Whitney Houston was born in what was then a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Drinkard) Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin were all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres.
Houston 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.
Over the course of a 30-year career in which she established herself as one of the most-admired and influential singers of her time, Houston won six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums and sold some 170 million CDs, singles and videos. The soundtrack for a hit movie in which she starred, “The Bodyguard,” was among the best-selling soundtracks in movie history.
Her 1985 debut, “Whitney Houston,” became the best-selling debut album by a female act at that time, and spawned several hits including “How Will I Know.” Her second studio CD, 1987’s “Whitney,” became the first album by a female artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
She crossed over from music success to TV and movies, appearing in “The Bodyguard” (1992), as well as “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996).
Throughout the 1980s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated. She then met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three year courtship, the two were married on July 18; 1992.Nearly a year later, Houston gave birth to their daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, her first and only child, his fourth. Brown would go on to have several run-ins with the law, including some jail time
Though Houston was seen as a “good girl” with a perfect image in the ’80s and early ’90s, by the late ’90s, her behavior changed. She was often hours late for interviews, photo shoots and rehearsals, and canceling concerts and talk-show appearances. With the missed performances and weight loss, rumors about Houston using drugs with her husband circulated. On January 11, 2000, airport security guards discovered marijuana in both Houston’s and husband Bobby Brown’s luggage at a Hawaii airport, but the two boarded the plane and departed before authorities could arrive
The pair also starred in a reality TV series, “Being Bobby Brown,” which painted an often unflattering portrait of the couple.
SHE GOT FIRED
Houston was scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards but was fired from the event by musical director and longtime friend. Her publicist cited throat problems as the reason for the cancellation
After years of controversy and turmoil, Houston separated from Bobby Brown in September 2006, filing for divorce the next month. On February 1, 2007, Houston asked the court to fast track their divorce. The divorce was finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple’s daughter.
Houston appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere on September 2009. The interview was billed as “the most anticipated music interview of the decade. The interview was so candid that Whitney admitted using drugs with former husband Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine. By 1996, she told Oprah, “[doing drugs] was an everyday thing… I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself
The last 10 years of Houston’s life were dominated by drug use, rumors of relapses and trips to rehab.
She launched a comeback tour in 2009, and in April 2010 she called media reports she was using drugs again “ridiculous.” In May 2011, Houston enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program.
Despite her personal troubles, Houston commanded great affection among her music industry colleagues, and emotional tributes flooded the media in the hours after news broke of her death.
Rapper Nicki Minaj summed it up with a tweet “Jesus Christ, not Whitney Houston. Greatest of all time.”
HER NOTABLE QUOTES
“I was aware of people staring at me. No one moved. They seemed almost in trance. I just stared at the clock in the center of the church. When I finished, everyone clapped and started crying”
“I’ve got a good man. He takes care of me. I don’t have to be scared of anything because I know he will kick every ass… disrespect him and you’ve got a problem.”
Dzansi Brian Dzidefo