Didn’t We Almost Have It All (Amazon) is a portrait of the woman behind one of the most famous voices in the world; a performer whose struggles and insecurities with race, sexuality, addiction, identity, abuse, faith, and class ultimately contributed to a heartbreaking demise that was devastating and inevitable in equal measure. Whitney Houston’s story is a cautionary tale about the perils of fame and addiction, but it’s also a story rife with emotions that are universal to the human experience. She lived much of her life trying to please others—her parents, her family, her mentor Clive Davis, the public—all people who made her a prisoner to her successes and failures in the last decade of her life. This groundbreaking new biography is centered around firsthand reporting that weaves together the story of a rising star and, for the first time, digs into the dark underbelly of the abuse, addiction, and anxiety that caused Houston’s very public fall from grace and ultimately her death.”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Whitney Houston within the context of the times in which she lived. I’ve long had all her albums, and recently added Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits DVD (Amazon) to my collection, which was produced in 2000. Whitney’s music and her videos were part of the soundtrack to my childhood and college years.
Ever since Whitney Houston died, most of the press has focused on the negative of Whitney’s life. Didn’t We Almost Have it All tries to balance that out by focusing on the positives of her life as well. Whitney had a lot to overcome, despite having a voice from God and incredible physical beauty. Her career as a black woman in a 1980’s MTV world that rarely played artists of color just shows how she broke barriers that paved the way for the others that followed.
Not only did Whitney have to fight the white establishment to get air play, she had to fight her own people because her music was pop and not “black” enough for some people like the Reverend Al Sharpton, who called her “White-ney Houston.” Despite those and a myriad of other obstacles, Whitney’s talent overcame those troubles and became a superstar.
The book doesn’t shy away from the dark side of Whitney’s life. The accusations that came out after her death that she was sexually abused by a family member, that her older brothers got her into drugs at a young age, the troubled relationship with her husband, Bobby Brown, no stone is left unturned. Whitney was a flawed woman in an unkind business industry that was unrelenting with it’s pressures on a young woman who lacked understanding family and friends. Her family was part of the problem, if you ask me, always hanging on and asking Whitney for more.
Even though we know all the sad truths of Whitney’s life now, it was still a nice ride down memory lane, with a 21st century context. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley and Abrams Press in exchange for my honest review. 𝐃𝐢𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐖𝐞 𝐀𝐥𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐇𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐈𝐭 𝐀𝐥𝐥 by Gerrick Kennedy, will be in stores February 1, 2022.
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