Whitney Houston—She Understood the Assignment Everytime
Whitney Houston was a singer and actress born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 9, 1963. Houston came from a musical family. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a gospel singer. Cissy Houston made her name in the Drinkard Four gospel quartet. Cissy joined the Sweet Inspirations vocal group that sang backup for well-known artists such as Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. Dee Dee Warwick was Houston’s cousin. In the 1960s, Warwick introduced the original versions of “You’re No Good” and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”.
How It All Started
At a young age, Houston began singing in the choir at her mother’s church, New Hope Baptist Church. While Houston was in high school, she sang backup for artists like Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. In the 70s and early 80s, Houston sang in New York. At the age of 19, Clive Davis, Arista Records president, signed Houston. Davis found Houston at a New York nightclub that she performed.
Two years after signing with Arista Records, Houston dropped her debut album, Whitney Houston(1985). In 1986, Houston’s cousin Warwick presented her with her first Grammy award for “Saving All My Love For You”. In 1987, Houston released her second album, Whitney(1987). The song “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” won a Grammy award. For Nelson Mandela’s birthday, Houston made an appearance. In 1992, Houston starred in the movie The Bodyguard(1992). The soundtrack for the film won 3 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. The album included Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s 1974 song, “I Will Always Love You”. The song broke records and stayed on top of U.S. charts for 14 weeks, making it Houston’s biggest hit.
In 1998, she released My Love Is Your Love, her first album in a long time that wasn’t a soundtrack. The song, “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay”, won Houston another Grammy Award. In the same year, she won an Academy Award for the single “When You Believe”. The single was for the animated film The Prince Of Egypt. In 2004, despite the bad press Houston received regarding her personal life Guinea World Records awarded her the most-awarded female. The last album Houston released before her death was I Look To You(2009).
Charted 7 consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits:
“Saving All My Love For You”
“How Will I Know”
“Greatest Love Of All”
“I Wanna Dance With Someone (Who Loves Me)”
“Didn’t We Almost Have It All”
“Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
The Bodyguard was 18x-platinum in the U.S. alone
Top 5 biggest-selling albums of all-time
Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” was 8x-platinum for digital and physical copies.
Biggest selling single of all time by a female artist
1st Female artist to enter the Billboard 200 album chart at #1.
8 consecutive multi-platinum albums:
Whitney Houston (1985)
I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990)
The Bodyguard (1992)
Waiting To Exhale (1995)
The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack (1996)
My Love Is Your Love (1998)
Whitney: The Greatest Hits (2000)
Careers Outside of Music
Whitney began modeling around the age of 15. She was one of the 1st African American women to be featured in the Seventeen magazine. Some more notable magazines she was featured in include: Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Young Miss. Although Whitney could have pursued a career in modeling with her natural beauty, that was not the career path she chose. Once Whitney turned 18 she continued to pursue a career in music, she said modeling was nice but singing was what she truly wanted to do.
Houston was a woman of many talents, including acting. In 1992, Houston starred in the movie The Bodyguard (1992) alongside actor Kevin Costner. The film broke box office records worldwide and was the most extensive selling motion picture soundtrack of all time. In 1995, Houston starred in the movie Waiting To Exhale (1995) alongside Angel Basset, Loretta Divine, and Lela Rochon. The film was directed by the well-known actor Forest Whittaker. It made a gross of over $80 million, and the soundtrack for the film was certified 7x-platinum in the U.S. The following year Whitney was in the film Preacher’s Wife (1996) with the infamous Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance. In 1997, Houston starred in Disney’s musical Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997) alongside the famous singer Brandy. Houston’s dream to be in a remake of the original 1976 film, and in 2012 her dream came true. The last movie she was featured in was Sparkle (2012) alongside Jordan Sparks and Tika Sumpter.
Giving Back to the Community
Although Houston was a Popstar, she made sure she gave back to the community any way she could. In 1989, Houston created the “Whitney Houston Foundation For Children Inc”. The foundation is for homelessness, children with cancer and AIDS, and other issues of self-empowerment. In 1991, Houston donated all the money earned from her famous Super Bowl XXV Star-Spangled Banner performance to the American Red Cross for Gulf War Troops. In the same year, American Red Cross elected Houston as a member of their Board of Directors.
When the devastation of 9/11 happened, Houston did what she could to support the first responders. Her famous Star Spangled Banner Super Bowl performance was re-released as a single, and the royalties were donated to the New York Firefighters. In 2007, Houston and her sister-in-law Patricia Houston created “Teen Summit”, a nonprofit organization. Teen Summit’s mission is to rebuild and repair the lives of teens and young adults. These are only a few of her charitable moments, but Houston always gave back to others throughout her life.
During her life and career, Whitney Houston struggled with drug addiction. Houston’s family and close friends helped her battle her addiction, especially her mother. At one point, Cissy Houston told Whitney that she was with going to go to rehab voluntarily or the police would do it by force. After going to rehab and seemingly getting everything together, Houston planned on getting back to her music. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. On February 11, 2012, in Beverly Hills, California, Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel bathroom. The cause of death was a drug overdose. Houston was going to her mentor, Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Several of her friends and family talked to her before the incident, and they said she sounded fine. Houston’s death still weighs on many today as she influences so many with her undeniably magnificent voice.
Other Forms of Celebration and Recognition
There have been a couple of documentary films about Whitney Houston. Her official documentary was released in 2018 titled Whitney. Kevin MacDonald directed the film. It was nominated for Best Music Film at the Grammys and Outstanding Documentary Film at the NAACP Image Awards.
With the advancement of technology, the industry has been developing holograms for artists that passed away. There have been a few artists like Tupac and Michael Jackson who also had hologram concerts. In February, the hologram tour, An Evening With Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Tour, began in the Uk and North America. Due to the global pandemic, it was cut short. It was a live concert that celebrated the music and legacy of Whitney Houston.
On August 1, 2012, an exhibit dedicated to Houston was placed in the Grammy Museum L.A. Live. On October 19, 2018, it was moved to the Grammy Museum Experience Presidential Center. This exhibit displays Houston’s New Hope Baptist Church Choir Robe, her wards, and her Grammy outfits.
The exhibit also includes her 6 Grammy Award Speeches: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (1985), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (1987), Record of the Year (1993), Album of the Year (1993), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (1993) and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (1999).
Hall of Fame
Thirty-five years after the release of her debut album, the Rock Hall inducted her into their Hall of Fame Class of 2020. They recognized her infusion of pop, R&B, and gospel, subverted genres, and influence on other artists after her.
Whitney Houston (1985)
I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990)
The Preacher’s Wife (Original Soundtrack Album) (1996)
My Love Is Your Love (1998)
Just Whitney… (2002)
One Wish (The Holiday Album) (2003)
I Look To You (2009)
Live: Her Greatest Performances (2014)
Billboard. “Chart History: Whitney Houston.” Billboard, 2021, www.billboard.com/music/whitney-houston.
Biography.com Editors. “Whitney Houston.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014, www.biography.com/musician/whitney-houston.
Grammy Museum. “Revisit: Whitney!” Grammy Museum, Recording Academy Grammy Museum, 10 Apr. 2020, grammymuseum.org/museum-at-home/revisit-whitney/.
Seal, Mark. “The Devils in the Diva.” Vanity Fair, 8 May 2012, www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2012/06/whitney-houston-death-bathtub-drugs-rehab.
WhitneyHouston.com. “Home.” Whitney Houston Official Site, 2021, www.whitneyhouston.com/.