Music Legends: Whitney Houston



Whitney Houston was an American singer, actress, film and record producer. She first rose to fame during the 80s music era and her fame was extended well into the 1990s. Houston is known for her megahits: “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “Didn’t Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Love Will Save the Day,” “One Moment in Time,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “All the Man That I Need,” “Miracle,” “I Have Nothing,” “I’m Every Woman,” and perhaps her most famous song “I Will Always Love You,” the lead single to the soundtrack of the movie The Bodyguard, Houston’s first film. Apart from her successful music career, Houston was also famous for her publicized personal life, most particularly her rocky marriage to Bobby Brown which ended in 2007. She died in 2012, aged 48 from drowning due to drug intoxication.

Early life and career

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 9, 1963. She came from a family of singers and musicians. Her mother was gospel/R&B singer cissy Houston, her cousins were singers Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother was Darlene Love.

Music and religion were the center of Houston’s family life. By the time she was 11, she sang as a soloist in their local church choir. As she grew older, Houston’s experience in the music business also grew as she went on to accompany her mother in concerts and serve as a back-up singer to some established names such as Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. She also dabbled in modeling and acting.

In 1983 Houston was spotted by Arista Records president Clive Davis when he saw her singing at a nightclub. Houston got signed by the label, and her first recording was a duet with Teddy Pendergrass with “Hold Me,” which reached the top 5 of the R&B singles chart.

On the way to success

Houston released her self-titled debut album in 1985. The first single “Thinking about You” was a minor hit, but the following singles — “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All” — all hitting the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, with the last three-mentioned singles topping that said chart. The massive success of these singles pushed the Whitney Houston album to the top of both the Billboard 200 and R&B album charts. It eventually sold 13 million copies in the US alone, making it the best-selling debut album by a female artist. The success of Whitney Houston was a rare feat by a black female artist at that time.

Houston followed this up with her second album Whitney in 1987. Like her debut album, it went to #1 on both the Billboard 200 and R&B album charts. It spawned the hit singles “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (#1 pop and adult contemporary, #2 R&B), “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” (#1 pop and adult contemporary, #2 R&B), “So Emotional” (#1 pop, #8 adult contemporary, #1 dance, #5 R&B), “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” ” (#1 pop and adult contemporary, #2 R&B), “Love Will Save the Day”  (#9 pop, #10 adult contemporary, #1 dance, #5 R&B). At present, the album has sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide, and it’s likely to continue to do so.

Houston was indeed on the rise, posting nine consecutive Top 10 hit singles on Billboard Hot 100. She achieved her tenth Top 10 hit when she sang the non-album single “One Moment in Time” for a TV coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics. It went to #5 on the Hot 100.

In 1990 released her third album I’m Your Baby Tonight, which was pointed more towards R&B. Although it paled in comparison to her first two albums, it nevertheless produced two number one singles, the title track and “All the Man That I Need,” as well as sold over four million copies in the US. In retrospect, the erratic musical quality of the album may have meant Houston’s growing disinterest in recording, so she decided to venture herself into acting again.

The Bodyguard and its successful soundtrack single “I Will Love Always Love You”

In 1992 Houston appeared on her first feature film debut The Bodyguard opposite Kevin Costner. Despite the mostly negative critical reviews, the film became a box-office succes, earning a total of $411 million.

The Bodyguard‘s soundtrack contains Houston’s pop ballad version of Dolly Parton’s #1 country hit “I Will Always Love You.” The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album was, obviously, a massive success, having sold over millions of units worldwide which made it one of the most commercially successful soundtrack albums of all time (as of present it has sold more than 45 million units).

Houston’s recording of “I Will Always Love You” was produced by David Foster. performance in the song was widely praised by critics. It went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and many charts across the the globe. By 1993, the sales of the single had reached over four million copies, and was awarded with a platinum disc by the RIAA. It won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It truly became Houston’s signature single.

