Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American recording artist, actress, and former fashion model. A relative to several prominent soul singers, including her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick, and godmother Aretha Franklin, Houston began singing at her New Jersey church as a member of a junior gospel choir at age eleven. After she began performing alongside her mother at night clubs in the New York City area, she was discovered by Arista Records label head Clive Davis.
Houston released her debut album Whitney Houston in 1985, which became the best-selling debut album by a female artist. 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 enabled several African-American women to follow in her success.
Following her marriage to fellow singer Bobby Brown, Houston appeared in her first starring role in the feature film The Bodyguard in 1992. The film's original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and became the world's best-selling soundtrack. Its lead single, "I Will Always Love You", became one of the best-selling singles in music history. Houston continued to star in feature films and contributed to soundtracks including Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996). After the release of her fourth studio album My Love Is Your Love (1998), she renewed her recording contract with Arista Records in 2001 for a historic $100 million dollars. She subsequently released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney the following year with One Wish: The Holiday Album being released in 2003. Amidst widespread media coverage of personal and professional turmoil, Houston's marriage to Brown ended in 2006.
Houston is one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 140 million albums and 50 million singles, worldwide. She is ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 54 million certified albums. Known as "The Voice" for her "powerful, penetrating pop-gospel" vocals, she has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Whitney Houston was born in a rough neighborhood in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. She is the third and youngest child of John and gospel singer Cissy Houston. Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin are all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres. Houston 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 West Orange, New Jersey when she was four. At the age of eleven, Houston 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 Houston was a teenager, her parents divorced and she continued to live with her mother. She attended a Roman Catholic single-sex high school, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she describes as the "sister she never had." While Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston 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.
1977?1984: Early career
Houston spent some of her teenage years touring nightclubs with her mother while Cissy was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her mother. In 1977, at age fourteen, she was the lead vocalist on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party" (the group is known for their 1978 hit "Let's All Chant"). Zager subsequently offered to help obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her young daughter to finish school first. Then in 1978, at age fifteen, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman", a song she would later turn into a hit for herself on her monstrous-selling soundtrack album The Bodyguard. She also would sing back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson. In the early 1980s, Houston then started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared as a lead vocalist on a Paul Jabara (famous for writing songs for Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand) album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends: featuring The Weather Girls, Leata Galloway & Whitney Houston (CBS Records, 1983). She appeared in Seventeen Magazine and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of Seventeen magazine. She also appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink commercial. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Michael Bienhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad "Memories". Robert Christgau of the The Village Voice called her contribution "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard".
Houston 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 Clive Davis, Arista's label head, to take time to see Houston perform. Davis too was impressed after the performance and offered her a worldwide recording contract, which Houston signed. Later that year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on the The Merv Griffin Show.
Houston signed with Arista in 1983 but did not begin work on her album immediately. Arista put forth the deal to make sure no other label signed the singer from under them. Davis wanted to find the right material and right producers for Houston's debut album. Some producers were not deemed right by the label, others had to pass on the project due to prior commitments. Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me", which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single, released in 1984, gave Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album when released in 1985.
1985?1986: Rise to prominence
With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson and Narada Michael Walden, Houston's self-titled debut album was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone Magazine praised the new talent, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years" while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent." After the dance-funk single "Someone For Me" failed to chart in both the US and UK, the album initially sold modestly and failed to make an impact. The release of the next single, the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love", peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 while going #1 on the R&B Charts. As a result, the album began to sell strongly before topping the R&B Album chart while Houston continued promoting the album touring night clubs in the US. She also began performing on popular night shows that usually weren't open to many black acts. The jazzy ballad "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and it would become Houston's first #1 hit single in both the US and the UK. She was now an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osborne on his nationwide tour. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by African American artists while favoring rock acts. The next single, "How Will I Know", peaked at #1 and would introduce Houston to the MTV audience thanks to its video. This would make the singer one of the first African American female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network. By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 album chart and stayed there for 14 consecutive weeks. The final single, "Greatest Love of All," became Houston's biggest hit at the time after peaking #1 and remaining there for three weeks. Houston had released the best-selling debut album by a female artist and was now embarking on her own tour, Greatest Love Tour. The album had become an international success, and has been certified 13x Platinum (diamond) in the United States alone, and selling a total of 24 million worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards ceremony, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. She was ineligible for the Best New Artist category due to her previous duet recording with Teddy Pendergrass in 1984. She won her first Grammy award for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female' for "Saving All My Love for You". At the same award show she also performed that Grammy-winning hit; the performance later won her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. Houston won seven American Music Awards in 1986, and an MTV Video Music Award. The album's popularity would also carry over to the 1987 Grammy Awards when "Greatest Love of All" would receive a Record of the Year nomination. Houston's debut is currently listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and on The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's Definitive 200 list. Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. Following Houston's breakthrough, other African-American female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker were able to find notable success in popular music.
