Six-time Grammy Award-winning singer Whitney Houston passed away Saturday in a Beverly Hilton hotel room at the age of 48. Undoubtedly one of the queens of Pop and R&B, Houston was among the most decorated artists and greatest voices of her time until a dark period marked by her abusive marriage to Bobby Brown and scandalous cocaine abuse. Whitney had voice that Rolling Stone called a “tour de force.” According to singer Mariah Carey, who collaborated with Houston on the song “When You Believe”, Houston had “a really rich, strong mid-belt that very few people have.”
Houston began singing at age 11, and had her first performance in a church choir in her hometown Newark, N.J. Her family members were also prominent members of the gospel, rhythm and soul community, notably her mother Cissy Houston and her godmother, the soul legend Aretha Franklin.
Despite her personal struggles, Houston was revolutionary in many ways. Houston was one of the first women of color to make the cover of Seventeen Magazine. She is also cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most–awarded female act of all time. Her awards include two Emmys, six Grammys, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. Her self-titled 1985 album, Whitney Houston, is listed in Rolling Stone’s 500 best albums of all time.
The soundtrack for her 1992 film The Bodyguard was the first album to sell over one million copies in a single week in the history of the Nielsen Company’s records. Later that year the soundtrack went on to win a Grammy for Album of the year.
After the release of the Bodyguard soundtrack, “I Will Always Love You” became her signature song. The single remained at the top of the charts for 14 weeks, breaking the previous record for longest time in the top 100. Her other hits include “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know”, “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Didn’t We Almost Have it All,” “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go. ”
The 2005 reality show Being Bobby Brown, which chronicled Brown’s life with Houston, did not portray Houston in a very positive light. As Houston’s career began to go downhill, her marriage to Bobby Brown became a popular subject for tabloids. After some turmoil, Houston and Brown were divorced in 2007. In 2009 Houston’s career got a boost from her new album I Look to You, which reached the top of the charts and was her first number one album since The Bodyguard.
Houston’s death comes as the music industry gets together for the Grammys. She last performed the Kelly Price and Friends concert on Friday, singing “Yes, Jesus Loves Me.” Houston was due to attend a pre-Grammy party on Saturday held by her longtime friend and mentor Clive Davis. Houston was found in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel where paramedics spent 20 minutes trying to revive her. The cause of death is still unknown. Fans arrived as the night went on to show support and mourn Houston’s death.
Houston was remembered at The Grammys Sunday with Jennifer Hudson’s heartfelt and respectful performance of “I Will Always Love You”. Hudson reportedly broke down in tears during the rehearsal. According to E! News, Houston’s only daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was rushed to the hospital on Sunday morning due to a stress induced panic attack after her mother’s death. At his Saturday night party, Clive Davis said “Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage with her regal presence and gave so many memorable performances here over the years. Simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on.”