A Rockapaedia Obituary
Whitney Houston died on 11th February 2012 aged forty-eight at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. Whitney had reportedly appeared "disheveled" and "erratic" in the days just before her death. Whitney Houston was buried on 19th February 2012, in Fairview Cemetery, Westfield, New Jersey, next to her father.
An invitation-only memorial service was held for Whitney on 18th February 2012, at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. The service had been scheduled for two hours duration, but lasted four hours. Among those who performed at the funeral were Stevie Wonder, CeCe Winans, Alicia Keys, Kim Burrell, and R. Kelly. The performances were interspersed with hymns by the church choir.
On Thursday, February 9th, Whitney had made her last public performance when she joined Kelly Price on stage in Hollywood, California and sang "Jesus Loves Me".
Two days later, on 11th February she was found unconscious submerged in a bathtub. Beverly Hills paramedics arrived and found her unresponsive, and performed CPR but she was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. PST. The cause of death was not immediately discovered but local police said there were no obvious signs of criminal intent . On 22nd March 2012, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office reported that Whitney Houston's death was caused by drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use". The office stated that the amount of cocaine found in Whitney's body indicated that she used the substance shortly before her death. Toxicology results revealed additional drugs in her system including diphenhydramine, alprazolam, cannabis and cyclobenzaprine. The manner of death was listed as an "accident".
Whitney Houston was born on 9th August 1963, in what was then a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. and gospel singer Emily "Cissy" Houston. Her elder brother Michael is a singer, and her elder half-brother is former basketball player Gary Garland. Her parents were both African American. Through her mother, Whitney Houston was a first cousin of singers Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick. Her godmother was Darlene Love and her honorary aunt was Aretha Franklin, whom she met at age eight or nine when her mother took her to a recording studio. WhitneyHouston was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle-class area in East Orange, New Jersey, when she was four. Her parents' marriage later ended in divorce.
At the age of eleven, WhitneyHouston started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. When Whitney Houston was a teenager, she attended Mount Saint Dominic Academy, a Catholic girls' high school in Caldwell, New Jersey, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she described as the "sister she never had". While Whitney Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. Whitney was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of whom would have an influence on her as a singer and performer.
Whitney Houston spent some of her teenage years touring nightclubs where her mother, Cissy, was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her. In 1977, at age fourteen, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party". In 1978, at age fifteen, Whitney sang background vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls.
In the early 1980s, Whitney Houston started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared in "Seventeen" and became one of the first Black women to grace the cover of the magazine. She was also featured in layouts in the pages of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Young Miss, and appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink TV commercial. Her looks and girl-next-door charm made her one of the most sought after teen models of that time. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Michael Beinhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Whitney Houston contributed the ballad "Memories", a cover of a song by Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called her contribution "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard". She also appeared as a lead vocalist on one track on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983.
Whitney Houston had previously been offered several recording agencies, but her mother declined the offers stating her daughter must first complete high school. In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw her performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub and was impressed. He convinced Arista's head Clive Davis to make time to see Whitney perform. Davis was impressed and immediately offered a worldwide recording contract which Whitney signed. Later that year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on The Merv Griffin Show.
Whitney Houston signed with Arista in 1983, but did not begin work on her album immediately. The label wanted to make sure no other label signed the singer away. Davis wanted to ensure he had the right material and producers for Whitney's debut album. Some producers had to pass on the project because of prior commitments. Whitney first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me" which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Whitney Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top five rythm&blues hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985.
With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson, and Narada Michael Walden, Whitney Houston's debut album "Whitney Houston" was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone magazine praised Whitney, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years" while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent". Arista Records promoted Whitney Houston's album with three different singles from the album in the US, UK and other European countries. In the UK, the dance-funk "Someone for Me", which failed to chart in the country, was the first single while "All at Once" was in such European countries as the Netherlands and Belgium, where the song reached the top five on the singles charts, respectively.
