Whitney Houston was born on 9 August 1963 in what was then a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. (September 13, 1920 – February 2, 2003), and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Emily Drinkard). She is mainly of African American descent, with some Native American and Dutch ancestry. Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin were all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres. Houston was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle class area in East Orange, New Jersey when she was four.
At the age of 11, Houston began to follow in her mother's footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah".
Houston spent some of her teenage years touring nightclubs where her mother Cissy was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her. In 1977, at age 14, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party". Zager subsequently offered to obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1978, at age 15, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman", a song she would later turn into a larger hit for herself on her monster-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson.
In the early 1980s, Houston started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared as a lead vocalist on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983. She appeared in Seventeen and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of the magazine. She was also featured in layouts in the pages of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Young Miss, and appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink TV commercial. Her striking looks and girl-next-door charm made her one of the most sought after teen models of that time. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Ben Dover, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad "Memories", a cover of a song by Robert Wyatt. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called her contribution "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard".
By 2009, Houston was cited by the Guinness World Records as the most-awarded female act of all time. Her awards include two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards in her lifetime. Houston was also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. Inspired by prominent soul singers in her family, including her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother Aretha Franklin, Houston began singing with her New Jersey church's junior gospel choir at age 11. After she began performing alongside her mother in night clubs in the New York City area, she was discovered by Arista Records label head Clive Davis. Houston released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits ("Saving All My Love for You", "How Will I Know", "Greatest Love of All", "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"). She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year-end charts. Houston's 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone's best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know", influenced several African-American female artists to follow in her footsteps.
Whitney met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three-year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992. On March 4, 1993, Houston gave birth to their daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, her only child, and his fourth. Brown would go on to have several run-ins with the law, including some jail time. A known drug user, Bobby Brown was also rumoured to have enabled Whitney’s drug dependency. According to Houston in an interview with Oprah, Brown "laced marijuana with rock cocaine" and by 1996, "[doing drugs] was an everyday thing” After years of controversy and turmoil, Houston separated from Bobby Brown in September 2006. The fast-tracked divorce was finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple's daughter. On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, of causes not immediately known.
Houston was a mezzo-soprano. Her vocal range extended from G below middle C (G3) to high B-flat (B♭5); she could belt out to treble F (F5). She was third in MTV's list of 22 Greatest Voices, and sixth on Online Magazine COVE's list of the 100 Best Pop Vocalists with a score of 48.5/50. In 2008, Rolling Stone listed Houston as the thirty-fourth of the 100 greatest singers of all time, stating, "Her voice is a mammoth, coruscating cry: Few vocalists could get away with opening a song with 45 unaccompanied seconds of singing, but Houston's powerhouse version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" is a tour de force."
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 11:10
Written by Lali