This is what surprised me yesterday: Robyn Crawford has written a book about her time with Whitney Houston. A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston is due out in the fall. If you followed Whitney’s life and career, you now who Robyn is – in that you don’t really know that much about Robyn. And specifically Whitney and Robyn. Because through it all and especially after, Robyn has been the one who hasn’t talked, who hasn’t shared, not since the obituary in Esquire published a few days after Whitney died. There have been two documentaries released the last couple of years, Robyn didn’t participate in either. In those two documentaries, other people talked about their relationship, that Whitney was bisexual, that she and Robyn were lovers, that they broke up because it became impossible for Whitney to love both Robyn and Bobby at the same – but through all that, Robyn has remained elusive, keeping the Whitney she knew to herself. Until now.
So I’m torn. I’m torn because I really believed that Robyn would take it to the grave. I think maybe I wanted her to take it the grave. At the same time… I also want to know what she has to say. Because if that obituary from 2012 in Esquire was any indication, Robyn’s approach to Whitney’s story is going to be different. When people talk about Whitney now, the scandal and the mess are in the foreground. But even in the shock of Whitney’s death, Robyn found a way to focus on Whitney’s WORK – take this paragraph, for example:
I always compare her performance of that song with a great athlete hitting his peak — with Michael Jordan in the playoffs. It was the absolute pinnacle of what she could do, of what anyone could do — and then she had to keep on doing it. Everybody wanted to hear her sing that song, and so she sang it. It didn't matter whether she had a cold, or wasn't in good voice; she had to deliver it, and she had it arranged so she could deliver every last note. And even if the note wasn't there, the feeling was. A lot of her songs were like that. They were a lot to deliver, but she delivered them every note, every time.
That’s the part of Whitney that’s been obscured by the tragedy of her death – her talent, her musical genius, what she gave and what it took to become THE Whitney Houston. When Kathleen and I went to see Whitney, Kevin Macdonald’s documentary, last summer, we were optimistic that there would be more focus on Whitney’s work. Kathleen had previously written about the other doc, Whitney: Can I Be Me?, and how disappointed she was that so much time was spent in the film on the salacious parts of her life. I mean, of course, it’s not like you can ignore the drama and the notoriety, but it wasn’t even close to being equal. Whitney: Can I Be Me? was maybe 10% Whitney the artist and 90% Whitney the tabloid character. Compare that to Montage of Heck, the documentary about Kurt Cobain. They address Kurt’s problems in that film too but much more time was spent on Kurt’s abilities, on his sketches, on his ambitions, on his legacy.
While Whitney was a little more balanced than Can I Be Me?, the balance still wasn’t there. Maybe, then, this is what Robyn is trying to do. Maybe it’s up to Robyn, who was closer to Whitney than almost anyone, to get it right. Maybe, in staying silent all these years, she’s earned the trust, as if to say, hey, remember, I didn’t speak when so many others rushed to speak. Have some faith in what I’m about to tell you. Is this naively optimistic?
Yours in gossip,