It came as quite a shock when I happened to read this morning that Whitney Houston had died. I think because I saw it on a Google Alert e-mail my first reaction was “it must be a hoax” but no, a brief search seemed to reveal that it most definitely wasn’t.
At the time of writing this the cause of her death is still not known, but it is for sure that she was discovered in her hotel room in the Beverley Hilton, where she had been staying before being due to sing at a pre-Grammy awards party.
Whitney Houston was born in New Jersey in 1963. The daughter of John Houston, an entertainment executive, and Cissy Houston, a noted Gospel singer, her upbringing meant that becoming an entertainer was probably always very likely. Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick were her cousins, and Arethra Franklin was her Godmother, so singing was kind of in her blood.
She started her singing career when she used to get up on stage and sing in some of the nightclubs that her mother worked at. In 1977, at the tender age of 14, she became a backing singer for the Michael Zager Band, and the following year she featured as a backing singer on Chaka Khan’s hit I’m Every Woman, a song that Whitney herself would become noted for in later life.
The years that followed saw her mixing singing with modelling work, until in 1985 she got her own solo recording contract and her first album, title simply Whitney Houston, was released. Featuring such hits as The Greatest Love of All, How Will I Know and Saving All My Love For You, the album shot Whitney to stardom.
In 1987 her second album, named just Whitney this time, carried on this success and contained some of the songs for which she is best known, including I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional and Where Do Broken Hearts Go. These four tracks, plus the three mentioned above from the first album, gave Whitney seven consecutive number one singles in the US.
The late Eighties saw Whitney meeting singer Bobby Brown, who she married in 1992, which was also the year that she moved into acting, starring with Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. Whilst critics maintained that Houston wasn’t so much acting as just being herself on screen, given the film was about a pop starlet, the movie did extremely well at the box office and is fondly remembered by many today.
By the end of the Nineties and into the new century however, things were looking less rosie for Whitney. Her marriage started to falter, before finally coming to an end in 2007, and it became apparent that drugs had taken a hold of her. Many believed her singing talents were slipping away from her and that she lacked the power and emotion that her singing used to deliver.
Whitney Houston was one of the world’s biggest recording artists, and is said to have sold more than 200 million albums and singles worldwide. She is ranked as the fourth best selling female artist of all time in the United States.