RIP Whitney Houston

February 13, 2012 by staff 

RIP Whitney Houston, Actress/singer Whitney Houston, who was regarded as one of the best voices of the late 20th century before drug use and her troubled marriage to fellow singer Bobby Brown marred her polished image and triumphant career, died Saturday. She was just 48.

Her death happened on the eve of tonight’s 54th Annual Grammy Awards, a stage on which she once sparkled. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jennifer Hudson will perform a tribute to Houston on the awards show, which airs live at 7 tonight on CBS.

According to the Associated Press, Houston died in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton. Her publicist told the AP the cause of death was unknown.

Houston was set to appear and maybe perform Saturday at longtime mentor Clive Davis’ annual concert and dinner Saturday, according to the AP.

From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, Houston was one of the world’s best-selling music stars.

Her voice had a seemingly effortless power that amazed audiences, whether she was belting the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl or her 1992 smash pop version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” She influenced a generation of powerhouse divas who could hit the high notes, including Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey.

Houston was able to parlay her musical success and polished image into a career in the movies, starring in 1992?s “The Bodyguard,” 1995?s “Waiting to Exhale” and 1996?s “The Preacher’s Wife.” The soundtrack for “The Bodyguard,” an international hit, included “I Will Always Love You,” soon to become a ubiquitous smash.

Unfortunately, Houston, like so many music stars before her, became a cautionary tale about the dangers and damage of drug use. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once stunning voice became raspy and lost its supple ability to hit high notes. She stopped making news with her big hits and impressive album sales and instead made tabloid headlines with her strange behavior and public appearances and her troubled marriage.

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

It was a sad fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone, according to the AP.

Born Aug. 9, 1963, in Newark, N.J., Houston was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when Davis, a music mogul, first heard Houston perform, according to the AP.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good Morning America.”

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” ”You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” became smash singles, too.

Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” It also became the first album by a female to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart, according to the trade publication.

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989, according to the AP.

Her moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and reaffirmed her as America’s sweetheart.

In 1992, she married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown. From the outside, it seemed an odd match: a pop princess with a bad boy, and he already had children of his own. The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.

Over the years, Brown would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support, according to the AP.

“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that’s their image. It’s part of them, it’s not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody’s angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”

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