When people die, we say stupid things. We are so ill-equipped here in the good ole US-of-A to deal with death that we either say nothing or say something stupid. And I think that’s okay. Death is the ultimate awkward situation, grief is the tornado that flattens every house on the block and we the people just don’t know what to say when someone dies. Particularly when that person is an addict.
“Well, what did you expect given who her parents are?” “So tragic but not exactly a surprise.” “You’d think she would have stayed away from drugs after what they did to her mother.” These are just a few of the gems I saw on Twitter after Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away late last month. Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was, like myself, born into the disease. Kids like us have an uphill battle and increased odds of being addicts ourselves. But I don’t believe we children of addicts and alcoholics are “doomed to be killed by the disease” as many people said on Twitter. Look, the heartbreak that poor kid must have felt after her mother died in 2012 must have been unbearable. If we’re to believe the reports, her drug use spiralled almost immediately. This makes sense to me. With no example of sobriety in her life, she turned to the tool she’d seen her parents use–and get destroyed by. This is how we cope with everything. And as kids who’ve seen the wreckage it can cause it DOES sound crazy that we’d gladly turn to the substances that we know might kill us. I was told from age 11 that if I drank or did drugs, the chances were good that I’d get addicted. My attitude was always, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see about that.”Low and behold, the disease kicked my ass and I barely got out alive. It’s a testament to the power of the disease that I knew what the outcome would probably be and thought I could outrun it anyway. Like I said—crazy. The real tragedy with Bobbi Kristina was that despite having millions and famous parents she died without giving herself a chance to change the story.
Earlier this summer, the husband and I were in some trendy home furnishings store. The above song was blaring and two adorable salespeople, who I guess should have been working, were dancing and lip-synching. Their joy was palatable. The pair burst into laughter when they noticed we had seen them. “By all means, continue,” I said. “You HAVE to dance when this comes on.” The lanky hipster guy of the duo said, “You can’t resist it.” And they continued having their at work dance party. This is what Whitney Houston has left behind for us: the joy of infectious pop song delivered by that powerhouse voice. And for an addict who suffered for so long, this is an incredible gift to leave behind. So to answer that question in the headline- maybe broken hearts, like Bobbi’s, never go away. Maybe the hurt of a loss just lessens over time. Or maybe if we’re lucky and work really hard, we can exist on this planet with a broken heart and still have a happy life. And maybe even dance.
Sometimes I need to start my day with a deep, reflective moment. And other times, I just need a funky, booty-shaking jam that serves as my soundtrack to my day. Today is the latter. Therefore imagine my delight when I found out that on September 20th, 1975 , Fame by the incomparable David Bowie was the number 1 song. That’s right- 37 years ago, the country had actual taste! I’m kidding. Kind of. “Fame” is one of those “attitude” songs. You know. The kind of song you move your head to and maybe even strut around your apartment to. It’s a track with a funkiness you can’t deny- see the Soul Train dancers in the above clip for further proof.
The song like most Bowie songs has a great back story. Apparently Bowie wrote it as a kind of response to being ticked off at his management company at the time. According to Wikipedia:
Bowie would later describe the song as “nasty, angry,” and fully admits that the song was written “with a degree of malice” aimed at the Mainman management group he had been working with at the time. In 1990 Bowie reflected that “I’d had very upsetting management problems and a lot of that was built into the song. I’ve left that all that behind me, now… I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants.”
To make “Fame” even more awesome, the song was co-written by John Lennon, who can also be heard on the backup vocals! Ever the collaborator, Bowie later re-released the song in 1990 with a rap from Queen Latifah back when she was still a badass.
So on a day like today where I’ve got a lot to do a song like “Fame” is the perfect jam to rock out to. But Bowie’s ability to channel a bad experience into something genius is über inspiring as well. Instead of stewing in situations or feeling hopeless, I will try to remember today that I have talents and tools to help me make things better. Also, Bowie’s willingness to collaborate and learn from other artists is something I need to take with me all day too. Mainly, I’ll use “Fame” as my funky, full of swagger, theme song today.
Readers, what’s your Thursday theme song? Post it below!
We round out an inspiration-filled week with the sounds of the incomparable Roisin Murphy. At 39 years of age this Irish dance auteur, fashion icon and musical renegade has carved out a niche for herself globally as a soulful, intelligent purveyor of pop music. From her lyrics to groundbreaking outfit choices, no detail is missed with Murphy. After a five year break, Murphy is expected to relase a new record in the upcoming months. But for me, Murphy has long been a source of inspiration as well as providing the soundtrack to many bootyshaking sessions. Since her days as part of dance music duo Moloko, Murphy has stood out as an individual and an incredible talent. Witness her badassness below:
On this Friday, I’ll again use the music of Roisin Murphy as my thumping soundtrack to help me finish out my work week. But she also inspires me to work a little harder on my whole creative package (my new photos, book cover, etc.) So fabulous readers what are you listening to today?
and one more for the road…