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Houston, Cissy

Cissy Houston

Gospel and pop singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Her stardom and commercial success may have far eclipsed that of her mother, but Whitney Houston isnt the only musical talent of note in her family. Having made a name for herself as a gifted singer of gospel, blues, and pop in a career that spanned more than 30 years, Whitneys mother Cissy can hardly be considered a slouch. From television and radio to theater and commercials, from gospel to secular, from backing vocals to solo work, Cissys career has been long, rich, and varied.

The youngest of the eight children born to factory worker Nitch and homemaker Delia Drinkard, Cissy Houston started singing as a child. As a five-year-old, she began singing with siblings Anne, Nicky, and Larry in the family gospel act the Drinkard Singers in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Houston and nieces Dee Dee and Dionne Warwickwho were also Drinkard Singers for a timelater sang backing vocals for the likes of Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke, among others.

From 1965 to 1970, Houston was the lead vocalist for the pop group Sweet Inspirations, which she formed with Sylvia Sherwell, Myrna Smith, and Estelle Brown. The group performed on hundreds of songs for other artists, including Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley before recording on its own. In 1968, the group released its only two albumsSweet Inspirations and What the World Needs Now is Love and earned a Top 20 hit and a Grammy nomination with the single Sweet Inspiration. Houston soon left for a solo career, however, while her former bandmates continued as backup vocalists for other artists.

On her own Houston became the first singer to record Midnight Train to Georgia, which later became a huge hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. Houston teamed with Warwick again, joining her tour as one of three backing vocalists. She worked with Connie Francis and Nina Simone, as well, and recorded the songs Think It Over and Tomorrow from the hit musical Annie.

For a time, Houston scaled back her musical schedule to raise her three childrenGary, Michael, and Whitneyand spend more time with then-husband John. She returned to a more full-time music career in the late 1970s, when she released the albums Cissy Houston in 1977, WarningDangerin 1979, and 1980s Step Aside for a Lady.

Besides her solo efforts, Houston also continued to lend her talents to other musicians. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, she was probably most visible as a backing vocalist, working on Aretha Franklins Aretha, Love All the Hurt Away, and Jump to It, and Chaka

For the Record

Born Emily Drinkard, 1933, Newark, NJ, to Nitch (a Newark factory worker; died 1951) and Delia (a homemaker, died 1941), youngest of eight siblings; married first husband, 1954, (divorced); married second husband, John, 1959, (separated from John in 1980, divorced in 1993); children: three, Gary, born, 1958 (from first husband); Michael, born, 1962, Whitney, born August 9, 1963 (from second husband).

Started singing with the family gospel group the Drinkard Singers in Newark, 1938; formed group Sweet Inspirations in 1960s (members alternately included Sylvia Sherwell, Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, and nieces Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick); sang backup with Sweet Inspirations for Atlantic, Muscle Shoals, and New York Records; recorded two albums with Sweet Inspirations before leaving to pursue a solo career; backup singer for Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, among others; has recorded with Luther Vandross, David Bowie, and daughter Whitney Houston; subject of a 1988 Public Broadcasting Service program, Cissy Houston: Sweet Inspiration; performed on the 1989 television special, The Songwriters Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary: The Magic is Music; signed with House of Blues label and released gospel album Face to Face, 1996; published autobiography, How Sweet the Sound: My Life With God and Gospel, 1998.

Awards: Grammy Award, 1997, for Face to Face.

Addresses: Record company House of Blues Music, 8439 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 404, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

Khans Chaka. She recorded backup vocals for Luther Vandross NeverToo Much and For Always, For Love, as well as his 1991 album Power of Love. She also joined forces with Chuck Jackson for 1992s III Take Care of You, which raised funds for the Rhythm N Blues Foundation. Shes worthy of any accolade thrown her way, Vandross told People in 1998. I think she could have made a wonderful opera singer. Her voice is amazing.

