Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, record producer, film producer, and former fashion model. Houston rose to fame in the late 1980s and her crossover success opened doors for many other African American women to find success in pop music and movies. She is frequently referred to as “The Voice”, and is known for her “powerful, penetrating pop-gospel voice”. Houston has been credited as having a five-octave vocal range.
In the 1980s, Houston was one of the first African-American female artists to receive regular rotation on MTV in the network’s early years during a white male rock dominated time. Her debut album became the biggest selling debut album of all time for a solo artist, her follow up album was the first album by a female artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, and she holds a record seven consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, beating a record of six held previously by both The Beatles and The Bee Gees.
Houston continued her success into Hollywood in the 1990s, starting with the box office hit The Bodyguard. The soundtrack to the movie is the best-selling soundtrack of all time, and the single “I Will Always Love You” the best-selling single by a female artist and 6th best-selling song in the history of music. She continued the decade with other successful and culturally significant projects before returning to the studio. Houston is the fourth best-selling female recording artist in the U.S according to the RIAA, and is the “The Most Awarded Female Artist of All Time” according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
After Houston married former R&B singer Bobby Brown at the height of her career, rumors of drug abuse started to affect her popularity. This led to a decline in her public image and her album sales dropped during the 2000s. Her personal troubles and erratic behavior became more talked about than any of her music, with stories regularly appearing in the tabloid press. After successful trips to rehab, Houston divorced Brown and gained custody of their only daughter in 2006. She has since been working on her seventh studio album which has been slated for release in November 2008.
Whitney Houston was born in a rough neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. She has two older brothers and is the third and youngest child of John and gospel singer Cissy Houston. Her mother, along with cousin Dionne Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin are all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, 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 East Orange, New Jersey when she was four. When her mother was away touring with Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin as a backup singer, her father would spend most of the time with the children. At the age of eleven, Houston began to follow in her mothers 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 Robin Crawford, whom she describes as the “sister she never had.” Crawford would later become Houston’s personal assistant for several years. While Houston was still in school, she would continue to be surrounded by music from her mother, cousin Dionne Warwick, and close family friend Aretha Franklin, all of which would have an impact on her as a musician and performer.
Houston spent some of her teenage years occasionally touring night clubs with her mother when Cissy was performing. In 1977, at fourteen years of age, Whitney Houston was featured as the lead singer on the Michael Zager Band’s single “Life’s a Party”. Zager subsequently offered to help obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1979, at age sixteen, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan’s hit single “I’m Every Woman”, a song she would later turn into a bigger hit in 1992. In the early 1980s, Houston worked as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared in Vogue 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 and touring clubs with her mother, she continued her recording career, 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”, which Robert Christgau of the The Village Voice called “one of the most gorgeous ballads you’ve ever heard”.
Read more info about Whitney Houston, watch her video clips and photos at: http://houston.bewithmusic.com/