I was shocked and sad when I heard that Whitney Houston was dead. She was only 48 years old–just a few years older than me. As I watched coverage on CNN and saw clips of her video The Greatest Love of All my heartfelt condolences went out to her mother Cissy Houston who was featured in the video. In the scene where mother and daughter hugged, I thought to myself, little did Cissy know that she would one day be burying her beautiful daughter.
Whitney was blessed with an amazing voice. I couldn’t believe that such a powerful came from such a slender person. She could belt out notes that no one could. She was in a class all by herself. The first time I heard her sing was I believe the song she did with Teddy Prendergast 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.
Whitney was a model. 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.
Whitney was destined to be a great singer. I read on Wikipedia that she 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 is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one 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 Albums 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.
She crossed over from singing to acting. Her first movie was “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner. She looked stunning in the movie. She helped to make the movie a blockbuster with the hit theme song, “I Will Always Love You.” I read that the movie was originally supposed to feature Diana Ross and Steve McQueen but was scrapped because it was too controversial. Kevin Costner based his portrayal of his character on Steve McQueen and even got the actor’s trademark haircut. Whitney starred in and contributed to the soundtracs of other notable movies such as Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.
It was revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that in the mid-1990’s she became a “heavy” user of marijuana and cocaine. By the 2000s she was struggling; her voice grew smaller, scratchier and less secure, and her performances grew erratic. It seemed as if she had made a comeback. At the BET Honors Award show in 2010, she was vibrant and she thanked her fans for their prayers and support as she accepted her award. She acknowledged her mother Cissy who was in tears. It was a touching moment. Two years later Whitney died on the night before the Grammys. Jennifer Hudson paid her a fitting tribute at the show. Whitney was also celebrated at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy’s party.
Whitney as a woman of action. She was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modeling days, the singer refused to work with any agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa. In 1989, she formed The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children, a non-profit organization that has raised funds for the needs of children around the world. The organization cares for homelessness, children with cancer or AIDS, and other issues of self-empowerment. In 1990, she was the spokesperson for a youth leadership conference hosted in Washington DC. She had a private audience with President George HW Bush in the Oval office to discuss the associated challenges. Charities Whitney supported are:
When America was entangled in the Persian Gulf War, Whitney performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991. Due to overwhelming response to her rendition, it was released as a commercial single and video of her performance, and reached the Top 20 on the US Hot 100, making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit of that magnitude. Whitney donated all her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross Gulf Crisis Fund. As a result, the singer was named to the Red Cross Board of Governors. Her rendition was considered the benchmark for singers and critically acclaimed. Rolling Stone commented that “her singing stirs such strong patriotism. Unforgettable”, and the performance ranked No. 1 on the 25 most memorable music moments in NFL history list. Following the attacks on 9/11, it was released again by Arista Records, all profits going towards the firefighters and victims of the attacks.
Later in 1991, Whitney put together her Welcome Home Heroes concert with HBO for the soldiers fighting in the Persian Gulf War and their families. The free concert took place at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia in front of 3,500 servicemen and women. HBO descrambled the concert so that it was free for everyone to watch. Houston’s concert gave HBO its highest ratings ever.
She was a woman of many accomplishments. Three of her singles, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. Houston became the first female artist to generate four number-one singles from one album. Whitney has been certified 9× Platinum in the US for shipments of over 9 million copies, and has sold a total of 20 million copies worldwide. The success of the tours during 1986–87 and her two studio albums ranked Houston No. 8 for the highest earning entertainers list according to Forbes magazine. She was the highest earning African-American woman overall and the third highest entertainer after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy. With her world tour continuing overseas, Houston was still one of the top 20 highest earning entertainers for 1987–88 according to Forbes magazine.
What a remarkable woman Whitney Houston was. What a loss of a great icon who captivated many with her beauty and voice. She will be greatly missed. Notes to Women salutes her and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney’s only child. The 18 year old was recently released from the hospital after she was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Sunday morning. According to reports, she was being treated for stress and was taken out of the Beverly Hilton on a stretcher at around 10:30 a.m. “Bobbi was always by [Whitney’s] side in everything she did,” a source told US weekly.
Bobbi and her mother were extremely close. Journalist Jawn Murray who interviewed Whitney numerous times over the years, told Fox News: “They were amazingly close…they had a relationship that really resembled the relationship that Whitney Houston had with her own mother, Cissy Houston,” Murray said. “Whitney loved her daughter. Bobbi Kristina was her only child and her pride and joy. Because of that, she treasured her.” Apparently she shared some very personal photos of her and her mother on Twitter and tweeted this heartwrenching message to her Twitter followers: “This would be MYWORLD. I love my mommmmy, more then you’ll ever imagine.” Our hearts and prayers go out to this young woman who has suffered such a tragic loss.
God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?
I finally faced the fact that it isn’t a crime not having friends. Being alone means you have fewer problems.
I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.
My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone tells a lie about you, don’t fight it.
When I decided to be a singer, my mother warned me I’d be alone a lot. Basically we all are. Loneliness comes with life.
When I heard Aretha, I could feel her emotional delivery so clearly. It came from down deep within. That’s what I wanted to do.