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Who Was Whitney Houston?

by James HargroveJune 21, 2022
Who Was Whitney Houston?

Whitney Houston released her debut album at the age of 22 and had three number-one hits. Later albums include I'm Your Baby Tonight (1990) and My Love Is Your Love (1998), as well as the soundtracks of The Bodyguard (1992) and Waiting to Exhale (1996). (1995). Her 1992 marriage to musician Bobby Brown and subsequent drug abuse derailed Houston's career. She later returned with the 2009 film I Look to You and co-starred in the musical Sparkle. On February 11, 2012, Houston died from accidental drowning in a hotel.

Early Years

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 9, 1963, Houston almost appeared destined to become a singer. Her mother and cousin were both renowned characters in gospel, soul, and pop music in the United States. Young Houston began her career at New Hope Baptist Church, where Cissy Houston served as choir minister. Even as a kid, Houston was able to captivate audiences; she later told Diane Sawyer that a euphoric response from the church at New Hope had a profound impact on her: "I believe I understood then that [my singing skill] was something God had given me that was contagious."

By the time she was 15, Houston frequently performed with her mother and was attempting to secure her own record deal. Approximately at the same time, a photographer astonished by her inherent beauty noticed her. She immediately became one of the first African American women to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine and a highly sought-after young model. But music remained her greatest passion.

Houston was discovered at a nightclub at the age of 19 by Clive Davis of Arista Records, who promptly signed her and oversaw her transition from gospel to pop success. Houston made her debut on national television in 1983, performing "Home" from the musical The Wiz on The Merv Griffin Show. She and Davis spent the next two years working on her debut album, selecting the greatest producers and composers available to highlight her extraordinary singing ability.

Albums and Music

'Whitney Houston' Album: "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know"

Whitney Houston, the artist's debut album, was released in 1985, and she became an instantaneous pop superstar. The following year, her smash singles "Saving All My Love for You" and "How Will I Know" contributed to the album's 14-week reign at the top of the charts. Houston received a Grammy in 1986 for "Saving All My Love for You," and Dionne Warwick presented her with the trophy.

'Whitney' Album: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"

Whitney was Houston's second album, released in 1987, following the phenomenal success of her debut album. This album also went platinum many times and won a Grammy for the track "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," which was followed by a successful global tour. During this period, the singer also performed at a birthday event for Nelson Mandela and established the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, a non-profit organization that finances programs to aid disadvantaged children across the world.

By 1992, Houston was on top of the world, but her life was going to rapidly become extremely problematic. After a three-year engagement, she wed R&B singer Bobby Brown, formerly of New Edition, that year. Initially, the marriage was passionate and affectionate, but as the decade passed, things deteriorated. Brown and Houston both struggled with substance misuse and increasingly unpredictable conduct, with Houston subsequently referencing Brown's emotional abuse and physical violence.

The Bodyguard' Album: 'I Will Always Love You'

Despite her mounting personal problems, Houston continued to advance in her profession, making a successful transition into acting in 1992 with The Bodyguard, starring alongside Kevin Costner. With this production, she established a pattern for her future films: for each picture, she created hit singles, resulting in extraordinary record sales for the soundtracks. Her famous track from The Bodyguard, a 1974 rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," became Houston's biggest success ever, topping the U.S. charts for a record-breaking 14 weeks. The soundtrack CD won Houston three Grammys, including Album and Record of the Year. In the late 1990s, Houston also starred in Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife, both of which included successful soundtracks.

'My Love Is Your Love' Album: 'It's Not Right But It's Okay'

In 1998, Houston released My Love Is Your Love, her first non-soundtrack studio album in many years; the single "It's Not Right But It's Okay" garnered her another Grammy. Although the album was not as popular as her previous full-length albums, her collaboration with Mariah Carey in the animated feature The Prince of Egypt created the Academy Award-winning smash single "When You Believe."

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Houston's increasingly troubled marriage, drug use, and health issues posed a danger to her career. Several tour cancellations and an infamous 2002 television interview with Diane Sawyer in which Houston seemed emaciated and unhealthy led many to believe that she was on the edge of a mental collapse.

