Whitney Elizabeth Houston was an American singer, songwriter and actress and one of the best selling artists of all time. She was born on August 9, 1963 in New Jersey to two time Grammy Award winner Cissy Houston. The legendary queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, was her godmother. Whitney Houston began singing from an early age by joining in the local choir at the New Hope Baptist Church. By the age of 11 she was singing solo at the choir and also learned to play the piano. In her teens, she performed as a backup singer for Chaka Khan’s song “I’m Every Woman” as well as other performances with Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson. She also worked as a model and appeared in several magazines such as Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and even the cover of Seventeen magazine, one of the first African American women to be featured on a magazine cover.
During one of her nightclub performances in New York, Clive Davis of Arista Records was so impressed that he immediately offered her a singing contract. The album had a budget of $250,0000, which was a lot to gamble on an unknown artist. The album was released in 1985 and was a huge success. It was titled “Whitney Houston” and included hit singles such as “Saving All My Love for You” for which she won a Grammy in 1986. The album reached the top of the charts and stayed there for 14 weeks. It was also the first album by a woman to have three No. 1 hits.
The success of her first album was soon matched by the even bigger success of her second album, titled “Whitney” released in 1987. It went platinum several times and gave her the honor of being the first woman in music history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, as well as to enter the charts at No. 1 in both the U.S. and UK. With this album, she now had a total of 7 consecutive No. 1 hits, breaking the previous record of six hits by The Beatles and Bee Gees. She was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards in 1988 and won the award for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” for her song “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”. She also won two American Music Awards in 1988 and 1989, as well as a Soul Train Music Award. Her back to back successes made her the highest earning African American woman entertainer at the time. Her other albums include “I’m Your Baby Tonight” released in 1990, “My Love Is Your Love” released in 1998, “Just Whitney…” released in 2002 and “I Look to You” released in 2009.
Whitney also appeared in several films including “The Bodyguard” in which she starred opposite Kevin Costner. The film received mixed reviews but was a phenomenal box office hit, grossing $410 million worldwide and $120 million in the U.S. which made it one of the top 100 grossing films in history at that time. The movie’s soundtrack included the biggest hit of her career “I Will Always Love You” which was No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record breaking 14 weeks. She also starred in “Waiting to Exhale” in 1995 for which she collaborated with other female artists to produce the soundtrack. This was also a phenomenal success and went platinum 7 times over. Her other soundtrack success includes “When You Believe”, a duet sung with Mariah Carey for the 1998 movie “The Prince of Egypt”.
In 1992, Whitney Houston married an R&B singer named Bobby Brown, with whom she had one daughter named Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown. Her marriage lasted 15 years but began to get rocky when both partners started drug and alcohol abuse. Their frequent run-ins with the law received much publicity and media criticism and the drug use affected both her health and her performance. She started pulling out of shows, displayed a lack of commitment and gave poor concert performances. During this time she released a few albums but with limited success. She admitted herself into rehab several times and finally divorced Bobby Brown in 2007, retaining sole custody of their daughter. However, she continued to struggle with addiction until the end of her life. She died in 2012 at the age of 48. Despite her rocky personal life and career ups and downs, Whitney Houston will always be remembered as a star performer with a unique voice and style who enjoyed phenomenal success and attracted millions of fans worldwide.