Whitney Houston was born on the 9th of August 1963 in Newark, New Jersey, one of America’s most famous singers. She grew up with a family of singers, the daughter of gospel star Cissy Houston, cousin of singing star Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of soul legend Aretha Franklin. Cissy Houston was the choir minister at New Hope Baptist Church, and it was there that a young Whitney started singing.
At the age of 15, Whitney was performing often with her mother and trying to get a record deal of her own. Around the same time, she was discovered by a photographer who was awed by her natural beauty.
When she was 19, Whitney Houston was discovered in a nightclub by the renowned Clive Davis of Arista Records, who signed her immediately and took the helm of her career as she navigated from gospel to pop celebrity.
Her debut album, ‘Whitney Houston’, was released in 1985 and became the biggest-selling album by a debut artist. Several hit singles, including ‘Saving All My Love for You’, ‘How Will I Know’, ‘You Give Good Love’, and ‘The Greatest Love of All’, were released from the album, setting her up for a Beatles-beating seven consecutive US number ones.
The album itself sold 3 million copies in its first year in the US and went on to sell 25 million worldwide, winning her the first of her six Grammies.
The 1987 follow-up album, ‘Whitney’, which included the hits ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ and ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, built on her success but it was the 1992 film The Bodyguard (1992) that sealed her place as one of the best-selling artists of all time.
That same year she married ex-New Edition singer Bobby Brown with whom she had her only child, their daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown in March 1993. It was about this time that her much documented drug use began and by 1996 she was a daily user.
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.
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.
Whitney Houston died in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy Awards on the 11th of 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.