Whitney Houston

With family and friends such as Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin, it's no wonder that Whitney wanted to sing. Chart her life from child model to troubled international megastar.


Whitney Houston was born into a talented singing family. The youngest of three children, her mother, Cissy, was a successful backing singer, Dionne Warwick her cousin and Aretha Franklin was her godmother. Whitney's singing career began in the local gospel choir but she quickly graduated to backing singing with the likes of Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan, when she also worked as a model.

At the age of 18, Whitney was signed to record label Arista Records, with whom she produced the album, 'Whitney Houston' with 'Saving All My Love For You' earning her a Grammy Award. Her second album, the uninspiringly titled 'Whitney', was the first album by a woman to enter at number one in the charts. Its first four singles all made #1 in the Billboard chart. 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Somebody Who Loves Me)' also hit the top of the charts in the UK dispelling the impression that Whitney was a one-trick balladeer.

Her growing superstar status ensured she was invited to record 'One Moment In Time', the title track for an album to celebrate the Olympics being held in Los Angeles. Her reputation as a "diva" was also on the rise: Whitney's participation in 1988 in Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday concert was overshadowed by complaints from disgruntled stars on the bill who accused the singer of behaving like a prima donna.

Releasing a younger, dancier album 'I'm Your Baby Tonight' in 1990, it was met with relative commercial success and the critics were not convinced. The NME gave it a decisive zero out of ten. A world tour also drew fire from the critics: the New York Times likened her band to "clattering around like a drunk in a kitchen". Whitney answered back with a powerful acting debut in the film 'The Bodyguard' and the biggest hit of her career, the seminal 'I Will Always Love You'. The single stayed 10 weeks at the top of the UK charts and the soundtrack album sold over 37 million copies.


The same year, 1992, saw Whitney's marriage to bad-boy singer Bobby Brown, a relationship that would be troubled but long lasting. During the 1980s, Houston was linked to American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy until she met Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music awards. They wed on 18 July 1992 and Houston gave birth to her only child Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown on 4 March 1993. During the early 1990s, Houston focused on her acting, appearing in 'Waiting to Exhale' in 1995 as the lead character - a TV producer in love with a married man. It opened at number one and grossed $87 million worldwide, while the cast were given positive reviews as an ensemble.

The coinciding soundtrack for the film was produced by Houston, who also performed a few tracks including 'Exhale', 'Count On Me' and 'Why Does it Hurt So Bad', which made the top 30. Other female R 'n' B singers, such as Mary J Blige and Aretha Franklin, performed on the album, which reached number one.

In 1996, Houston starred in holiday comedy 'The Preacher's Wife' with Denzel Washington. She earned $10 million for her role, making her one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African-American actress of the period. It was a long wait until Whitney's next album, 'My Love Is Your Love' (1998) which was well received but sold poorly despite the involvement of Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill.

Whitney's public persona took several dents in 2000. Tabloids reported that marijuana had been found in her luggage in Hawaii. She then pulled out of the Academy Awards show at the eleventh hour amidst rumours of poor rehearsal performances and a lack of focus. The release of a 'Greatest Hits' album, or subsequent flop albums 'Love, Whitney' or 'Just Whitney', did little to divert tabloid attention from the unravelling of Whitney's personal life.


In 2002, Whitney admitted in a TV interview with Diane Sawyer to drug abuse. Whitney entered drug rehab in 2004 and again in 2005. She made an appearance in October 2005 at the BET 25th Anniversary show looking thin but healthier than she had for many recent years. After a successful rehabilitation period in 2006, Houston began to rebuild her career in the public eye by attending the Carousel of Hope Ball in October 2006 and Clive Davis's Pre-Grammy Party in February 2007. She recorded the song "Family First" with Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston for the soundtrack to 'Daddy's Little Girls'.

Houston had also divorced Bobby Brown and gained full parental custody of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina and began work on a new album. After almost a decade of turmoil, the singer returned to the studio and released her comeback album, 'I Look To You', in 2009. It shot to the top of the charts, giving Houston her first number one album since 'The Bodyguard'.

In 2010, the singer began a world tour - her first in more than ten years. However, Houston's sometimes shaky performances led to some negative reviews, with reports of fans walking out of some concerts. She was also forced to pull out of some appearances due to illness. It was widely reported in May 2011 that Houston had returned to rehab for drug and alcohol treatment. A representative for the star said she entered the programme voluntarily as part of her "long-standing recovery process". A source close to the singer told showbiz website TMZ that she is "cleansing herself" and getting ready for a film role.

In September 2011, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Houston would produce and star in a remake of the 1976 film 'Sparkle'. She first obtained the rights to the film in 2001. On 9 February, Houston attended a pre-Grammy party held by her mentor Clive Davis and was snapped looking the worst for wear after partying.

Whitney Houston died in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy Awards on 11 February 2012. She was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Cause of death has been revealed as accidental drowning with heart disease and drug abuse playing their part. Following the news of her untimely death, Houston's godmother Franklin wrote on Facebook: "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."

Tributes were also made to the singer and actress at the Grammy awards on 12 February, with host LL Cool J leading a prayer and Jennifer Hudson performing 'I Will Always Love You'. Houston's final songs were used as the soundtrack for 'Sparkle'. She was laid to rest in her home town in New Jersey.