~ OBITUARY ~
In Loving Memory of Whitney Houston
August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012
By invitation only
|In lieu of flowers, please forward all donations to:
THE WHITNEY E. HOUSTON
Academy of Creative and Performing Arts
P. O. BOX 835
South Plainfield, New Jersey 07080
Whitney Houston died at the age of 48. Best known for hits “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “So Emotional,” Houston is the only artist to consecutively chart seven No. 1 hits. During her illustrious career she earned 415 awards, making her the most-awarded female music artist of all time. Whitney paved the way for female vocalists and will endure as one of music’s most beloved voices.
Whitney Houston was born in what was then a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. (September 13, 1920 – February 2, 2003), and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Emily Drinkard).She was of African American, Native American and Dutch descent. Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin were all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres. Whitney was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle class area in East Orange, New Jersey when she was four.
At the age of 11, Whitney began to follow in her mother’s footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”.
When Whitney was a teenager, she attended Mount Saint Dominic Academy, a Catholic girls high school in Caldwell, New Jersey, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she described as the “sister she never had”. While Whitney was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Whitney was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of whom would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.
In 1978, at age 15, Whitney sang background vocals on Chaka Khan’s hit single “I’m Every Woman”, a song she would later turn into a larger hit for herself on her monster-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson.
In the early 1980s, Whitney started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. 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. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Michael Beinhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Whitney contributed the ballad “Memories”, a cover of a song by Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called her contribution “one of the most gorgeous ballads you’ve ever heard”. She also appeared as a lead vocalist on one track on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983.
Whitney had previously been offered several recording agencies (Michael Zager in 1980, and Elektra Records in 1981). In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records saw her performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub and was impressed. He convinced Arista’s head Clive Davis to make time to see Whitney perform. Davis too was impressed and offered a worldwide recording contract which Whitney signed. Later that year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on The Merv Griffin Show.
Whitney signed with Arista in 1983 but did not begin work on her album immediately. The label wanted to make sure no other label signed the singer away. Davis wanted to ensure he had the right material and producers for Whitney’s debut album. Some producers had to pass on the project due to prior commitments. Whitney first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled “Hold Me” which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Whitney her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985.
Over the following 25 years, Whitney’s music career flourished with many chart-topping hit songs and setting numerous records in the recording industry.
During that time, Whitney had two tremendously standout performances, her singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991, and in 1992, her singing of “The Bodyguard” soundtrack’s lead single “I Will Always Love You”, written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton in 1974. Whitney’s versions won critical acclaim.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Whitney was an unstoppable force in pop music. With sales estimated to have exceeded 200 million records, she is one of the biggest-selling female singers ever.
On February 11, 2012, Whitney went home to be with the Lord. She leaves to cherish her memory, her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, her mother Dr. Emily Cissy Houston, her brothers Gary (Pat) Houston and Michael (Donna) Houston; her cousin Dionne Warwick; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives, friends, church family, and fans world-wide. She was pre-deceased by her father, the late John R. Houston.