By Wilfred Okiche
R&B music icon, Whitney Houston was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel, Los Angeles Saturday night. She had checked into the hotel in preparation for her performance at the annual Clive Davis pre-Grammys gala. The cause of her death is yet unknown.
Discovered by Clive Davis himself, Houston was born into music royalty. Her mother, Cissy Houston is a gospel singer, she is a niece to 70s pop singer Dionne Warwick and god-daughter to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.
Her self-titled debut album released in 1985 became an instant smash and spawned hit singles, ‘You give good love’ and ‘Saving all my love.’’ America and indeed, the whole world would fall in love with this fresh faced singer with a voice from the gods, a background in gospel music and a wholesome attitude.
More success would follow in 1987 with the release of her sophomore album, the multi-platinum selling ‘Whitney.’ It became the first album by a female singer to debut at number 1 on Billboard’s album charts. A string of pop standards like ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ and ‘Where do broken hearts go?’ She had firmly entrenched herself as America’s sweetheart. At the height of her fame, her voice was out of this world and she had no peer, her performance of the star spangled banner in 1991 is still regarded as the definitive version.
With a total of 415 awards, the Guinness book of records lists her as the most awarded female artist of all time. She won 6 Grammys, 2 Emmys, 30 Billboard music awards and 22 American music awards. She was one of the world’s best selling artistes with sales of over 170million albums, records and videos.
America’s sweetheart would go on to conquer Hollywood with the release of the 1992 film, ‘The Bodyguard.’ Her starring role opposite Kevin Costner became a hit with audiences worldwide and the soundtrack album in which she contributed half of the songs became the bestselling soundtrack of all time. Her signature tune, a cover of Dolly Parton’s song ‘I will always love you’ was a worldwide smash and won the Grammy award for record of the year.
She followed the success of The Bodyguard with starring roles in movies, ‘Waiting to exhale’ and ‘The Preacher’s wife’ and a turn playing the fairy godmother in a TV adaptation of the classic fairytale, ‘Cinderella.’’ Her soundtrack records for the movies became global hits and received critical acclaim.
But Ms Houston was also a troubled soul within. Her 1993 wedding to bad boy, Bobby Brown was seen as a move to sully up her pristine image and it heralded her gradual decline. She admitted to Oprah in her famous 2010 interview (insert link to Oprah’s interview) which was billed as ‘the most anticipated music interview’, ‘’doing drugs was an everyday thing. I would do my work but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was everyday. I wasn’t happy at that point in time, I was losing myself.’’
She checked into rehab twice and eventually divorced Brown in 2007 but her drug dependence had taken a toll on her career. She was accused of erratic behavior, lost a lot of weight, cancelled concert dates and was replaced by country singer Faith Hill at the 2000 Academy awards ceremony. Her album sales were gradually declining and many critics wrote her off as finished.
I Look to you
She made a comeback in 2009 with the album ‘I Look to you’ and while the album topped Billboard charts and eventually went platinum, anyone listening would notice that her strong, powerful voice, once capable of hitting almost any note was not as effective. She made some more public appearances, presenting Jennifer Hudson with her Grammy trophy in 2010 and appeared in the X Factor UK. She also wrapped work on an upcoming film, ‘Sparkle’ alongside American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks based on the life of 60s group, The Supremes. ‘Sparkle’ is set for an August release and will feature the final recordings of Ms Houston .
See the video of her last ever performance on Friday night. She performs ‘Jesus loves me’ from The Bodyguard soundtrack.
She is survived by a teenage daughter and her aged mother, Cissy Houston.
And by all of us her fans, her cheerleaders, whose life milestones she gave such soulful soundtracks to.