Sunday, 12 February 2012

Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012)

I was saddened this morning as I woke to the news that the great Whitney Houston had sadly passed away, so I've decided to post this tribute to one of the greatest voices ever to grace the earth........

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American singer, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all time. list of awards includes two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards as of 2010. Houston was also one of the world's best selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. Inspired by prominent soul singers in her family, including her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother Aretha Franklin, Houston began singing with New Jersey church's junior gospel choir at age 11.
After she began performing alongside her mother in night clubs in the New York City area, she was discovered by Arista Records label head Clive Davis. Houston released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification.

Houston was the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits ("Saving All My Love for You", "How Will I Know", "Greatest Love of All", "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"). She was the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Top Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year end charts. Houston's 1985 debut album Whitney Houston, became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone's best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Americans of all time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987), became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know", influenced several African-American female artists to follow in her footsteps.

Whitney Houston's first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film's original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single "I Will Always Love You ", became the best selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period. The album makes her the only female act in the top 10 list of the best selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996). The Preacher's Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history. Three years after the release of her fourth studio album My Love is Your Love (1998), she renewed her recording contract with Arista Records. She released her fifth studio album Just Whitney in 2002, and the Christmas-themed One Wish, the Holiday Album in 2003. In 2009, Houston released her seventh studio album I Look to You.
On February 11, 2012, Houston died of unknown causes at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in Beverley Hills, California.

1963–1976: Early life

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. (September 13, 1920 - February 2, 2003), 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.
At the age of 11, Houston began to follow in her mother's footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah."
When Houston was a teenager, she attended a Catholic girls high school, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she describes as the "sister she never had." While Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of whom would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.

1977–1984: Early career

Houston spent some of her teenage years touring nightclubs where her mother Cissy was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her. In 1977, at age 14, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager's single "Life's a Party." Zager subsequently offered to obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1978, at age 15, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khans hit single "I'm Every Woman," a song she would later turn into a larger hit for herself on her monster-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson In the early 1980s, Houston started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared as a lead vocalist on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983. She appeared in Seventeen and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of the magazine. She was also featured in layouts in the pages of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Young Miss, and appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink TV commercial. Her striking looks and girl-next-door charm made her one of the most sought after teen models of that time. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Ben Dover, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading calledOne Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad "Memories." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called her contribution "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard."
Houston had previously been offered several recording agencies (Michael Zager in 1980, and Elektra Records in 1981). In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records saw her performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub and was impressed. He convinced Arista's head Clive Davis to make time to see Houston perform. Davis too was impressed and offered a worldwide recording contract which Houston signed. Later that year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on The Merv Griffin Show.
Houston signed with Arista in 1983 but did not begin work on her album immediately. The label wanted to make sure no other label signed the singer away. Davis wanted to ensure he had the right material and producers for Houston's debut album. Some producers had to pass on the project due to prior commitments. Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me" which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985.

1985–1986: Rise to international prominence

With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaikne Jackson, and Narda Michael Walden, Houston's debut album Whitney Houston was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone magazine praised Houston, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years" while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent." Arista Records promoted Houston's album with three different singles from the album in the US, UK and other European countries. In the UK, the dance-funk "Someone for Me," failed to chart in the country, was the first single while "All At Once" was in such European countries as the Netherlands and Belgium, where the song reached top 5 on the singles charts, respectively. In the US, the soulful Ballad "You Give Good Love" was chosen as the lead single from Houston's debut to establish her in the black marketplace first. Outside the US, the song failed to get enough attention to become a hit but in the US, gave the album its first major hit as it peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 1 on the Hot R&B chart. As a result, the album began to sell strongly, and Houston continued promotion by touring nightclubs in the US. She also began performing on late-night television talk shows, which were not usually accessible to unestablished black acts. The jazzy ballad "Saving All My Love For You" was released next and it would become Houston's first No. 1 single in both the US and the UK. She was now an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osborne on his nationwide tour. "Thinking About You" was released as the promo single only to R&B-oriented radio stations, which peaked at number ten of the US R&B Chart. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by black, Latin, and other racial minorities while favoring white acts. The third US single, "How Will I Know," peaked at No. 1 and introduced Houston to the MTV audience thanks to its video. Houston's subsequent singles from this, and future albums, would make her the first African-American female artist to receive consistent heavy rotation on MTV. By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. The final single, "Greatest Love Of All," became Houston's biggest hit at the time after peaking No. 1 and remaining there for three weeks on the Hot 100 chart, which made her debut the first album by a female artist to yield three No. 1 hits. Houston was No. 1 artist of the year and Whitney Houston was the No. 1 album of the year on 1986 Billboard year-end charts, making her the first female artist to earn that distinction. At the time, Houston released the best-selling debut album by a solo artist. Houston then embarked on her world tour, Greatest Love Tour The album had become an international success, and was certified 13× platinum (diamond) in the United States alone, and has sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year and was not eligible for the Best New Artist category due to her previous hit R&B duet recording with Teddy Pendergrass in 1984. She won her first Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love for You." At the same award show, she performed that Grammy-winning hit; that performance later winning her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or music Programme. Houston won seven American Music Awards in total in 1986 and 1987, and an MTV Video Music Award. The album's popularity would also carry over to the 1987 Grammy Awards when "Greatest Love of All" would receive a Record of the Year nomination. Houston's debut album is listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of all time Fame's Definitive 200 list. Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. Following Houston's breakthrough, doors were opened for other African-American female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker to find notable success in popular music and on MTV.
On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hills Hilton, in Beverly Hills, California, of causes not immediately known. Beverly Hills paramedics found the singer unresponsive and performed CPR for about 20 minutes before declaring her dead at 3:55 p.m. TMZ reported, "Sources tell us ... when EMTs arrived Whitney's body was already removed from the bathtub so it will take an autopsy to determine if she OD'd, drowned or died from some other cause." Local police said there were "no obvious signs of criminal intent".

Reaction

Several celebrities released statements responding to Houston's death. Dolly Parton, whose song "I Will Always Love You" was covered by Houston, said, "I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed'." Houston's godmother Aretha Franklin said, "It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen."
Houston's former husband, Bobby Brown, was reported to be "in and out of crying fits" since receiving the news. He did not cancel a scheduled performance and within hours of his ex-wife's sudden death, an audience in Mississippi observed as Brown blew kisses skyward, tearfully saying: "I love you, Whitney".
Ken Erhlich, executive producer of the 54th Grammy Awards announced that Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan would perform a tribute to Houston at the February 12, 2012 awards. He said "event organizers believed Hudson — an Academy Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning artist — could perform a respectful musical tribute to Houston". Erhlich went on to say: "It's too fresh in everyone's memory to do more at this time, but we would be remiss if we didn't recognize Whitney's remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her Grammy wins and nominations over the years"
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