Born Whitney Elizabeth Houston on August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey, the singer was the daughter of gospel star Cissy Houston and the cousin of acclaimed Grammy winner Dionne Warwick. Whitney found her musical footing at a young age by singing in her church choir and playing piano.
Houston signed with Arista Records in 1983 and was taken under the wing of music mogul Clive Davis. After the release of her 1985 blockbuster debut Whitney Houston and 1987′s Whitney, she became, along with Madonna and Michael Jackson, one of the biggest pop superstars of the 1980s.
Whitney Houston — “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
Whitney’s success continued into the ’90s with such albums as I’m Your Baby Tonight and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, the 1992 film she also starred in with Kevin Costner. The latter LP spent 20 weeks at #1 on Billboard‘s Top 200, and is the last album to spend that length of time in the peak position on the chart to date.
Following a marriage to former New Edition member Bobby Brown in 1992, reports of Houston’s drug use began to surface. In recent years, Whitney confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, reports the Associated Press, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime. She came under fire from Australian audiences in particular for her lackluster performances in early 2010 during a tour to support her most recent album I Look To You.
Since the release of her first LP in 1985, Houston released only six studio albums. She did, however, star in films such as Waiting To Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife and, as mentioned, The Bodyguard, and contributed songs to their soundtracks. Most recently, Whitney worked on a remake of the movie Sparkle with fellow singer/actors Jordin Sparks and Cee Lo Green.
Whitney Houston — “I Will Always Love You”
Some of Houston’s biggest hits included “The Greatest Love Of All”, “How Will I Know”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, “So Emotional”, “One Moment In Time” and “I’m Your Baby Tonight”. Whitney recorded a cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” as the lead single for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, and it went on to spend 14 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992 and 1993. The ballad is often considered to be Houston’s signature song.
After winning the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album last year for The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga stated the following: “I wanted to thank Whitney, because when I wrote ‘Born this Way’, I imagined she was singing it. Because I wasn’t secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar. So, Whitney, I imagined you were singing ‘Born This Way’ when I wrote it.”
Lady Gaga tributes Whitney Houston at last year’s Grammy Awards
Whitney is survived by her 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, whom she had with her ex-husband Bobby Brown.