Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Memory of Whitney Houston

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Note: This blog entry was initially posted in the early morning hours of 2/12/2012 and updated as more details emerged. Orginally a list of her top 50 songs accompanied this post but it has been re-created as a new entry (Whitney Houston: Top 50 Songs; August 9, 2013).

February 11, 2012: Whitney Houston, 48, was pronounced dead at 3:55pm in a Beverly Hills hotel room. Police revealed there was no evidence of foul play. It appeared she may have drowned in the bathtub after a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. No illegal drugs were found in her room. MTV

Earlier in the afternoon, reporters and hotel staff noted her erratic behavior and disheveled clothes. She was also dripping with sweat. She was reportedly disruptive at rehearsals that day for an annual pre-Grammy bash hosted by Clive Davis, the record executive who launched her career. LA Click here to see her last singing performance, captured on video that day.

Whitney was born August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey. Her mother was Cissy Houston, a gospel singer who had also done back-up work with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Dusty Springfield. She was cousins with Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin was her godmother.

She started singing in her church choir at age 11. In high school, she was singing back-up for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson, and Lou Rawls and launched a modeling career. She rose to musical fame in 1985 when her debut album spawned three #1’s and sold 13 million copies in the U.S. alone. Her 1987 follow-up album gave her four more chart-toppers, making her the only artist to send seven consecutive songs to the top. In total, she scored eleven #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in a decade’s time. The biggest was a cover of country singer Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The song was featured in the movie The Bodyguard, which starred Whitney Houston as a music diva. “Love You” logged a massive 14 weeks in the pole position in 1992-93 and became the all-time best-selling single by a female artist. LA

Her “world-class smile and approachable glamour” LA made her fans around the globe. Her total record sales topped 170 million and she earned six Grammys and 22 American Music Awards, more AMAs than any other woman. LA While “her skills were often wasted on bland adult-contemporary songs” GU her “gospel-trained…voice also lent itself to R&B, pop and ballads, and she was adept at each style.” GU

In 1992, she married fellow pop singer Bobby Brown. He was abusive and jealous of her success. She started drug use around that time, developing a daily habit by 1996. GU In the late 2000s, she kicked a cocaine addiction, but she “didn’t think about the singing part any more” GU She missed gigs, turned up late, left shows early, and was widely panned for bad performances. Photos of her often captured her looking “disheveled and frighteningly haggard.” GU Few stars have “treated their talent with the frustrating indifference she did toward the end of her life.” GU


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