1987?1991: Whitney, I'm Your Baby Tonight, and "The Star Spangled Banner"
Houston?s second album, Whitney, was released in June 1987. The album featured production from Masser, Kashif and Walden again, as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album. Rolling Stone said, "the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating." Still, the album was an enormous success. Houston became the first female artist in music history to debut at number one on the US and UK album chart while also hitting number-one in several other countries around the world. The album's first four singles, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "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, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number-one hits, thus breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. The album's fifth, and final single, "Love Will Save the Day" also became a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100. Whitney has been certified 9x Platinum in the US for shipments of over nine million copies. At the Grammy Awards in 1988, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for 'Best Female Pop Vocal Performance' for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". Following the release of the album, Houston embarked on the Moment of Truth World Tour which was one of the ten highest grossing concert tours of 1987. The success of the tour and Houston's albums helped make her one of the top 10 highest earning entertainers according to Forbes Magazine. She was the highest earning African-American woman and the second highest entertainer after Bill Cosby. The list included her concert grosses during 1986 and 1987.
Houston 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 a then apartheid South Africa. In June 1988, during the European leg of her tour, Houston joined other musicians to perform a set at Wembley Stadium in London to celebrate a then imprisoned Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday. Over 72,000 people filled Wembley Stadium, and over a billion people tuned in worldwide as the rock concert raised over $1 million for charities while bringing awareness to apartheid. Houston then flew back to the US for a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The show was a benefit concert that helped raise over $300 million to the United Negro College Fund. In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, "One Moment in Time", which became a Top 5 hit in the U.S., while reaching number one in the UK and Germany. With her current world tour continuing overseas, Houston was still one of the top 10 highest earning entertainers for 1988-1989 according to Forbes.
In 1989, Houston 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 and AIDS, and other issues of self-empowerment.
With the success of her first two albums, Houston was undoubtedly an international crossover superstar, the most prominent since Michael Jackson, appealing to all demographics. However, some black critics reasoned she was "selling out". They felt her singing on record lacked the soul that was present during her live concerts. At the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards, when Houston's name was called out for a nomination, a few in the audience jeered. Houston defended herself against the criticism, stating, "If you're gonna have a long career, there's a certain way to do it, and I did it that way. I'm not ashamed of it." Still, Houston took a more urban direction with her third studio album, I'm Your Baby Tonight, released in November 1990. She produced and chose producers for this album and as a result, it featured production and collaborations with L.A. Reid and Babyface, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. The album showed Houston's versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks. Reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone felt it was her "best and most integrated album". while Entertainment Weekly, called Houston's shift towards an urban direction "superficial". The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified four times platinum in America while selling twelve million total worldwide. The first two singles, the new jack swing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and the gospel-tinged "All The Man That I Need", each hit number one on both the Hot 100 and R&B singles charts. The third and fourth singles, "Miracle"; and "My Name Is Not Susan" peaked at numbers nine and twenty, respectively. A fifth single, "I Belong to You", peaked in the Top 10 on the R&B charts, while yet a sixth single, the duet with Stevie Wonder entitled, "We Didn't Know", made the R&B Top 20.
With America at war, Houston performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. VH1 listed the performance as the 12th greatest moment that rocked TV. Her recording of the song was released as a commercial single, reaching 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 (Jose Feliciano's version reached #50 in November 1968). Houston donated her share of the proceeds to the Red Cross. As a result, the singer was named to the Red Cross Board of Governors for her efforts. Later that year, Houston put together her Welcome Home Heroes concert with HBO for the soldiers fighting in the Gulf War and their families. The free concert took place at the Norfolk Air Force Base in Norfolk, Virginia in front of 3,500 serviceman 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 then embarked on the I'm Your Baby Tonight World Tour.
