In Memoriam: Whitney Houston

Music lost one of its greatest voices – if not the greatest voice to ever grace the microphone. Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 11 at the age of 48.  The cause of death is still unknown.

Houston was scheduled to appear at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party at the same hotel that night, when she was found in her room unresponsive hours before the event. Houston’s publicist Kristen Foster confirmed Houston’s death and said that she was found in her room at 3:55 PM. Medics tried to revive her for 20 minutes, but were unsuccessful.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born Aug. 9, 1963, in Newark, NJ to gospel singer Cissy Houston and the late John Houston. Dionne Warwick is her cousin, and her godmother is Aretha Franklin. She was discovered in 1983 by record producer and Arista Records founder Clive Davis, who signed her at the age of 19.

When her debut album was released to a deluxe edition in 2010, Davis was interviewed about the first time that he heard her – she was performing with her mother at a club in New York. He said of Houston, “She did two solo numbers, one of which was the song ‘The Greatest Love Of All.’ Whitney sang the song with such fervor, with such a natural vocal gift, with such passion, that I was stunned. I knew really right then and there that this was a special talent, and I was blown away by her. There was no hesitation. I wanted to sign Whitney.”

In the 80s and 90s, Whitney’s record success was unmatched. Her numbers were through the roof. She released seven albums and three film soundtracks, won six Grammys, 20 Billboard Awards, 22 American Music Awards, and two Emmy Awards, and she sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide. She executive produced Disney’s Princess Diaries, the film that is said to have given Anne Hathaway her start. She was also one of the first women of color to appear on the cover of Seventeen Magazine in 1980.

Right out of the door, she was breaking records and setting new standards in music. Her self-titled debut became the first album by a new female artist to have three number1 singles: “How Will I know,” The Greatest Love of All,” and “Saving All My Love for You.” And that was just from the first album. Since then she has had countless other hits including the National Anthem, which became the only rendition to be released as a single.

See more photos of Whitney Houston featured on Soul Train

Houston recently returned to the big screen with her role as the mother in the remake of the 70s film Sparkle which is slated to premiere in August 2012. It is her first film since The Preacher’s Wife. Other films included Waiting to Exhale and of course The Bodyguard, which she starred in opposite Kevin Costner. The soundtrack to the film went platinum a few times over and sparked the hit that she is probably most known for, “I Will Always Love You.”

In 1992, Whitney married New Edition singer Bobby Brown. The two share a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. The family appeared on a reality TV show that surrounded the life of Bobby Brown called Being Bobby Brown. When the two divorced in 2007; Houston had custody of Bobbi Kristina.

Not much has been said about how Bobbi Kristina is taking the news. Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown performed with New Edition yesterday in South Haven, Mississippi. Several reports say that the singer took to the stage and said, “I loved her!”

Later in the 2000s Houston struggled publicly with drugs, alcohol abuse and reported domestic violence incidents, but her talent always eclipsed her controversy.

In 2009, she released I Look to You – her first studio album in seven years. It went platinum and debuted at number one.

As new developments pop up, social media wheels continue to spin and celebrities have taken to Twitter with condolences. Her godmother Aretha Franklin tweeted, “I just can’t talk about it now. It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen. My heart goes out to Cissy, her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby.” Wyclef Jean of The Fugees, who worked with Houston on another hit, My Love is Your Love, tweeted, “The voice of an Angel, the Heart of a Lamb, the spirit of a Lioness, the presence of a Goddess, love you R.I.P Whitney Houston.”

Whitney Houston will be honored tonight at the Grammy Awards, which air on CBS at 8PM EST. Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich confirmed that Jennifer Hudson will be performing a tribute during the festivities.

Whitney Houston was called “The Voice” because her incredible beauty and statuesque shape paled in comparison to her iconic voice that struck the body with each melodic run and riff.

There will NEVER be another.

James R. Sanders regularly contributes to The Huffington Post, AskMen.com, Uptown Magazine and Obvious Magazine. He is currently finishing up his debut novel, Born in Sin. He writes the Soul Chic column for SoulTrain.com. Follow James on Twitter @JamesRSanders and visit his blog http://www.JamesSandersatLarge.tumblr.com.



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