Birth name: Whitney Elizabeth Houston
Birthplace: Newark, NJ, USA
August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012
Years Active: 1977 – 2012
Whitney Houston was an award-winning singer and performer. Born into a musical family, her mother is the acclaimed Grammy Award-winning Gospel and Soul singer, Emily “Cissy” Houston. Cissy Houston’s vocal groups worked with numerous artists, including Aretha Franklin, Roy Hamilton, and Elvis Presley. Additionally, the Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dionne Warwick is Whitney Houston’s cousin. Houston’s first public singing was as a child at her family’s church, New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. While still in high school, Houston participated in her first professional recording sessions in the mid 1970s. She sang backup vocals on songs for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. She also modeled professionally and acted in a handful of television productions.
Just out of high school and at the age of 19, Houston signed a recording contract with Arista Records in 1983 after the label’s legendary music industry executive, Clive Davis saw her perform at a nightclub in New York City. Her debut album, Whitney Houston, was released in 1985 and produced numerous hit singles, including the Grammy Award-winning, “Saving All My Love for You.” The album has since sold more than 13 million copies in the United States, and is still the best-selling debut album by a female artist. Houston’s sophomore album, Whitney, achieved even more.
Whitney was the first album by a female artist to debut at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. It also produced four number one singles, which secured Houston with a record seven straight number one singles, including those released on her debut. The album has also sold in excess of 10 million copies in the U.S., making it her second Diamond-certified album. Houston’s third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight, was released in 1990 and continued her streak of number one singles with the first two songs released from the record going to the top of the Pop and R&B charts.
Houston pursued opportunities in acting and debuted in her first feature film, The Bodyguard, in 1992. The movie did well at the box office but the soundtrack album broke sales records due to the hit single, “I Will Always Love You.” Originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973, Houston’s cover of the song became the most successful single in popular music history at that time, selling more than 5 million copies and spending 14 weeks at the number one spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song would win the 1994 Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The soundtrack album would win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and would sell more than 16 million copies.
Houston starred in her next feature film, 1995’s Waiting to Exhale, and the soundtrack was another success, producing hit singles and selling millions of albums. Eager to pursue a creative project rooted in Gospel music, Houston starred in 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife. The film’s soundtrack contained both traditional and contemporary Gospel songs. It featured collaborations with Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, the legendary “First Lady of Gospel” Shirley Caesar, and numerous other artists and groups.
After eight years since her last non-soundtrack album, Houston released My Love Is Your Love in 1998. Again, Houston pursued many collaborations, including production work from Babyface and David Foster. The album also had a stylistic move towards Hip Hop, including collaborations with Q-Tip, Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill. While the album did not sell as well as previous releases, it did feature an R&B hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” with Houston sharing vocal duties with Kelly Price and Faith Hill.
For Houston, the 21st century started with her first greatest hits collection. Whitney: The Greatest Hits was issued in 2000. A multi-disc compilation, it contained several remixes and duets with George Michael, Deborah Cox, and Enrique Iglesias. After signing a new contract with Arista Records, Houston released her next album, Just Whitney in 2002. Her first Christmas album, One Wish: The Holiday Album came out in 2003.
Houston’s next album was delayed for several years. Finally, in 2009, I Look to You was released and, again, found Houston collaborating with other artists and expanding her stylistic palette. The album included songwriting, production, and performances with Alicia Keys, Akon, Swizz Beatz, and Diane Warren. I Look to You became her first number one album on Billboard since 1992. Houston embarked on a world tour in support of the record. With numerous projects in various stages of progress, Houston tragically died on February 11, 2012, the evening before a scheduled appearance at that year’s Grammy Awards.