'My Love Is Your Love' Album: 'It's Not Right But It's Okay'

In 1998, Houston released My Love Is Your Love, her first studio album that was not a soundtrack in many years, and it garnered her another Grammy for the single "It's Not Right But It's Okay." The album was not as popular as her previous full-length recordings; nonetheless, her work with Mariah Carey in the animated feature The Prince of Egypt generated the smash track "When You Believe," which earned an Academy Award.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Houston's deteriorating marriage, drug use, and health issues threatened to wreck her career. Several performance cancellations and an infamous 2002 television interview with Diane Sawyer in which Houston seemed emaciated and sickly led many to believe that she was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

'I Look to You' Album

After nearly a decade of personal difficulties, Houston appeared to be getting her act together. In 2009, she launched a new album titled I Look To You. Houston told Entertainment Tonight, "The songs themselves will speak to you, and you'll understand where I am and some of the positive things I've through." The album climbed to the top of album rankings due to the enthusiastic response from music aficionados. However, her live performances received mixed reviews, with some criticizing the quality of her voice.

Death

Early in 2012, rumors circulated that Houston was suffering financial difficulties, however, she rejected these rumors. Indeed, the artist's career appeared to be on the rise: Houston collaborated with Jordin Sparks on the musical film Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 film about an all-girl musical group similar to The Supremes, and she was reportedly approached to join the singing competition series The X Factor as a judge. Unfortunately, Houston did not live long enough to witness the success of the latest return.

Houston passed away on February 11, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, where Davis was hosting a Grammy celebration. In the days preceding her death, Houston was spotted out and about, including at one of the pre-Grammy parties. According to a report published on March 22, 2012, by the Los Angeles County coroner's office, the official cause of her death was unintentional drowning. The presence of heart disease and cocaine in her system were other contributory causes.

The music industry has lost one of its most renowned stars with her demise. Davis previously stated that Houston "follows in the footsteps of great vocalists such as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Gladys Knight."

Daughter Bobbi Kristina

After her mother's passing, Bobbi Kristina's life was fraught with difficulty. She was hospitalized soon following Houston's death due to mental trauma, but she subsequently told Winfrey about returning to her mother's home and experiencing her presence. Houston bequeathed everything to her daughter, but the singer's sister-in-law Pat Houston was ultimately appointed executor of the estate.

Bobbi Kristina and her grandma Cissy had public disagreements over the publication of the Houston memoir Remembering Whitney. In early 2014, it was rumored that she was married to Nick Gordon, who had been raised by Houston together with Bobbi Kristina, but further reports revealed that they were not officially married. Bobbi Kristina made derogatory Twitter comments about Angela Bassett when the actress/director chose to put a trained actress in the starring part of the Houston biopic instead of her.

Max Lomas discovered Bobbi Kristina face down in a bathtub at her Roswell, Georgia, residence on January 31, 2015, nearly three years to the date of her mother's passing. After being hospitalized at North Fulton Hospital, she was ultimately transferred to Emory University Hospital in a coma-induced state.

Her father and grandmother visited her bedside amid pleas for public support and prayer, and a candlelight vigil was organized in a suburb of Atlanta on 10 February. Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away in the Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth, Georgia, on July 26, 2015. Her age was 22 years.

Documentary

The Houston estate supported the publication of the documentary Whitney in July 2018, with Houston's sister-in-law Pat acting as executive producer.

"Everyone with life has a tale to tell. It is her narrative, and the documentary tells it "A few weeks before the film's debut, Pat Houston told Good Morning America: "She herself recounted a great deal of it. It is just her life and narrative as seen by her family and the people who coped with it every day."

The debut of the documentary was at the Cannes Film Festival. In the documentary, it is revealed that her cousin, the sister of Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, sexually molested the singer. Houston's brother informed filmmakers that he had been molested by Dee Dee and felt that his sister had also been abused. The documentary also revealed Houston's history with drugs — her brother Michael admitting to giving her marijuana and cocaine for her 16th birthday — and her friendship with fellow pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Robyn Crawford's A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston was published the following year, revealing further details about the singer's private life. Crawford, Houston's longtime friend, and assistant revealed that the two had a romantic connection prior to Houston's emergence as a global celebrity.

Posthumous Music, Honors, and Projects

'Memories,' 'Higher Love'

In 2016, fans were delighted with the release of Houston's new single "Memories," which featured Malaysian artist Siti Nurhaliza. Houston's voice was from roughly thirty-five years ago. Another new Houston song was released in 2019, this time a rendition of the 1986 classic "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood. Before being remixed for a posthumous release by Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo, Houston had recorded a version that was initially intended for her 1990 album I'm Your Baby Tonight.

Hologram Tour

It was revealed in 2019 that Houston's hologram will tour the following year. BASE Holograms, which had previously premiered presentations featuring the likenesses of Greek opera singer Maria Callas and American rock 'n' roll legend Roy Orbison, was developing the project.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

On January 15, 2020, Houston's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was announced.

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