1992?1994: Marriage to Bobby Brown and The Bodyguard
Throughout the 1980s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated. She then met R&B singer Bobby Brown (formerly of New Edition) at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992. Nearly a year later, Houston gave birth to their daughter 'Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown', her first child, his fourth, on 4 March. Brown would go on to have several run-ins with the law, including some jail time. With the huge successes of her albums, movie offers poured in, including offers to work with Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones, and Spike Lee; but Houston felt the time wasn't right. Houston?s first film role was in The Bodyguard, released in 1992 and co-starring Kevin Costner. Houston plays Rachel Marron, a star who is stalked by a crazed fan and hires a bodyguard to protect her. The film was hugely successful at the box office, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide. USA Today listed it as one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years. The movie is also notable for not mentioning or needing to explain its interracial aspect. Houston's mainstream appeal allowed people to look at the movie color-blind. Still, controversy arose as some felt the film's ads intentionally hid Houston's face to hide the film's interracial aspect. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 1993, the singer correctly commented that "people know who Whitney Houston is?I'm black. You can't hide that fact." Despite the film's enormous success, the reviews were mixed, and Houston received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress. The Washington Post said Houston is "doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking" and The New York Times said she lacked passion with her co-star.
The film's soundtrack was also a worldwide success. Houston executive produced and contributed six songs for the motion picture's adjoining soundtrack album. It featured production from David Foster. Entertainment Weekly said the two cover songs are "artistically satisfying". Rolling Stone said it is "nothing more than pleasant, tasteful and urbane". The soundtrack's lead single was "I Will Always Love You", written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton in 1974. Some, including Foster and radio programers, were skeptical that the song would fare well at radio due to Houston's a capella intro. Still, the record company took the risk and released it as the first single and it became a massive international hit. The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks, number one on the R&B chart for a then-record-breaking 11 weeks, and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts for five weeks, thus becoming the first single to top those three charts simultaneously for five weeks. The song also hit number-one in nearly every other country worldwide. The soundtrack debuted at #1 and remained there for twenty non-consecutive weeks and became one of the fastest selling albums ever. At one point the soundtrack sold over a million copies within a week, becoming the first album to do so. With the follow-up singles "I'm Every Woman", a Chaka Khan cover, and "I Have Nothing" both peaking in the top five, Houston became the first female artist to ever have three singles in the Top 20 simultaneously. The album was certified 17x platinum in the United States with worldwide sales of 42 million. Houston won three Grammys for the album, including two of the Academy's highest honors, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. In addition, Houston won 8 American Music Awards, including the Award of Merit, and a BRIT award. Following the success of the project, Houston embarked on another expansive global tour in 1993 and 1994. Her concerts, movie, and recording grosses made her the third highest earning female entertainer of 1993-1994, just behind Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand according to Forbes. Houston placed in the top five of Entertainment Weekly's annual "Entertainer of the Year" ranking and was labeled by Premier Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood.
In October 1994, Houston was invited to perform at a state dinner at the White House honoring newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela. At the end of her world tour, Houston performed three concerts in South Africa to honor President Mandela, playing to over 200,000 people. This would make the singer the first major musician to visit the newly unified and apartheid free nation following Mandela's winning election. The event was considered the nation's "biggest media event since the inauguration of Nelson Mandela".
1995?1997: Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher's Wife, and Cinderella
In 1995, Houston starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in her second film Waiting to Exhale; a motion picture about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Houston plays the lead character Savannah Jackson, a TV producer in love with a married man. She chose the role because she saw the film as "a breakthrough for the image of black women because it presents them both as professionals and as caring mothers". After opening at number one and grossing $67 million in the US at the box office and $81 million worldwide, it proved that a movie primarily targeting a black audience can cross over to success, while paving the way for other all-black movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Tyler Perry movies that have become popular in the 2000s. The film is also notable for its portrayal of black women as strong middle class citizens as oppose to stereotypes. The reviews were mainly positive for the ensemble cast. The New York Times said "Ms. Houston has shed the defensive hauteur that made her portrayal of a pop star in "The Bodyguard" seem so distant." Houston was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture, but lost to her co-star Basset.
