Whitney Houston, 1963–2012
Her Powerful, Timeless Voice Influenced Generations of Singers
Whitney Houston was born on August 9th, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey. She died just 48 years later. Infamous in recent years for her struggles with drug addiction and her famously volatile marriage to Bobby Brown, Houston will ultimately be remembered not for her troubled personal life, but for her powerful, timeless voice and her triumphs as a music sensation.
Houston grew up around music, soaking in the sounds of gospel choirs and well-known singers before she could even talk. Her Mother, Cissy, sang gospel and was a backup singer for some of the biggest acts in the business, including Dusty Springfield, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett. Singing talent was in Houston’s blood (and in that of her cousins, Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick), and her godmother was none other than Aretha Franklin. By the time she reached high school, Whitney Houston was already on the path to stardom, singing backup for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. Meanwhile, she had begun a successful modeling career, appearing in the pages of popular magazines like Glamour and Seventeen.
In 1985, Houston’s first album was launched and became a huge hit, propelling the singer into fame seemingly overnight, though the project had been in the works for nearly two years when it was released. Simply titled “Whitney Houston,” the album became the first by a new female artist ever to yield three number-one singles, the most memorable of which being “The Greatest Love of All.” The black-and-white photo above, which was scanned to digital by the Associated Press, shows Houston belting out a powerful melody during a benefit concert at Boston Garden on May 10th, 1986.
Houston’s huge voice and unique style put her at the center of pop culture, and under this spotlight she became a strong influence on generations of singers to follow, from Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys to Christina Aguilera, Queen Latifah, and Jennifer Hudson.
In 1992, Whitney Houston took Hollywood by storm when she starred with Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard.” The film yielded the hit song “I Will Always Love You,” a soft melodic love song by Dolly Parton reinterpreted by Houston as a power ballad. The single became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history, and the soundtrack won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Over the following years of her career, Houston amassed 22 American Music Awards and six Grammys, making her one of the most decorated female singers of all time.