whitney houston was found dead in her room at the beverly hilton hotel last night. her publicist, kristen foster, said the the cause of death is unknown. beverly hills police lieutenant mark rosen said, "there were no obvious signs of any criminal intent." the findings of an autopsy are scheduled to be released monday. she was 48.
houston was at the hotel preparing for the clive davis pre-grammy party. she will be humbly remembered in a tribute by jenifer hudson, organizers said. houston was at rehearsals for the show thursday coaching singers brandy & monica, according to a person at the event who is not authorized to speak publicly about it. the person said houston look disheveled, was sweating profusely, as liquor & cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.
at her peak, houston was one of the world's top selling artists. from the mid-80's to the late 90's she sold over 170 million albums, singles & videos. her first album in 1985, whitney houston, charted several number one hits, among them, saving all my love for you - culminating in her first of six grammy awards. her seven consecutive number one singles was a first by any artist in the record industry.
as a model, in 1981, houston became the first black female to grace the cover of seventeen magazine. she sang backup for chaka khan, jermaine jackson & many other artists. but she was discovered by her mentor, arista records producer clive davis. davis first heard her perform around this time. he once told good morning america, "the time that i first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club...it was such a stunning impact. to hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song, i mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine."
houston transitioned into films as her career gained international notoriety. she starred in, the bodyguard, whose soundtrack won a grammy. her #1 single from the film, i will always love you, was a cover of an obscure dolly parton track - it is her signature song; a song people all over the world could hear & feel her majesty, power & range. she also co-starred in the preacher's wife & waiting to exhale
her 1992 marriage to new edition singer bobby brown was fraught with alcohol, drug use, erratic public behavior & rumored infidelities. people blamed brown's influence on houston yet we later learned she struggled with addiction, seeking treatment on more than once occasion. her abuse of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana & pills ravaged her quintessential voice, subsequently curtailing her amazing career for a few years.
in her infamous 2002 interview with abc's diane sawyer on good morning america, houston said, "the biggest devil is me. i'm either my best friend or my worst enemy." aretha franklin, houston's godmother, said she was stunned. "i just can't talk about it now. its so stunning & unbelievable. i couldn't believe what i was reading coming across the screen," said franklin, in a prepared statement.
houston was born august 9, 1963 in newark, new jersey. the daughter of legendary gospel artist cissy houston & cousin to 60's pop icon dionne warwick, houston was destined for musical greatness. she grew up singing at the new hope baptist church in newark. outside the church on a fence post, one of her sympathy cards read, "to the greatest songstress ever."
although houston became a global superstar, she had her critics. some folks in the black community felt she neglected her cultural roots to appease white audiences with pop songs. she was even booed during the 1989 soul train awards. during a 1996 interview with katie couric, houston said, "sometimes it gets down to that, you know? you're not black enough for them. i don't know. you're not r&b enough. you're very pop. the white audience has taken you away from them."
houston influenced such diverse female artists as mary j. blige, mariah carey, christina aguilera, jazmine sullivan & kelly clarkson. in 2009, she reunited with davis & released her long-awaited cd, i look to you, with a modicum of success. she sat down for a candid two-day, one-on-one interview with oprah the same year. among other issues discussed, she admitted she no longer uses crack, marijuana or pills, but drinks socially. she also reaffirmed her faith in god, family & loved ones.
in her last interview, houston talked about working with american idol sensation jordin sparks in a sequel to the movie, sparkle. she performed a duet with kelly price at a pre-grammy event thursday, yes, jesus loves me. houston was scheduled to appear at davis' annual pre-grammy event saturday night before we learned of her tragic death. a moment of silence was called & tony bennett sang in her honor.
the spirit of her incredible legacy will undoubtedly live on.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.