In the U.S.A. the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love" was chosen as the lead single from Whitney Houston's debut to establish her in the black marketplace first. Outside of America the song failed to get enough attention to become a hit, but in America, it gave the album its first major hit as it peaked at No. three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. one on the Hot rythm&blues chart. As a result, the album began to sell strongly, and Whitney Houston continued promotion by touring nightclubs in America. She also began performing on late-night television talk shows, which were not usually accessible to un-established black acts. The jazzy ballad "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and it would become Whitney Houston's first No. one single in both the USA and the UK. She was then an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osborne on his nationwide tour. "Thinking About You" was released as the promo single only to rythm&blues-oriented radio stations, which peaked at number ten on the American rythm&blues Chart. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by black, Latino, and other racial minorities while favoring white acts. The third US single, "How Will I Know", peaked at No. one, and the video introduced Whitney Houston to the MTV audience. Whitney's subsequent singles from this, and future albums, would make her the first African-American woman to receive consistent heavy rotation on MTV.
By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and stayed there for fourteen non-consecutive weeks. The final single, "Greatest Love of All", a cover of "The Greatest Love of All", originally recorded by George Benson, became Whitney's biggest hit at the time after peaking No. one and remaining there for three weeks on the Hot 100 chart, which made her debut the first album by a woman to yield three No. one hits. Whitney Houston was No. one artist of the year and her self titled album was the No. 1 album of the year on the 1986 Billboard year-end charts, making her the first woman to earn that distinction. At the time, Whitney Houston released the best-selling debut album by a solo artist. Whitney Houston then embarked on her world tour, Greatest Love Tour. The album had become an international success, and was certified 13× platinum (diamond) in the United States alone, and has sold thirty million copies worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Whitney Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. She was not eligible for the Best New Artist category because of her previous hit rythm&blues duet recording with Teddy Pendergrass in 1984. She won her first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love for You". Whitney Houston's performance of the song during the Grammy telecast later earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
Whitney Houston won seven American Music Awards in total in 1986 and 1987, and an MTV Video Music Award. The album's popularity would also carry over to the 1987 Grammy Awards when "Greatest Love of All" would receive a Record of the Year nomination, ten years after the original recording of "The Greatest Love of All" by George Benson, which was the main theme of the boxer Muhammad Ali biopic "The Greatest" in 1977. Whitney Houston's debut album is listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and on The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Definitive 200 list. Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. Following Whitney Houston's breakthrough, doors were opened for other African-American women such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker to find notable success in popular music and on MTV.
With many expectations, Whitney Houston's second album, "Whitney", was released in June 1987. The album again featured production from Masser, Kashif and Walden as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album. Rolling Stone said, "the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating". Non-the-less, the album enjoyed commercial success. Whitney Houston became the first woman in music history to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and the first artist to enter the albums chart at number one in both the US and UK, while also hitting number one or top ten in dozens of other countries around the world. The album's first single, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)", was also a massive hit worldwide, peaking at No. one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topping the singles chart in many countries such as Australia, Germany and the UK. The next three singles, "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional", and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and the Bee Gees. Whitney Houston became the first woman to generate four number-one singles from one album. Whitney has been certified 9× Platinum in the US for shipments of over nine million copies, and has sold a total of twenty million copies worldwide.
At the 30th Grammy Awards in 1988, Whitney Houston was nominated for three awards, including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody". Whitney Houston also won two American Music Awards in 1988 and 1989, respectively, and a Soul Train Music Award. Following the release of the album, Whitney embarked on the Moment of Truth World Tour, which was one of the ten highest-grossing concert tours of 1987. The success of the tours during 1986–87 and her two studio albums ranked Whitney Houston number eight for the highest-earning entertainers list according to Forbes magazine. She was the highest-earning African-American woman overall and the third highest entertainer after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.
Whitney Houston was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modelling days, she refused to work with any agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa. On 11th June 1988, during the European leg of her tour, Whitney Houston joined other musicians to perform a set at Wembley Stadium in London, UK to celebrate a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday. Over 72,000 people attended Wembley Stadium, and over a billion people tuned in worldwide as the rock concert raised over a million dollars for charities while bringing awareness to apartheid. Whitney Houston then flew back to the US for a concert at Madison Square Gardens in New York City in August. The show was a benefit concert that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the United Negro College Fund. In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, "One Moment in Time", which became a Top five hit in the USA, while reaching number one in the UK and Germany.