Music

Remembering "Nippy": Houston's Church Mourns the Death of a Famous Daughter

Whitney Houston sings at a 2011 pre-Grammy Awards event. Photo via Getty Images.

Everybody has a favorite Whitney Houston song, a memory that makes them stand still and think about how this soulful pop superstar made them feel when they heard her sing.
   
Remember the chill when she sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, or how "I'm Every Woman" empowered women, providing confidence and inspiration?
   
But anyone who knew Houston understands that her talent came from one place, the God she served at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. This is where it all started for its daughter, where she was the darling of the choir as a child who left people speechless, belting out gospel songs and hymns.
   
What she did through song on Sunday mornings, the members of her home church returned the favor on Sunday (Feb. 12) the only way they know how. They prayed.
   
They prayed for Emily Cissy Houston, Houston's mother, the minister of music for 54 years at the church.

The Grammys: Something Old, Something New, Something… Meh

Before anything else, I have to give serious props to Jennifer Hudson for doing her acapella tribute to Whitney Houston, whose death at age 48 cast a noticeable pall over the otherwise celebratory evening. With a photo of the recently deceased pop legend hanging over her and millions watching, Hudson pushed back her emotions to deliver a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” that few could pull off in any situation, let alone one with that kind of pressure. She proved herself a true professional and a peer worthy of comparison to other superstar divas like Houston.

Beyond that stand-out moment, the Grammys offered what seemed to be a house divided in the music world, some of which was reassuring, and some of which simply made me feel old and out of touch.

In Memory of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston performs onstage during the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala. Photo by Getty
Whitney Houston performs onstage during the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala. Photo by Getty Images.

The Bible teaches us: “A good name is better than precious ointment and the day of death, than the day of birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

On this day, as the world morns the unexpected passing of legendary singer Whitney Houston, this wisdom reminds us that when we grieve death, we grieve our own loss.

Ms. Houston has passed from time into eternity, from this veil of tears to a place where there is no more pain and no more tears, where the only relevant judgment is the judgment of God Almighty.

As a girl, Ms. Houston sang in church, and in her last public performance she sang, “Yes, Jesus Loves Me.” In the time and space between, she lived a life of wealth and fame, of joy and pain.

Music to Help You Make It Through the Winter

Fire. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/xaE5ms.
Fire. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/xaE5ms.

Winter has always been a sweet spot for discovering and sharing music. A little bit mellow, comforting — something you can listen to as a fire crackles or cozy up beside with a mug of hot coffee.

In heeding the groundhog's warning of "six more weeks of winter," here's a short list of independent music to help you make it through the season's chill: Three albums hosted over at Bandcamp that might provide a little warmth on the colder nights.

Grab Your Birkenstocks, Ukeleles and Pup Tents: The (Wild) Goose is Loose!

The Goose is on the loose, ya'll.

Today organizers of the 2012 Wild Goose Festival (June 21-24 in Shakori Falls, N.C.) released a groovtastic video (with special guest apperances by Sojo homies Gabriel Salguero, Lynne Hybels, David Wilcox, Father Richard Rohr, Brian McClaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Twiss, Jim Wallis and more!) to whet your appetite for four days of music, art, literature and curl-your-toes GRACE.

Watch the Wild Goose video and find out how to get your tickets, etc., inside the blog....

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 6, 2012

Improv Everywhere celebrates its tenth anniversary by remixing and remastering some of its best sketches. The highlights from Puppy Bowl VIII are in (look out for the MVP)! Bon Iver puts on an incredible SNL performance. Bill Maher's "Irritable Bowl Syndrome." Mad Men's promo posters have been tampered with! OK GO's latest music video from the inside of a car. A new look at Downton Abbey and more!

Happy 103rd Birthday, George Beverly Shea!

http://youtu.be/35FILs1qiVA

This week, George Beverly Shea, Gospel Music legend and longtime musical companion of Dr. Billy Graham on his many revival meetings around the world, celebrated his 103rd birthday!

A native of Canada, Shea, who now lives in Montreat, N.C., not far from that whipper-snapper Graham (who turned 93 just recently), is still going strong.

“Karlene and I rejoice in the Lord’s overwhelming grace to give me 103 years of life!” Shea gushed on Monday (his actual birthday) according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website.

The End of Rock As We Know It

IN 1977, THE great, now dead, rock critic Lester Bangs, in his Elvis obituary, wrote to a culture just starting to fracture into niche markets, “We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.”

Thirty-four years later, nearly two decades into the Internet age, the September 2011 break-up of the rock band R.E.M. reminded me just how right Bangs was. R.E.M. was one of the last traditional rock bands still doing relevant work. They stood firmly in the line that ran from Presley to Lennon to Patti Smith and Joe Strummer. Like all those predecessors, R.E.M. wrung out various guitar-based roots music forms to see what they would give up, not just with the entertainer’s aim to be famous or rich, but with the artist’s ambition to make something true, beautiful, and revelatory, and maybe change the world. But the era in which a rock band could exert world-changing cultural leverage has probably passed.

Elvis changed the world because, like Walt Whitman, he “contained multitudes.” He uttered his barbaric American yawp, standing, like Paul Bunyan, astride the usual polarities of masculine vs. feminine and black vs. white. With the help of his mentor-producer Sam Phillips, Elvis made a new sound that would eventually become as big and inclusive, as wild and free, and, sometimes, as unthinking and greed-addled as America itself.

From its very beginning in Sam Phillips’ fevered brain, the rock-and-roll idea was about bringing America’s cultural outsiders into their rightful place in the cultural mainstream. The other, inextricably related, part of the rock-and-roll idea had to do with the connection between the artist and audience. The artist came from the people; he or she was always one of us. And, in live performance, the artist and the audience became equal partners in creating a communal experience that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe