Whitney Houston has established a superstardom benchmark that any musical achievements in the modern era cannot obscure. She released singles, combined albums, and videos worth 170 million during her career with Arista Records, which were sold worldwide. Her career as a singer has influenced many female and male vocalists in the music industry (Houston, Cissy, Dionne, and Dickey 5).
Historians indicate that Whitney had record-setting achievements. Firstly, she was the only artist to chart at least seven consecutive Billboard Hot 100 Hits. Those hits include “Saving How Will I Know”, “All My Love for You, Greatest Love of All”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (Who Loves Me), “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, and “So Emotional” (Gill 1). Moreover, she became the first woman to participate in the Billboard 200 album chart, with her second album in 1987. This is not to say she was the first female and the only artist to achieve seven consecutive platinum albums, which include Whitney, Whitney Houston, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Waiting To Exhale, The Bodyguard, and My Love Is Your Love and The Preacher’s Wife soundtracks. In fact, the release of the Bodyguard soundtrack became among the top biggest selling album of all time in the United States, reaching 17x-platinum and more than 42 million copies sold globally. In addition, the Whitney version of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ is considered the top-selling United States single of all time, reaching 4x platinum (Smith 305).
Whitney was born on August 9, 1963, in a place called Newark, New Jersey (Smith 304). She was born into a musical family, which made her success predictable and foretold. Indeed, her legendary heritage can be compared to many American icons; for instance, Cissy Houston’s daughter, who made her name in the Sweet Inspirational Vocal Group of Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, who participated in the Gospel Drinkards quartet. Another icon compared to Whitney is the singer Dee Warwick’s cousin, who first introduced the original version of ‘You’re No Good’ and ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ in the 1960s (Smith 304).
Her mother and cousins nurtured Whitney’s passion for gospel music when she was very young. When she was only a teenager, she participated in singing in the New York scene and recorded her first performance in the 70s and early 1980s. Her eclectic performance could be compared with other outstanding singers, for example, Chaka Khan, Neville Brothers, Herbie Mann, and Michael Zager (Cox 23).
In 1983, Arista records were in the realm of their first mega-successful operation when Clive Davis went to a New York nightclub where Whitney performed and signed her during the concert. The partnership was worth it because she was able to make her debut album with Arista records. The self-titled Whitney Houston hit was launched in 1985. It marked the Arista second decade of success and continued to yield other hits, including the three consecutive singles, the Grammy-winning How Will I Know, Saving All My Love For You, and The Greatest Love of All, which become a real anthem. The album made Whitney an important new recording artist locally and abroad. She could sell more than 12 million copies in the US and another million copies worldwide. The feat made the recording as the biggest-selling debut by a soloist artist (Houston et al. 10).
After the release of ‘I Will Always Love You,’ she released three singles from her album, including ‘I’m Every Woman,’ ‘Run To You,’ and ‘I Have Nothing,’ which were major international hits (Cox 25).
Whitney established her screen appeal through a well-received video clip that took over MTVs rotations for the first time on air. She made her first debut in The Bodyguard, where she co-starred Kevin Costner, an Oscar-winning director, and actor. The movie broke all the box office records in the world and became the biggest-selling motion picture album of the century. It was voted the Grammy-winning album in the same year.
In the film industry, the movie Waiting to Exhale in which she co-starred with Angela basset, Lela Rochon, and Loretta Devine, and directed by Whitaker, went on to fetch more than $70 million dollars. The soundtrack for the same movie featured three tracks from Whitney: “Exhale” (shoop Shoop), “Count On Me”, and “Why Does It Hurt So Bad”.
In 1996, Whitney participated in the third motion picture, The Preacher’s Wife, together with other stars, including Courtney B, Denzel Washington, and Penny Marshall as a director. This film was based on the 1947 classic by Cary Grant and Loretta Young, ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ (Gill 2).
Another accomplishment to her list came when the musical Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella were aired on The World of Disney in 1997. The film starred Brandy as Cinderella, Whitney as Fairy Godmother, Whoopi Goldberg as the queen, and Bernadette Peters as a wicked stepmother. The program attracted more than 60 million viewers, and the ABC network got its highest Sunday rating for the first time in a decade. In fact, Whitney Company and Brown House productions were the executive producers. The movie attracted seven Emmy nominations, including other categories, musical or comedy. In essence, a home video shattered all the previous records to become the video of the century ever produced for a television movie (Houston et al. 21).
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized her as the greatest female artist of all time. She received a tally of 411 awards in all the America Categories by the year 2006. All those awards included BET Awards, Grammy Awards, American Musical Awards, NAACP Image Awards, MTV VMAs Awards in Europe and U.S.A, Gospel Music Association Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, among others (Sun 18).
Her church upbringing encouraged her to establish Whitney Houston Foundation for Children Inc in 1989. This non-profit organization cares for children’s problems, such as homelessness, HIV / AIDS, cancer, and the problem of unemployment. In 1995, the organization was awarded VHI Honor because of its charitable work. In fact, through this organization, funds have been gathered for various causes involving younger children across the world, from Newark to South Africa. The initiative has so far generated more than $ 300,000 to support the children in the Children’s Defense Fund (Smith 306). Her efforts have earned her respect and recognition from other organizations such as the United Negro College Fund, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and Children Diabetes Foundation. In addition, singing to audiences across the continents has won her worldwide recognition, and she has found an unending connection with her fans.
Despite Whitney’s successful career, her persona experienced several dents in early 2000. She was reported to have an acquisition of marijuana in Hawaii, an incident that made her pull out of the Academy Awards just before her performance because of alleged poor rehearsal and lack of focus. In 2002, she admitted in a TV interview to drug abuse and enrolled for a rehab in between 2004 and 2006. After a successful rehabilitation in 2006, she began to rebuild her career in the eyes of her fans by attending the Carousel of Hope Ball and Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Party. In the same period, she divorced Bobby Brown and took full parental custody of her daughter (Houston et al. 89).
After almost a decade, she was still struggling with drug abuse. In 2010, she tried a comeback through world tours in the first time for more than ten years. However, her performance was shaky and received negative reviews from fans. There were even cases when people walked out during some of her concerts. In May 2011, Whitney returned to rehab for alcohol and drug treatment, a voluntary program she undertook as part of her recovery process. In Sep 2011, she obtained film rights in preparation to star in the remake of the 1976 film ‘Sparkle.’ (Houston et al. 101).
On Feb 9, 2012, she attended a pre-Grammy party, which was held by Clive, who was her mentor. After the party, she appeared her worst in terms of health. On 11 Feb 2012, she was found dead in Los Angeles in her room at the Hilton Beverly Hotel on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Her death was revealed as an accidental drowning, with drug abuse and heart disease being the main cause. Whitney’s final songs were used in the ‘Spackle’ soundtrack later after her death. She was laid to rest in her hometown, New Jersey (Gill 1).
Cox, Ted. Whitney Houston. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998. Print.
Gill, Andy. “Whitney Houston, the greatest voice of her generation.” The Independent 2012.
Houston, Cissy, Dionne Warwick, and Lisa Dickey. Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.
Smith, Jessie C. Notable Black American Women: Book Ii. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1996. Print.
Sun, The. “Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston had weeks-long affair at Neverland ranch, pal says.” Fox News 2012.