Singer Whitney Houston dies at 48

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Whitney Houston Dies aged 48
Whitney Houston Dies aged 48

Whitney  Houston, who reigned as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal  image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to  singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday night. She was 48.

The Beverly Hills Police Department responded to an emergency call at the  Beverly Hilton hotel Saturday, Lt. Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills Police  Department said.

Members of hotel staff and fire department officials attempted to revive a  person on the fourth floor, who has since been confirmed to be Houston, Rosen  said.

Officials did not see obvious signs of criminal intent, and are currently  investigating to determine the cause of death, he said.

A coroner’s official says Whitney Houston’s body has been transported from  the hotel and is awaiting an autopsy.

Capt. Brian Elias of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office says the  examination has not been scheduled and that investigators are awaiting reports  before an autopsy can be conducted.

He says he could not release any information about how Houston’s body was  found at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Her body remained at the hotel for several  hours before being taken to the morgue.

Houston’s death on the eve of the Grammy Awards sent shock waves through the  music industry, with many stars expressing surprise and sadness.

Brown reportedly broke down backstage before a show with his band New Edition  in Southhaven, a few miles south of Memphis.

Brown skipped the first song of the concert, but appeared onstage for the  second. He shouted, “I love you, Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to  come on this stage.” He then blew a kiss to the sky with visibly teary eyes.

Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis held his annual concert and dinner  Saturday at the hotel where her body was found. Producer Jimmy Jam, who had  worked with Houston, said he anticipated the evening would become a tribute to  her.

Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.

“I just can’t talk about it now,” Franklin said in a short statement. “It’s  so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming  across the TV screen.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning  during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Houston’s death is sure to put a damper on the Grammy’s, which are considered  music’s biggest night of the year.

Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan will perform a tribute to Houston at the  awards, according to reports.

Grammy executive producer Ken Erhlich said event organizers believed Hudson  — an Academy Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning artist — could  perform a “respectful musical tribute” to Houston, the Los Angeles Times  reported.

“It’s too fresh in everyone’s memory to do more at this time, but we would be  remiss if we didn’t recognize Whitney’s remarkable contribution to music fans in  general, and, in particular, her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her  Grammy wins and nominations over the years,” Ehrlich told the newspaper.

According to ET Online, Chaka Khan will also perform as part of Sunday  night’s tribute to Houston.

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits  like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

She had the perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had  sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

“Six-time GRAMMY winner Whitney Houston was one of the world’s greatest pop  singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the  past three decades,” Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy said  in a statement.

“Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. A light  has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest  condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her  beautiful voice,” he said.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina  Aguilera to Mariah  Carey, who, when she debuted, sounded so much like Houston that many thought  it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of  the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her  once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public  appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her  once-pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she  had during her prime.

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,”  Houston told ABC’s Diane  Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her  side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists  in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States  alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer  Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne  Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha  Franklin.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she  sang backup for Chaka  Khan, Jermaine  Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when  music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it  was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good  Morning America.”

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really  sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her  album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit  after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best  female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love  of All” also became hit singles.

Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits  like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation’s most  powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms  of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and  instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool  self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks  of intensity.”

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like  Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to  go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain  through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in  1989.

“Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?” she told Katie  Couric in 1996. “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.”

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner  Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union;  she was seen as pop’s pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already  had children of his own. (The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.)  Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI  to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may  have believed.

“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you  have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same  place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You see somebody, and you deal with  their image, that’s their image. It’s part of them, it’s not the whole picture.  I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody’s angel. I can get down and  dirty. I can get raunchy.”

It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of  Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super  Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed  her as America’s sweetheart.

In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with “The Bodyguard.” Despite  mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret  Service agent (Kevin  Costner) was an international success.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning  rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which sat atop the charts  for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the  “Bodyguard” soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with “Waiting to Exhale” and “The  Preacher’s Wife.” Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album,  “My Love Is Your Love,” in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B  vocal for the cut “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”

But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an  interview with Oprah  Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time “The Preacher’s Wife” was released,”  (doing drugs) was an everyday thing. … I would do my work, but after I did my  work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. … I wasn’t happy by that  point in time. I was losing myself.”

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included  a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to  Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at  an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael  Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her  crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown’s reality show, “Being Bobby  Brown,” was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she  declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight  for a few years.

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album “I  Look To You.” The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually  go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on “Good Morning  America” went awry as Houston’s voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an  interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that  Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many  fans unimpressed; some walked out.

Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing  drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming  illness for cancellations.

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