Like Houston's previous project, the film's accompanying soundtrack was also a huge hit. Houston co-produced, with Babyface, the soundtrack, Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album. Though Babyface originally wanted Houston to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she "wanted it to be an album of women with vocal distinction", and thus gathered several African-American female artists for the soundtrack, to go along with the film's strong women message. As a result, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists along with Houston, such as Mary J Blige, Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, Patti Labelle, and Brandy. Houston's "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" peaked at #1, and then spent a record eleven weeks at the #2 spot and eight weeks on top of the R&B Charts. "Count On Me", a duet with Cece Winans, hit the US Top 10; and Houston's third contribution, "Why Does It Hurt So Bad", made the Top 30. The album debuted at #1, and was certifed 7xPlatinum in the United States, denoting shipments of 7 million copies. The soundtrack received strong reviews. Entertainment Weekly said "the album goes down easy, just as you'd expect from a package framed by Whitney Houston tracks....the soundtrack waits to exhale, hovering in sensuous suspense" and has since ranked it as one of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks. Newsday called it "the most significant R&B record of the decade." Later that year, Houston's children's charity organization was awarded a VH1 Honor for all the charitable work
In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy The Preacher's Wife, with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a pastor (Courtney B. Vance). Houston earned $10 million for the role, making her one of the highest paid actress in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African American actress in Hollywood. The movie, with its all African-American cast, was a moderate success, earning approximately $50 million at the U.S. box offices. The movie gave Houston her strongest reviews so far. The San Francisco Chronicle said Houston "is rather angelic herself, displaying a divine talent for being virtuous and flirtatious at the same time" and that she "exudes gentle yet spirited warmth, especially when praising the Lord in her gorgeous singing voice." Houston was again nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.
Houston recorded and co-produced, with Mervyn Warren, the film's accompanying gospel soundtrack. The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album. included six gospel songs with Georgia Mass Choir that were recorded at the Great Star Rising Baptist Church in Atlanta. Houston also duetted with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. The album sold six million copies worldwide and scored hit singles with "I Believe in You and Me" and "Step by Step", becoming the largest selling gospel album of all time. The album received mainly positive reviews. Some critics, like USA Today, noted the presence of her emotional depth, while The UK Times said "To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass Choir struggling to keep up is to realise what her phenomenal voice was made for."
In 1997, Houston's production company changed its name to BrownHouse Productions and was joined by Debra Martin Chase. Their goal was "to show aspects of the lives of African-Americans that have not been brought to the screen before" while improving how African-Americans are portrayed in film and television. Their first project was a made-for-television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. In addition to co-producing, Houston starred in the movie as the Fairy Godmother along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters. Houston was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened. The film is notable for its multi-racial cast and nonstereotypical message. An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years. The movie received seven Emmy nominations including Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy, while winning Outstanding Art Direction in a Variety, Musical or Comedy Special.
Houston and Chase then obtained the rights to the story of Dorothy Dandridge. Houston was to play Dandridge, who was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. She wanted the story told with dignity and honor. However, Halle Berry also had rights to the project and she got her version going first. Later that year, Houston paid tribute to her idols such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Billie Holliday by performing their hits during the three night HBO Concert Classic Whitney, live from Washington, D.C.. The special raised over $300,000 for the Children's Defense Fund.
1998?2000: My Love Is Your Love and Whitney: The Greatest Hits
After spending much of the early and mid 1990s working on motion pictures and their adjacent soundtrack albums, Houston's first studio album in eight years, the critically acclaimed My Love Is Your Love, was released in November 1998. Though originally slated to be a greatest hits album with a handful of new songs, recording sessions were so fruitful, enough material was produced for a new full-length studio album. Recorded and mixed in only six weeks, it featured production from Rodney Jerkins, Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliott. The album had a more funkier and edgier sound than past releases and saw Houston handling urban dance, hip hop, reggae, mid-tempo R&B, torch songs, and ballads all with great dexterity. The album's first single, "When You Believe" (a duet with Mariah Carey for 1998s The Prince of Egypt soundtrack), became an international hit as it peaked in the Top 10 in several countries, the Top 20 in the US and won an Academy Award, while the album debuted at #13. The next three singles would all reach the Top Five. "Heartbreak Hotel", which featured Faith Evans and Kelly Price reached number 2 on the Hot 100, while topping the R&B chart for seven weeks. "It's Not Right but It's Okay", which won Houston her sixth Grammy Award; and "My Love Is Your Love" both reached number four and also became international hits as did the previous two singles. The album's fifth single, "I Learned from the Best", became a moderate hit, peaking at number twenty-seven. All singles, except "When You Believe", also became number one hits on the U.S. Dance/Clubplay Chart. The album went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million. The album gave Houston some of her strongest reviews ever. Rolling Stone said Houston was singing "with a bite in her voice" and The Village Voice called it "Whitney's sharpest and most satisfying so far". In 1999, Houston participated in VH-1's Divas? Live '99, alongside Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, Cher. The same year, Houston hit the road with her 70 date My Love Is Your Love worldwide tour. The European leg was Europe's highest grossing arena tour of the year.
