Follow Us on Twitter

Obituary: Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Obituary by Jack Foley

SINGER and actress Whitney Houston has died in Los Angeles at the age of 48.

According to police, she passed away in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she had been staying as a guest ahead of Sunday’s Grammys.

The cause of death is unclear at this strage but Beverly Hills police spokesman Mark Rosen said there were “no obvious signs of criminal intent”. She was pronounced dead at 15:55 on February 11, 2012.

Houston was one of the most celebrated female singers of all time, with hits including I Will Always Love You and Saving All My Love For You. She was also a successful actress, having appeared alongside Kevin Costner in 1992 box office hit The Bodyguard.

But her later career was overshadowed by substance abuse and her turbulent marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

Born Whitney Elizabeth Houston on August 9, 1963, into a middle-income neighbourhood in Newark, New Jersey, she was the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Drinkard).

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 began to follow in her mother’s footsteps from the age of 11 when she started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. During this time, she also learned to play the piano.

She went on to accompany her mother in concerts and on an album, before starting to do some modelling and singing on jazz albums in the early ’80s.

Not long after, she was discovered by record producer Clive Davis performing in a nightclub in the early ’80s and he subsequently guided her career through its many ups and downs.

Immediately recognising her talent, Davis immediately offered her a record contract and she released her self-titled debut album in 1985, which in turn produced the hit singles Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know and The Greatest Love of All.

It sold more than 13 million copies, making it the best-selling debut album ever by a female artist.

Thereafter, she continued to be one of the most successful artists in American music history, eventually branching into acting and taking her first film role in 1992 in The Bodyguard, which in turn spawned the hit I Will Always Love You, a song that was written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton in 1974.

It spent weeks at the top of the charts in both the US and the UK.

But it was not long after the release of The Bodyguard that the problems in her personal life first became apparent.

At first, it was claimed that she had developed a diva mentality and was difficult to work with but she went on to appear in two more films, in 1995’s Waiting to Exhale and 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, alongside Denzel Washington, with both spawning soundtrack albums and yet another hit studio album.

But then reports of drug abuse followed, with the singer reportedly using cocaine, marijuana and pills. With that, the hits stopped and her behaviour became more erratic.

In 1992, she also married hip-hop singer Bobby Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, but their tumultuous relationship became a public spectacle as well, fuelling speculation about her lifestyle.

The pair eventually divorced in 2007, when Houston was granted custody of Bobbi Kristina.

From the late ’90s onwards, however, Houston was fighting an uphill struggle to get her career back on track. Her voice also suffered a deterioration and she was unable to hit the high notes for which she was famous.

She checked into rehab clinics twice before declaring herself drug-free in 2010 but, prior to that point, continued to be hounded by negative headlines exposing her continued battle to beat her addictions.

She seldom shyed away from the spotlight, however, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2002 that “the biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”

Houston also attempted a comeback in 2009 with the album I Look To You but the ensuing concert staged to promote the album was clearly off-key and it was deemed a failure.

In spite of this, Houston remains one of the most influential singers of her generation, having inspired many of her contemporaries ranging from Beyonce and Alicia Keys to Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.

She can also proudly lay claim to having won six Grammys and more than 400 other awards in her 25-year career.

Singers, artists and industry professionals have been lining up to pay tribute to her as news reaches them of her sad demise.

Stars and friends pay tribute