February 12, 2012


Whitney Houston Dead at 48

Pascal Le Segretain
Pascal Le Segretain

The Associated Press reported Saturday evening that singer/actress Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. 

According to TMZ, "a member of Whitney's entourage found her in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel ... and called hotel security -- who then dialed 911. When paramedics arrived Houston was found unresponsive." She was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m., according to TMZ. The cause of death has yet to be announced, though Houston had been battling drug addiction for years. The AP reports that Houston had been at GRAMMY rehearsals Thursday coaching R&B singers Brandy and Monica and "looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath."

Houston's myriad personal problems, most notably documented in the 2005 reality show Being Bobby Brown, overshadowed the singer's massive, earlier success. She was the most awarded female musician of all time, garnering six GRAMMY Awards and 30 Billboard Music Awards and selling more than 170 million albums worldwide. 1992's soundtrack for The Bodyguard, which starred Houston alongside Kevin Costner, has sold more than 44 million copies worldwide and remains the best-selling soundtrack of all time.

Next to Madonna, no female vocalist ruled the 1980s more than Houston, who scored seven consecutive No. 1 songs between 1985 and 1987, including "Greatest Love of All" and "How Will I Know." Her blend of gospel, R&B and pop would set the template for a generation of singers—few could pull off bombastic ballads and light, lovesick pop in equal measure—and as she entered the 1990s, fans saw a more mature, emotional brand of songwriting. She was a sex symbol, albeit a demure one, who exuded a sense of glamour and grace far removed from her more salacious peers. And at the height of her career, years before AutoTune was correcting every aspiring singer, Houston's vocal range was unparalleled. (Exhibit A: The "I" in 1992's megahit "I Will Always Love You.")

Like a living Behind the Music, though, Houston's public problems with drug and alcohol would strip her of her voice and, possibly, her life. Concerts were missed. Interviews were either postponed or canceled. And while albums like 2002's Just Whitney and 2003's One Wish: The Holiday Album sold well, it was clear that Houston's chart dominance had come to an end. 

Houston's death comes on the eve of the GRAMMY Awards, music's biggest night. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization producing Sunday's award show, has yet to respond to Houston's death and the impact it will have on the ceremony. While producers are presumably scrambling to compile a tribute video ahead of the 8 p.m. ceremony, expect to hear numerous winners and presenters discuss how the singer's voice and charisma influenced their own work.

It was a voice that was literally born into music. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a GRAMMY Award-winning gospel singer, while her cousin Dionne Warwick remains one of music's most successful soul and pop singers. Aretha Franklin, Houston's godmother, was a major early influence on the singer, who would tour nightclubs as a teenager with her mother. After singing back-up on songs by Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls, Houston began a successful modeling career before being discovered by music vet Clive Davis, who signed her to Arista Records in 1983. Whitney Houston, her debut album, was released in 1985.

Photos Timeline of Whitney's Stardom

Listen to all 40 Whitney Houston singles on our Spotify Tribute Playlist.

Watch Whitney's Best Musical Performances.

Read Whitney Houston's No. 1 Songs: A Primer.

Read Celebrities React to Whitney Houston's Death on Twitter.

Share Your Whitney Memories with Fuse's Esteban Serrano.