In April 2000, Whitney: The Greatest Hits was released. The double disc set peaked at number five in America and reached number one on the UK chart. While the ballads were left unchanged, the album is notable for featuring house/club remixes of many of Houston's up-tempo hits, in place of their original version. Also included on the album were four new songs: "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (a duet with Enrique Iglesias), "Same Script, Different Cast" (a duet with Deborah Cox), "If I Told You That" (a duet with George Michael), and "Fine", all of which failed to crack the US Top 40, but were hits in the UK and several European countries. Along with the album, an accompanying DVD was also released of the music videos to Houston's greatest hits. The greatest hits album was certified triple platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million. Houston and Chase, along with Warner Brothers, were then set to produce a remake of the 1976 film Sparkle about a 1960s singing group of three sisters in Harlem. Aaliyah, who was to star in the remake, was killed in a plane crash in 2001 before production began.
2000?2005: Just Whitney, drug allegations, and personal struggles
Though Houston was seen as a "good girl" with a perfect image in the '80s and early '90s, during the late '90s her behavior changed. She was often hours late for interviews, photo shoots and rehearsals, and canceling concerts and talk-show appearances. With the missed performances and weight loss, rumors about Houston using drugs with her husband circulated. On January 11, 2000, airport security guards discovered marijuana in both Houston's and husband Bobby Brown's luggage at a Hawaiian airport, but the two boarded the plane and departed before authorities could arrive. Charges were later dropped against her and Brown, but rumors of drug usage among the couple would continue to surface. Two months later, Clive Davis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Houston had been scheduled to perform at the event, but did not attend. Shortly thereafter, Houston was scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards but was fired from the event by musical director and long time friend Burt Bacharach. Though her publicist cited throat problems as the reason for the cancellation, many speculated it was drugs. In his book The Big Show: High Times And Dirty Dealings Backstage At The Academy Awards, author Steve Pond revealed that "Houston's voice was shaky, she seemed distracted and jittery, and her attitude was casual, almost defiant," and that while Houston was to sing "Over The Rainbow", she would start singing a different song. Houston later admitted to having been fired. Later that year, Houston's long-time executive assistant and friend, Robyn Crawford, resigned from Houston's management company.
In August 2001, Houston signed the biggest record deal in music history with Arista/BMG. She renewed her contract for $100 million to deliver six new albums, on which she would also earn royalties. She later made an appearance on Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. Her extremely thin frame further spurred rumors of drug use. Houston's publicist said, "Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress she doesn't eat." The singer was scheduled for a second performance the following night but canceled. Within weeks, Houston's rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" would be re-released after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The song peaked at #6 this time on the US Hot 100. Houston donated her portion of the proceeds.
In 2002, Houston became involved in a legal dispute with John Houston Enterprise. Although the company was started by her father to manage her career, it was now actually run by company president Kevin Skinner. He filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit and sued for $100 million (but lost), stating that Houston owed his company previously unpaid compensation for helping to negotiate her $100 million contract with Arista Records and for sorting out legal matters. Houston claimed that her 81-year-old father had nothing to do with the lawsuit. Although Skinner tried to claim otherwise, John Houston never appeared in court. Houston's father was ill at the time, and he died in February 2003. The lawsuit was dismissed on April 5, 2004, and Skinner was awarded nothing.
Also in 2002, Houston did an interview with Diane Sawyer to promote her upcoming album. During the prime-time special, Houston spoke on topics including rumored drug use and marriage. She was asked about the ongoing drug rumors and replied, "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack." The line would become infamous. Houston did, however, admit to using various substances at times.
In December 2002, Houston released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney. The album included productions from then-husband Bobby Brown, as well as Missy Elliott and Babyface, while marking the first time Houston did not produce with Clive Davis. It received mixed reviews upon release. Rolling Stone said the album "only shows an artist vainly trying to reach for what her future once could have been," while The San Francisco Chronicle said the album did "show signs of life, but not enough to declare a resurrection." The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and had the highest first week sales of any album she had released. However, all the singles?"Whatchulookinat", "One of Those Days", and "Try It on My Own"?failed to reach the top 40 on the Hot 100 chart. (One of Those Days became a Top 40 hit on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks.) All three singles (along with "Love That Man") would also become Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, with two of the four hitting #1. Just Whitney was certified platinum in the United States.
