The tragic death of pop icon Whitney Houston in 2012 left the world mourning the loss of a star renowned for her incomparable voice and spellbinding stage presence. An Oscar-winning actress, Grammy Award-winning musician, and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, Whitney’s remarkable career spanned almost three decades. In that time, she sold over 200 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as well as the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This article explores everything you ever wanted to know about Whitney Houston: her early life, her rise to fame as a pop singer in the late 1980s and early 1990s with hits like “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All”; her romance with fellow pop singer Bobby Brown; her drug problems; and ultimately, her tragic end.
Who was Whitney Houston?
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 9, 1963. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a gospel singer and her father was a gospel singer and minister. Whitney was the youngest of three children. Her sister is the actress and singer Dionne Warwick and her brother is the soul singer and producer and New Edition founder, Gary Houston. Whitney’s parents were both members of the New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey, which was led by their friend and pastor, the Reverend James Cleveland. The New Hope Baptist Church is the same church that Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, sang in as a child with her cousin's gospel group The Drinkard Singers. Whitney was a child of the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty. Her parents were proud to be a part of the Civil Rights Movement, and she was proud to be a part of it as well. Her parents were also a part of the Black Power Movement and proud of it as well. Her parents were also proud to be a part of the War on Poverty.
1986: The Beginning of Fame
Whitney Houston’s career in music began at the age of 12, when she sang with her mother Cissy and her cousins in a gospel group. The group later changed its name to The Drinkard Singers and toured internationally. Whitney’s first taste of fame came as a member of The Drinkard Singers when they were chosen to be the backup singers for pop star Michael Jackson during his 1982 world tour. The Drinkard Singers’ first album, The Great Gospel Songs, was released in 1984 and featured the single “You Are My Saving Grace”, which became a Top 10 pop hit. She continued to perform with her family throughout the 1980s. In 1985, she recorded her first solo album, which was released in November of that year and featured the hit single “You Give Good Love”.
1992-1996: The Second Wave of Fame
In 1990, Whitney Houston’s career took a big leap when she was offered a record deal from Arista Records. Her first album for Arista was the soundtrack to the 1992 film The Bodyguard, which featured the single “I Will Always Love You”, a song she co-wrote with Dolly Parton. The song became an international smash hit and earned Whitney her first Grammy Award for “Record of the Year”. Her second album for Arista, released in February 1994, was titled The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album. It featured nine songs co-written and co-produced by Whitney and she was also the executive producer of the album. The Bodyguard Original Soundtrack Album topped the Billboard 200 chart and was the best-selling album of 1994, with over 30 million copies sold worldwide.
1997-2002: Drug Problems and Marriages
Whitney’s third album, My Love Is Your Love, was released in November 1998. It was her best-selling album of her career and featured the hit singles “When You Believe”, a duet with Barbra Streisand, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “My Love Is Your Love”. Whitney was one of the most successful pop singers of the 1990s. She was also one of the most awarded artists of the decade. In addition to winning three Grammys for “I Will Always Love You”, “When You Believe”, and “My Love Is Your Love”, she also won Billboard Music Awards for “Favorite Pop/Rock Album” and “Favorite Soul/R&B Album” for My Love Is Your Love, and an American Music Award for “Favorite Soul/R&B Single” for her cover of “I Will Always Love You”. But by the early 2000s, Whitney’s success was overshadowed by her drug problems. She briefly went to rehab in May 2002, but left after a week and went to a retreat in the Virgin Islands. She was diagnosed with a “general anxiety disorder” and insomnia, which are often symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. She went back to rehab in July 2002, but again left after a week and returned to her home in New Jersey. Her husband at the time, R&B singer Bobby Brown, was arrested for marijuana possession in the fall of 2002 and the couple’s relationship and careers were both in jeopardy.
The tragic death of Whitney Houston in 2012 left the world mourning the loss of a star renowned for her incomparable voice and spellbinding stage presence. An Oscar-winning actress, Grammy Award-winning musician, and one of the best-selling music artists of all time.