Whitney Houston’s birthday has come and gone as fans everywhere memorialized her in their memory all over again. Perhaps that’s because Houston was one of the most celebrated female singers of all time, with hits including I Will Always Love You and Saving All My Love For You.
Ms Houston died on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. She had been due to attend a pre-awards party in the Beverly Hilton Hotel organized by her long-time mentor and record industry executive Clive Davis on Saturday evening.
He went ahead with the party, holding a minute’s silence and telling the audience he was “personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years”.
Having grown up in New Jersey, Houston began singing in church and then in the night clubs of New York, and was a model before being signed by Arista Records.
American pop diva with a three octave range, a spectacular video and film actress. A precocious beauty with virtuosity and lyrical authority, she began a carefully planned career in 1981 with TV commercials and guest spots. She also modeled in Glamour and Vogue and sang club dates with her mother, Cissy. With her debut album, Houston sold over 18 million copies world wide. She has surpassed the Beatles in consecutive No.1 hits and been the recipient of Grammy’s, American Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Emmys and Entertainer of the Year given by NAACP. Described as an extraordinary talent, ethereal yet warm, she is considered a gifted singer.
Born into a musical family, Houston began singing in public at 12 in the New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange, NJ and attended church every day but Wednesday as that was the adult choir rehearsal day. Her mother, Cissy Houston, a successful backup singer, was an important influence in her life, musically and morally, stressing her religious training and Bible study. Cissy corrected Whitney and encouraged her, telling her youngest child and only daughter when she did well. She stressed her little girl’s femininity, dressing Whitney in pinafores and bows. Whitney’s dad, John, was the executive secretary of the Newark Central Planning Board and moved the family out of the city after the riots in 1967. Whitney was daddy’s girl, and having experience as Cissy’s manager, he did the same for Whitney when she became professional.
Whitney was at odds with her classmates and because she was picked on in school, she was sent to a private Catholic school. Her two brothers cautioned her about boys when she became a teen. Cousin Dionne Warwick and close family friend Aretha Franklin were two of her role models. Houston was 15 when her parents separated and her dad moved out.
She began modeling at 17 with shots in “Glamour” and “Vogue,” and doing TV commercials. Singing “The Greatest Love of All” in her mom’s club show began her career in earnest.
She signed a contract with Arista Records in 1985 and “Whitney Houston” became the best selling debut album in history, earning her a Grammy as well as seven American Music Awards. In 1988 she made $45 million. Videos prepared her for films, but being reluctant she had to be assured by Kevin Costner, her costar in 1992’s “The Bodyguard,” that he would always be there, she would look good and be protected. The soundtrack album sold more than ten million in the states, staying on top of the charts for 20 weeks. The single “I Will Always Love You” sold more than a million copies in the first week. Prior to this she had turned down the part of Josephine Baker and the lead in the movie “Dream Girls.” Since then she has developed an impressive resume of movies including “Waiting to Exhale” in 1995 directed by Forest Whitacker and “The Preacher’s Wife” in 1996. Houston refuses to do nude scenes. On 1/27/1991, during Operation Desert Storm, Houston sang “The Star Spangled Banner” during opening ceremonies for Super Bowl XXV which was prerecorded in Los Angeles and the recording sold more than a half million copies by word of mouth, with profits donated to the Red Cross. In the early 1990’s she was stalked by several men, getting restraining orders against some. She fights to retain her privacy with photographers.
Although she didn’t think she would marry, Houston met future husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, in 1989. She has a squeaky clean image where he is from the streets. He proposed in September 1991 and they were married in July 1992. At the wedding both wore white and 800 guests looked on as Houston walked down the aisle in a dress of French lace costing $40,000. She cried through the whole ceremony.
At the height of her career in the 1980s and 90s she won many awards and enjoyed several number one singles and albums.
Artists from Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera have tried to emulate her bravura performances, but none of them were as good as the original, music critic Paul Gambaccini told the BBC.
Ms Houston was strongly linked to the Grammys – having won six awards herself over the years.
That was Houston a winner in her early career and that is just how we want to remember her.