Whitney Houston was born in 1963 to John and Cissy Houston. Her formative years were very influenced by the music propagated by her gospel singer mother. Whitney Houston was born in New Jersey and her maternal relatives were all into the gospel, soul and rhythm and blues music.
She was raised within a staunch Baptist and Pentecostal environment at home. The family relocated to a middle class area in the East Orange region of New Jersey, when she was four. Her mother Cissy, was a backup singer to Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin!
It took the young girl no time to follow in her mother's foot-steps and at eleven, Houston began performing as a soloist in the choir at the New Hope Baptist Church, Newark. This was the humble beginning of the American pop diva, R and B singer, film producer, actress, song writer, record producer and fashion model!
Houston was one of the first black artists to make a mark within the white male rock dominated music scene. Her debut album established her as a big time solo artist, while the follow-up album was adjudged as the first entry by a female artist to enjoy the Numero Uno position on the Billboard 200!
The box-office grosser 'The Bodyguard' added to the success story and her niche in Hollywood in the 1990s. 'I Will Always Love You' became an ode to love and the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
As of 2010, according to Guinness World Records, Houston is the most awarded female artist of all time with 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, 2 Emmy Awards, among a total of 415 career awards. She is ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States.
Whitney also shares the all-time record for the most American Music Awards ever won in a single year, of any single artist, with Michael Jackson with 8 wins in 1994. In September 2010, Houston was ranked as one of the "Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time" by VH1.
The Road to Stardom
Her musical and experimental journey since her first solo performance in the church 'Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah', to her exposure to the music of artists like Chaka Khan and Elvis Presley and her awards, Houston has been the epitome of talent and the 'Voice of God' to millions of fans across the globe.
At the age of fourteen, Houston was the lead singer in the Michael Zager extravaganza 'Life's a Party'. In 1979, she was a background singer for Chaka Khan's single grosser, 'I'm Every Woman'. In the 1980s, she posed as a fashion model in Vogue and Seventeen.
She worked on the ballad 'Memories' for the group Material. It received acclaim as 'one of the most gorgeous ballads ever'. Her duet 'Hold Me' in 1984, nearly bagged her the 'Best New Artist' Grammy, but luck favored this beautiful singer with the first Grammy coming in for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female' for the classic 'Saving All My Love for You'.
The performance at the Grammy also won Houston her first Emmy Award in the category 'Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program'. Houston's grand entry and acceptance within the music industry has been acknowledged as 'one of the 25 musical milestones in the last 25 years'!
Houston impressed Gerry Griffith, the A&R representative of Arista Records and the result was her national televised debut with Davis on the popular Merv Griffin Show. Houston signed on the dotted line with Arista within a deal that ensured that no other label signed the singer.
It was around this time that 'Hold Me' from the album 'Love Language' became a Top 5 R&B hit single. Houston all time favorites include 'Someone For Me', 'You Give Good Love', 'Saving All My Love For You', 'How Will I Know', 'Greatest Love of All' and 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go'.
She has experimented with dance-funk music, classical music, soulful ballads, R&B, romantic odes and the controversial crossover base music genre.
The Troubled Years
The decline of this multi-faceted and talented artist came with her marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown. Houston and Brown got married when her career was at its zenith. The subsequent drug and spousal abuse took its toll on her, personally and career wise. The result was a decline in her public image and album sales.
The press and other forms of media played truant and highlighted her erratic behavior beyond repair. Whitney Houston reconciled to drug rehab programs in 2005 and 2006 and divorced Bobby Brown, gaining complete custody of their only child, a daughter.
In August 2009, Houston released her new album, 'I Look to You', which sold 305,000 copies in the first week making it #1 on the Billboard 200. In September of that same her, Whitney gave a very candid interview, her first in seven years, on the Oprah show.
She appeared on numerous other television shows across Europe as part of her promotion plan for her recently released album. Later in 2010, she decided to embark on a world tour entitled 'Nothing but Love' tour. This would be Whitney's first tour in over ten years.
However this tour proved to be a disaster with rescheduling and canceling of shows and concerts due to widespread negative reviews and ill-health. Early in 2011, at music mogul Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy gala in tribute to cousin Dionne Warwick, Whitney gave an uneven performance.
By May of 2011 she had entered rehabilitation again citing drug and alcohol problems. On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston died in Beverly Hills, California. She was found in an unresponsive state, not breathing, in a bathtub in her Beverly Hilton hotel room. She was 48.
Houston's vocal styling has had a significant impact on the music industry and has also been called the 'Queen of Pop' for her influence on the music scene during the 1990s. Whitney not only redefined the image of a female soul icon, but inspired singers of all generations ranging from Mariah Carey to Beyonce. And the magic of Whitney Houston continues.