India’s example

It was clearly a tragedy that singer Whitney Houston died at such a young age, and the media hype describing her as the “voice of the century” or “the world’s greatest pop singer” provides a clue to her demise by slow chemical suicide.

Speaking at her funeral, actor Kevin Costner hinted at this when he observed that being a great singer was both her success and the cause of her downfall.

A few years ago, CBC radio interviewed an American rock band member who revealed that, though he felt less ashamed of being American because George W. Bush was gone, he was concerned that the American entertainment industry “ate its performers alive” because of its obsession with money and celebrity.

But fame and fortune do not have to lead to disaster. Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011 as the most recorded artist in music history, India’s Asha Bhosle continues to sing classical, semi-classical, and pop songs in more than 20 languages. In her late 70s, she and her older sister Lata Mangeshkar seem to have suffered none of the destructive effects afflicting the American entertainment scene. And India’s 27-year-old Shreya Ghoshal has arguably surpassed both in the quality of her voice. As long as Houston avoided straying into the aimless world of jazz, she had an impressive voice. What she lacked was the strength to deal with art treated like a commodity.

Gerald L. Harrison Saskatoon

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