Art & Culture/Ent
[ 2012-02-12 ]
Whitney Houston's storied career: A regal rise, a tragic fall
The news broke on the eve of Grammy Awards, the
music industry's biggest night: The woman with the
pitch-perfect voice who once reigned as the queen
of pop at the awards show had died.
Whitney Houston was found dead Saturday by her
bodyguard on the fourth floor of an upscale
Beverly Hills hotel where only hours later she was
to attend a pre-Grammy bash hosted by her longtime
mentor, Clive Davis.
Her death, at age 48, was the final chapter of a
storied career that began with the nurturing by
superstar cousin Dionne Warwick, soared in the
1980s and 1990s with one record-setting
achievement after another, stalled as her drug use
and marriage to Bobby Brown made for tabloid
fodder and was on the rebound with a highly
anticipated star turn.
"You're going to remember where you were when you
heard the news. It's that significant. She was
undoubtedly one of the greatest superstars of all
time," music producer Simon Cowell said.
"One of the greatest voices in our lifetime we're
likely ever to hear. And to hear this news, it
really, really, really upset me."
Houston's voice, once described by The New York
Times as "peerless," influenced and inspired a new
generation of singers, from Mariah Carey to
Christina Aguilera, and garnered a legion of
"Her notes soared to places most singers dream of
reaching," Aguilera said.
Houston seemed destined for stardom almost from
the very beginning.
Born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, to
gospel great Cissy Houston, cousin to both Dionne
and Dee Dee Warwick and goddaughter to Aretha
Franklin, Houston's upbringing was the embodiment
of musical greatness.
She honed her vocal skills from a young age,
singing in the church choir and taking the stage
occasionally with her mother. As a teenager, she
sang backup for Chaka Khan on "I'm Every Woman," a
song Houston would re-record in 1992 and that
would go on to become one of her biggest hits.
As the story goes, Clive Davis spotted Houston in
1983 in a New York nightclub performing and signed
her on the spot.
Houston released her debut album, "Whitney
Houston," in February 1985 to wide acclaim.
Rolling Stone magazine called her "one of the most
exciting new voices in years."
With the release of the album, her commanding
voice combined with a natural beauty and a
clean-cut image made her an instant star.
A generation danced their way through the 1980s to
a string of her hits, including the poppy "How
Will I Know," "Saving All My Love For You," "I
Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "The Greatest Love
But it was in the 1990s that she shot into the
superstar stratosphere with two songs that
showcased her stunning octave range and her
On January 27, 1991, while the United States was
at war in the Persian Gulf, Houston performed "The
Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV to a
record 79 million viewers.
During a time when the country seemed divided by
the war, her searing, heartfelt performance seemed
to unite a nation at least for a few minutes. Her
rendition -- the gold standard by which all
performances of the national anthem are judged --
was released as a single and reached the Top 20 on
the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard.
Houston's version was re-released in 2001
following the September 11 terrorist attacks, and
proceeds from the sales were donated to charity.
That was followed up by her cover of Dolly
Parton's "I Will Always Love You" recorded for the
movie "The Bodyguard," in which she also made her
While the movie received mostly poor reviews, the
song went onto to sell 10 million singles, winning
Grammy's record of the year and best female pop
vocal. The soundtrack was named album of the
"I will always be grateful and in awe of the
wonderful performance she did on my song and I can
truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I
will always love you. You will be missed,'" Parton
But by the time the movie opened, Houston's
clean-cut pop image had begun to tarnish with her
marriage to R&B bad boy Bobby Brown. The two met
in 1989 and married three years later.
Their relationship became tabloid fodder, with
every misstep chronicled and the couple's
relationship a subject of constant speculation.
Brown's notorious hard-partying led him to several
run-ins with the law and stints in jail.
While Houston managed to maintain a successful
music and movie career through the end of the
1990s, starring in "The Preacher's Wife" and
"Waiting To Exhale," her behavior turned
increasingly erratic amid reports of heavy drug
By the 2000s, her career was in free fall as her
album sales dropped off and her voice began to
show signs of wear.
The rumors were further fueled by her gaunt
appearance and crass behavior on the 2001
short-lived Bravo reality show "Being Bobby
Brown," which she later said in an interview she
only did to try to save her marriage. The couple,
who had a daughter together, divorced in 2007.
In an infamous interview in 2002 with ABC's Diane
Sawyer, Houston admitted to using drugs but denied
the use of crack.
"Crack is wack," she said, quoting a line taken
from Keith Haring mural painted in 1986.
It was during the same interview, she told Sawyer:
"The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best
friend or my worst enemy."
Houston bounced in and out of drug rehab twice,
declaring herself drug-free during a 2010
interview with Oprah Winfrey, though an Australian
tour that same year was fraught with reviews that
she sounded "croaky" and, at times, appeared
Recently, Houston was working to turn around her
career -- and image -- with a star turn in the
upcoming movie "Sparkle,'' the remake of a 1976
film that is said to be loosely inspired by the
The night Houston died she was to be a guest of
honor at Davis' annual pre-Grammy bash.
"She loved music and she loved this night that
celebrated music," Davis told party-goers.
"Her family asked that we carry on."
She would have loved that, too.
Source - CNN
... go Back