of personal keepsakes, it's all I have left of her.

Mom died of breast cancer in 1993, and I continue to miss her terribly. I remain angry that she was snatched from me and the world, in such terrible pain after barely a year's retirement, having worked her fingers to the bone from the age of 14. It's an anger I keep capped, and must, but when I think of what she went through for so many years at the hands of my brutal father, it makes me seethe and twists me up that she never had any peace and rest once he was finally out of our lives. And the biggest unavoidable regret of my life is that mom and Susan never had the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. They'd have gotten along rather famously, I feel. Oh well, it is what it is, as is said.

This Friday, February 24th, 2012, would have been mom's 80th birthday. By some cosmic design my writing work has presented Susan and I with an enviable situation on the evening of 23rd, enabling me to raise a glass or ten to mom's memory on such a big anniversary. Having previewed the event for one local publication, I'll be reviewing Parksville Untapped - an evening in celebration of BC beer - for the website of another. It's a sweet gig, for sure. Yes, I'll have to do some work, but every glass I sink on Thursday night will be preceded by a private toast to Jean Jessie Florence, my incredible mother. Rest in peace, dear one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Death of a Diva

I never was a fan of Whitney Houston's music. I just don't go for over-the-top vocal gymnastics in a singer, as also purveyed by such as Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Only occasionally has this approach thrilled me, Lorraine Ellison's rendition of Stay With Me being one example. I much prefer the deep soul delivery of the ilk of Jean Wells or the raw funk grittiness of a singer like Lyn Collins.

This said, I most certainly recognize Houston's immense talent. She had a quite incredible voice, and regardless of taste that's an indisputable fact. Like most people, my first exposure to her music was the powerhouse version of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You that made her a global megastar. Ten times out of ten I would opt for the delicacy of the original, but when hearing Houston's version for the first time, such was the power of that voice that it was like a gale force wind blasting from the speakers. By any measure, it truly is a remarkable performance.

But even as a non-fan, I find myself saddened by Houston's passing. She was just 48-years old, for Christ's sake - three years younger than me. I find it so depressing that the last known footage of this once stunningly beautiful woman, a goddess to many, shows her staggering out of a nightclub, a bewildered, shambolic, bloated mess. And thinking of that massive voice, then seeing the snippet of film of her final, chaotic, mumbling performance at the same club that night just breaks my heart. What a tragic figure she became; it's so very sad.

And now, as predictable as eggs is eggs, the corpse-raping and sickening exploitation has begun before her drug-ravaged body is even in the ground. Today I encountered a sorry 'story' claiming that Osama bin Laden had a huge crush on Houston. Is that supposed to be interesting? Really? And then there's Sony UK "accidentally" increasing the prices of her CDs; I've worked in the music industry my whole life and witnessed this kind of behaviour from record labels again and again upon the death of a singer of musician, so that they actually expect us to swallow that is simply incredible.

But, hey, death sells, and always will. I'm just really tired of the fact that it does.