The legendary Whitney Houston, photographed in 1980.
Whitney Houston, the unstoppable vocal powerhouse, who ruled MTV, radio and the recording industry throughout the ’80s and ’90s with her melismatic, gospel-infused R&B/ pop crossover hits such as “Greatest Love Of All” and “Saving All My Love For You,” died today at the age of 48.
Equally capable of deftly belting a showstopping power ballad or infusing an uptempo dance-pop track with passion and making it look exuberantly effortless, Whitney Houston started her musical career in her church choir, became a backup singer (singing backup on Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” which would later become a staple in her own songbook), a model and eventually a solo artist after landing a contract at Arista Records with Clive Davis. Her 1985 debut self-titled album — coupled with her stunning Barbie Doll-like beauty, charisma and her limitless vocal talent — catapulted her into the highest, most prestigious echelon of musical aristocracy.
Over the course of the next 20 years and seven albums (in addition to soundtracks for “The Preacher’s Wife” and “The Bodyguard,” the latter which became the best-selling soundtrack of all time), Whitney Houston would become one of the top-selling female solo artists of all time and one of the biggest musical acts ever. Whitney Houston has been awarded more than 400 awards, including six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards and an Academy Award.
Despite her international renown (and well-publicized struggles with substance abuse and tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown), Whitney Houston was one of those rare singers capable of concurrently conveying both innocence and wisdom, and whose swelling voice could fill an entire arena and, at the same time, make you feel like she was singing to you and you alone. Whitney Houston sang songs about love, loss, enduring hope, a fearless refusal to settle and a battle cry of female empowerment. She equally influenced everyone from stars like Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera to everyday individuals nursing heartache and sorrow. Songs such as “Saving All My Love For You,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “You Give Good Love,” “I Have Nothing,” “All The Man I Need,” “One Moment In Time,” “All At Once” and “I Will Always Love You,” some recorded decades ago, transcend musical trends, technology and time, leaving only emotion and inspiration behind.
To say that Whitney Houston influenced everyone who writes for this blog — and probably everyone we write about — is an understatement. It is our hope that this legendary woman who sang so bravely and so vulnerably about love will be remembered and celebrated with love, too.
Watch one of Whitney Houston’s most powerful videos, “Greatest Love Of All,” watch Whitney Houston’s last performance on Thursday, Feb. 9, and see how Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna are remembering her. And leave your thoughts and Whitney Houston memories in the comments.
Photo credit: Getty Images