The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album also yielded other hits such as “I’m Every Woman” (#4 pop, #1 dance, #5 R&B), “I Have Nothing” (#4 pop, #1 adult contemporary, #4 R&B).

Later career in the 1990s

In 1995 Houston starred in the female ensemble film Waiting to Exhale, which is about for African-American women who share their own struggles in their lives and loves, to each other. The film itself was phenomenal for its all African-American cast; Houston’s acting there was much more well-received by critics in comparison to her acting in The Bodyguard. The film became a hit, grossing over $81 million at the box office. The movie’s accompanying soundtrack featured the single sung by Houston, “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” written by singer and producer Babyface who also wrote the original music score. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop) went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts in 1995. The accompanying soundtrack went on to sell over seven million copies.

By then Houston had been married to singer Bobby Brown since 1992. However, their troubled and tempestuous marriage would later be the frequent subject on the tabloids. Houston’s much publicized personal life and troubles would sometimes take precedence over her singing and acting career.

Houston once more showed her acting chops in addition to her singing talent in the next movie The Preacher’s Wife (1996). An update of the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife, The Preacher’s Wife was only a moderate success at the box office, although Houston’s acting as well as singing got mostly glowing reviews from the critics.

However, her personal life would garner her more unsavory attention once more. Her increasing unreliability and illnesses had caused her to call off many scheduled television and concert appearances.

For the first time in eight years, Houston released another studio album My Love is Your Love in 1998. Although the album didn’t meet the expected commercial success, it was otherwise met with positive critical reviews.

Houston life and career in the 2000’s

Whitney Houston

Despite persistent speculations about her personal life and health, Houston managed to keep her singing career afloat. Arista released the two-disc best-of album Whitney: The Greatest Hits which eventually peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200. The album also included her performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” (which peaked at #6 pop by the time it was releaed) at Super Bowl XXV and “One Moment in Time.”

Houston also renewed her contract with Arista, which was worth about $100 million. In late 2002 she releaed her fifth album Just Whitney… which contained her biggest hits as well as remixes. The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the R&B album chart.

Her personal life seems to be more in the fore especially when her husband Brown starred in his own reality show Being Bobby Brown in 2005. The show painted a less flattering side of Houston, but nevertheless it raked big ratings.

Inspite of her success as an artist, Houston’s personal life seemed to go on a downward spiral. After enduring an controversial and tumultuous marriage, Houston eventually divorced Brown in 2007. She also checked herself into rehab.

After many delays, Houston finally released her new album of fresh material, I Look to You, which featured the first two singles “I Look to You” and “Million Dollar Bill.” The album had the best performance in years since The Bodyguard soundtrakck album, debuting at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and R&B albums chart. She embarked on a tour in 2010 and had plans to record for a new album, but was admitted again at a rehab clinic in 2011 due to her continuing drug and alcohol problems.

Death and legacy

That fall she starred in what could be her last film Sparkle an update of the 1976 cult hit movie. She appeared in that movie with American Idol champion Jordin Sparks. Rumors circulated that Houston was wooed by English producer Simon Cowell to become one of the mentors on The X-Factor.

On February 9, 2012, Houston was busy on her rehearsals for the Grammy Awards. Two days later, February 11 — a day before the Grammys — Houston was found dead in her bathroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The cause of her death was eventually discovered: accidental drowning due to a combination of heart disease and cocaine use. She was 48 years old.

The Grammy Awards quickly became a tribute for the fallen star, with singer Jennifer Hudson performing “I Will Always Love You.”

Like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston is regarded as one of the first black artists to break down barriers. She was the first black female artist to receive a heavy rotation on the radio and the MTV. She opened the opportunity for other black female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker, to become successful in the mainstream music scene like Whitney did.

Her music is so timeless that it’s not just considered as an “oldies music,” not to mention her unique prowess in singing. A lot of artists have acknowledged Whitney Houston as a big influence: Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, LeeAn Rimes, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Toni Braxton, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Alicia Keys, and a lot more.

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