Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on 9 August 1963. She would have turned 50 this Women’s Day. When she was eleven years old, she started showing her vocal talent as a soloist in the choir of the New Hope Baptist Church. Houston grew up in a family that made and enjoyed music. Her mother Cissy was a musician. Whitney first got a taste of the life of a performer when she toured with her mother and sometimes went on stage with her. From there, her star kept rising until drug addiction caused her voice, health and music career to deteriorate.
The last song she performed on stage was “Jesus Loves Me” which she sang with Kelly Price two days before she died on 11 February 2012. Houston was staying at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and was preparing for the pre-Grammy Awards party. She was found dead in the bathtub of Suite 434. The cause of Whitney Houston’s death was ruled as accidental drowning though a concoction of drugs was found in her system including cocaine, Xanax, Flexeril and marijuana.
Her funeral was a star-studded affair a week later. Stevie Wonder, CeCe Winans and R. Kelly are just a few of the artists who performed at the funeral. Her ex-husband Bobby Brown left before the funeral service was concluded because of some family squabbles. She was buried next to her father, John Russell Houston, at the Fairview Cemetery in New Jersey.
Whitney Houston died on the night of the Clive Davis pre-Grammy Awards party. Davis, with the blessing of the Houston family, allowed the party to continue even though Houston’s body was still in the building. The party theme was turned into a tribute to Whitney Houston. Singer Chaka Khan spoke to CNN in 2012 and said: “I don’t know what could motivate a person to have a party in a building where the person whose life he had influenced so enormously and whose life had been affected by hers.”
Fans around the world remembered Whitney Houston on Friday. They shared her songs and memorable moments on social networks. Whitney Houston was one of the most successful female artists in history. She sold more than 200 million records throughout her music career. Her albums went diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold soon after they were released. She made her movie debut in 1992 in The Bodyguard and the movie soundtrack, on which she featured, won the Grammy Award for Album of The Year in 1994.
Houston battled substance abuse later in her career. In September 2009, she opened up to Oprah Winfrey during what was probably “the most anticipated music interview of the decade”. She talked about using drugs and how it affected her personal life and career. She gave viewers insight into her troubled marriage with Bobby Brown.
In August 2009, Whitney Houston released her album I Look to You. It went straight to Number 1 on the Billboard 200. By December of that year, the album had sold over a million copies in the US. The following year, a special edition of her first album hit the shelves under the title Whitney Houston – The Deluxe Edition. For the first time in more than ten years, Houston staged a world tour, Nothing but Love World Tour. Her last movie was Sparkle which had been delayed because of Aaliyah’s death. Aaliyah would have played ‘Sparkle’ in the movie.
Despite her struggles and low moments, Whitney Houston’s music left a warm feeling in many who heard it. It still does. Anita Baker once said: “Because of what Whitney and Sade did, there was an opening for me… For radio stations, black women singers aren’t taboo anymore.”
Ann Powers at the Los Angeles Times exclaimed that Whitney’s voice “stands like monuments upon the landscape of 20th century pop, defining the architecture of their times, sheltering the dreams of millions and inspiring the climbing careers of countless imitators”. It seems certain that the music of the woman many hailed ‘The Voice’ will live on for years to come.