In late 2003, Houston released her first holiday album One Wish: The Holiday Album, with a track listing of traditional Christmas songs. Houston produced the album with Gorden Chambers and Mervyn Warren. The album received positive reviews. The The New York Times praised the "lavish swoops, the sultry whispers, the gospelly asides and the meteoric crescendos." USA Today also gave the album a positive review, stating, "she finds satisfying ways to bring new life to old classics." The single "One Wish (for Christmas)" reached the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Houston spent most of 2004 touring Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. In September 2004, she gave a surprise performance at the World Music Awards, in tribute to long time friend Clive Davis. Houston received a standing ovation for her performance. After the show, Davis and Houston announced plans to go into studio to work on her new album.
In early 2004, husband Bobby Brown starred in his own reality TV program, Being Bobby Brown (on the Bravo network), which provided a view into the domestic goings-on in the Brown household. Though it was Brown's vehicle, Houston was a prominent figure throughout the show. The series, which aired in 2005, featured Houston at, what some say, her lowest moments; many wondered why she took part in it. The Hollywood Reporter said it was "undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television." Despite the perceived train-wreck nature of the show, it gave Bravo its highest ratings in its time slot. The show was not renewed for a second season after Houston stated she would no longer appear on it, and Brown and Bravo could not come to an agreement for another season.
2006?present: Return to music and I Look To You
After years of controversy and turmoil, Houston separated from Bobby Brown in September 2006, filing for divorce the next month. On February 1, 2007, Houston asked the court to fast track their divorce. The divorce was finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple's daughter. Less than a month later, Brown sued Houston in Orange County, California court in an attempt to change the terms of their custody agreement. Brown also sought child and spousal support from Houston. In the lawsuit, Brown claimed that financial and emotional problems prevented him from properly responding to Houston's divorce petition. Brown lost at his court hearing as the judge dismissed his appeal to overrule the custody terms, leaving Houston with full custody and Brown with no spousal support.
In March 2007, Clive Davis of Arista Records announced that Houston would begin recording a new album. In October 2007, Arista released The Ultimate Collection. Houston released her new album, I Look To You, on August 31, 2009. The album's first two singles are "I Look To You" and "Million Dollar Bill". The album entered the Billboard 200 at #1, with Houston's best opening-week sales of 305,000 copies, marking Houston's first number one album since The Bodyguard , and Houston's first studio album to reach number one since 1987's Whitney. Houston gave her first interview in seven years, appearing on Oprah Winfrey's season premiere on September 14, 2009. The interview was billed as "the most anticipated music interview of the decade".
Houston is a mezzo-soprano. She came in third on MTV's 22 Greatest Voices , sixth on COVE's list of the 100 Best Pop Vocalists with a score of 48.5/50, and thirty-fourth on Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers list.
See also: List of Whitney Houston awards
During the 1980s, MTV was just coming into its own and received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by black artists. With Michael Jackson breaking down the color barrier for black male artists, Houston did the same for black female artists. She became one of the few black female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network following the success of the "How Will I Know" video. Following Houston's breakthrough, other African-American female artists, such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker, were successful in popular music. Baker commented that "Because of what Whitney did, there was an opening for me... For radio stations, black women singers aren't taboo anymore". Mary J. Blige commented that Houston's inviting her onstage during VH1's Divas Live show in 1999 "opened doors for all over the world".
Houston's vocal stylings have had a significant impact on the music industry. According to The New York Times, Houston had "revitalized the tradition of strong gospel-oriented pop-soul singing". A number of artists have acknowledged Houston as an influence. Mariah Carey, who was often compared to Houston, said, "Houston has been a big influence on me." She later told USA Today that "none of us would sound the same if Aretha Franklin hadn't ever put out a record, or Whitney Houston hadn't". Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson cites Houston as her biggest musical influence. She told Newsday that she learned from Houston the "difference between being able to sing and knowing how to sing". Leona Lewis, who also has been compared to Houston, cites her as an influence. Lewis has stated that she idolized Houston as a little girl. Beyonc? Knowles told the Globe and Mail that Houston "inspired to get up there and do what did." Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, P!nk, Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson and Destiny's Child have all cited Houston as a musical inspiration. In 2009, Rolling Stone listed Houston as one of the 100 greatest singers of the rock era.
Houston's debut is currently listed as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine and is on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Definitive 200 list. Houston's entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange, New Jersey was renamed to The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts. In 2001, Houston was awarded the first annual Lifetime Achievement Award by BET.