Tributes poured in from around the world for a singer whose remarkable vocal power and range produced some of the most memorable music of her generation, including her signature hit, “I Will Always Love You.”
“I don’t have to mask my emotion in front of a room full of so many dear friends,” Davis told a sombre crowd at his gala dinner and party just hours after Houston’s death. “I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years.”
“We will do something appropriate tomorrow, and nothing could be more appropriate than having Jennifer Hudson sing on stage for Whitney,” Portnow said. “In our community, we celebrate things … let’s celebrate Whitney Houston.”
Outside the hotel in the wealthy enclave of Beverly Hills, a phalanx of hotel security personnel guarded the perimeter to prevent reporters and fans from entering. Some of Houston’s admirers gathered on the sidewalk, lighting candles and singing her songs.
Over the course of a 30-year career in which she established herself as one of the most-admired and influential singers of her time, Houston won six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums and sold some 170 million CDs, singles and videos. The soundtrack for a hit movie in which she starred, “The Bodyguard,” was among the best-selling soundtracks in movie history.
Her 1985 debut, “Whitney Houston,” became the best-selling debut album by a female act at that time, and spawned several hits including “How Will I Know.” Her second studio CD, 1987’s “Whitney,” became the first album by a female artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
She crossed over from music success to TV and movies, appearing in “The Bodyguard” (1992), as well as “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996).
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1963, Houston was inspired to perform as a child by soul singers in her family, including mother Cissy Houston and cousins Dionne Warwick and the late Dee Dee Warwick. Her godmother was Aretha Franklin.
“I just can’t talk about it now,” Franklin said in a statement. “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen. My heart goes out to Cissy, her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby (Brown).”
By the early 1990s, Houston reigned as the queen of pop, but her critical and commercial success on stage was accompanied by an increasingly troubled personal life. In 1992 she married singer Bobby Brown, who had a bad-boy reputation, and their tumultuous 14 years together were marred by drug abuse and domestic violence.
In 2000, she and Brown were stopped at an airport in Hawaii and security guards discovered marijuana in their luggage. In a 2002 TV interview, she admitted using marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs.
The last 10 years of Houston’s life were dominated by drug use, rumours of relapses and trips to rehab.
She launched a comeback tour in 2009, and in April 2010 she called media reports she was using drugs again “ridiculous.” In May 2011, Houston enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program.
Despite her personal troubles, Houston commanded great affection among her music industry colleagues, and emotional tributes flooded the media in the hours after news broke of her death.
“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney’s passing,” legendary music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. “… I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”
Barbra Streisand said in a statement: “She had everything, beauty, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us.”
Pop star Rihanna posted on Twitter “No words, just tears.”