Three Books: On Whitney Houston, Jessica Simpson, and Alicia Keys

The desire to sing and make music is among humanity’s most important qualities. Whether you can or can’t “sing,” (and who makes that call anyway) you probably at least find yourself tapping your toes in the shower and either silently mumbling or belting out a favorite tune.

With favorite tunes in mind and locating three memoirs about them, I decided that the next installment in my “Three Books” series would be on life as a musician as seen through their, or a friend’s, eyes. My chosen titles are as follows:

A Song For You, My Life With Whitney Houston, by Robyn Crawford
Open Book, by Jessica Simpson
More Myself: A Journey, by Alicia Keys.

Each of these stories shed a slightly varied but surprisingly similar light on what life is like as someone who becomes famous for her voice and must do battle with external and internal forces.

Book Summaries

Whitney Houston

In Whitney’s case, as told by her long-time friend Robyn Crawford, she primarily struggled with drug addiction and an almost unhealthy desire to be liked by men. First though, as many probably know, she was rumored to have a deeper relationship with Crawford because of their hanging and living together. Crawford actually wrote this book in large part to dispel the theories and share the truth, which is that they did have a brief romantic partnership but Whitney ended it in light of her budding career.

As the story unfolds, we see how close Crawford still remained to “Nippy,” as she and many others called Houston at the time. I think the reason for this nickname is given, but am unable to recall what it is. Anyhow, as Whitney rises in popularity, she continues to eschew the drugs she and her friend have shared for many years. But the lure is always too strong, and eventually Crawford points out her concerns to Whitney’s family, whom she makes it clear are not particularly high on her like list. Sadly, most of us know how Whitney’s story ends, but reading the twists and turns that get us there is informative and unsettling.

Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson’s story is still unfolding of course, but as told in her memoir the biggest challenge she seems to have faced is finding the right man. I had no idea that Nick Lashay, the lead singer of 98 Degrees, was so nasty to her leading up to their parting. Granting that there are multiple sides to every story, the unrest this and other failed relationships caused is surprising. We see her initially cover the resulting feelings by having a child, but soon have to fight back from alcoholism.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys, one of my two wives many years ago, (an old Live Journal post, remember that?) seems to have had the most uneventful life of almost any celebrity I’ve read about. I don’t suppose she ever got into drugs or alcohol, at least not as written, and she had relatively few problems with men. Her story thus largely focused on the lack of a strong relationship with her father, which saddened her deeply, and feelings about women’s image in the media. On the latter point, the book begins with a dis turning portrait that drives home the real issues that arise when we insist too heavily on some societal standard of female beauty rather than letting everyone express herself however she wishes. Her story overall is the most placid of the three, but inspires and makes one think.
All three authors narrate their own works in audio, with emphasis on different things. Crawford and Keys have the strongest voices, while Simpson makes the reader feel he is sitting in an armchair listening to her impassioned stories. She even clearly cries during certain segments, and does not bother to mask it. Keys pours her emotions out by actually singing to us portions of the songs she feels most strongly about. She also has various well-known guests, as well as people who represent some important part of her life, introduce many of the book’s chapters. Each of these stories, just as the musicians whom they are profiling, gives us a different slice of the human experience.

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