Her life was the subject of a Public Broadcasting Service television program in 1988. Entitled Cissy Houston: Sweet Inspiration, the show featured her in sessions with artists including David Bowie, Vandross, and Warwick and demonstrated her impact on the music industry. She also brought her music to the public via nightclub performances, which earned her a good deal of critical praise. She was one of the performers on the 1989 television special The Songwriters Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary: The Magic is Music, joining a varied lineup that included Michael Bolton, Crystal Gayle, Patti La-Belle, k.d. lang, and Tommy Tune.

Houston encouraged her daughters singing early on and took her on tourand to recording sessions. Houston also lent her backing vocals to the hits How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) from Whitneys first two albums.

1996s Face to Face on the House of Blues label came after Houston took a fairly lengthy hiatus from recording. The album marked a return to her gospel roots, and featured a 30-member Newark, New Jersey choir. Houston has a long history with Newarks New Hope Baptist Church choir, serving for periods as its music and choir director and hosting the weekly church radio broadcast. Im very proud of this album, she told Jet in 1996. I did not want to go into a studio with music I wasnt in love with. I have so much to say through gospel songs, and I believe I write much better gospel lyrics and music than pop. Fellow music industry personnel apparently agreed, as Houston won her first Grammy award for the album.

Houston also contributed to the gospel soundtrack for the 1997 film The Preachers Wife, in which Whitney starred. In a review of the album in People, the elder Houston was praised as one of the veteran singers who [blew] Whitney away with their authority [and] tempt you to seek out their albums for the gospel truth. Houston released a second solo gospel album on House of Blues in 1997.

In 1998 Houston shared her life story with How Sweet the Sound: My Life with God and Gospel, an autobiography she wrote with Jonathan Singer. The book chronicled her life and faith, including tragedies such as the death of her mother when she was only eight and the loss of her father to cancer when she was 18. Those expecting a gossipy tell-all were likely to be disappointed, however. As Houston told Jet in 1998, I know people are so interested to know what you did on the road with this one and that one. I didnt want to write that because whatever I did on the road, Ive forgotten I think its lousy that people write about people who they worked with. I did not want to do that. I said if I can write about my gospel and my faith and my experiences, then I would consider [writing a memoir]. So thats how this book came about.

Houston may never match her daughter Whitney in terms of fame, but the elder Houston seemed pleased with her career and the religious beliefs she instilled in her children. A lot of things Ive done have come late in life, and its like a whole new career starting up, she told Jet in 1998. I dont have any regrets about the way I planned and lived my life. I am very proud of what Ive become.

Selected discography

(with the Sweet Inspirations) Sweet Inspirations, Atlantic, 1968.

(with the Sweet Inspirations) What the World Needs Now is Love, Atlantic, 1968.

Cissy Houston, Janus, 1971.

Cissy Houston, Private Stock, 1977.

Warning Danger, Columbia, 1979.

Step Aside fora Lady, Columbia, 1980.

(With Chuck Jackson) III Take Care of You, Shanachie, 1992.

Face to Face, House of Blues, 1996.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989.

DeCurtis, Anthony and James Henke, editors, Rolling Stone Album Guide, Random House, 1992.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Guiness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Vol. 3, Guiness Publishing, 1995.

Periodicals

Booklist, April 15, 1998.

Consumers Research Magazine, December 1992.

Ebony, July 1991; May 1995.

Jet, May 13, 1996; June 15, 1998.

People, June 26, 1989; January 13, 1997; August 10, 1998.

Publishers Weekly, December 16, 1996; April 27, 1998.

K. Michelle Moran

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"Houston, Cissy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Houston, Cissy 19(?)(?)–

Cissy Houston 19(?)(?)

Vocalist

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

When Whitney Houston skyrocketed to superstardom, many wondered what had made her an overnight sensation. Those on the musical scene, however, knew that Whitneys role model was her very talented mother, Cissy. The elder Houston has had a lengthy musical career as a gospel, pop, and blues singer. In fact, one reviewer for the Los Angeles Times commented that mother Cissys performance at an AIDS benefit put daughter Whitney to shame.

Cissy Houston is the daughter of Nitch Drinkard, a Newark factory worker, and Delia, a housewife. She started singing at the age of five with the family gospel group, the Drinkard Singers, in Newark, New Jersey. After years of singing gospel, she crossed over into the pop world and formed the group Sweet Inspirations with Sylvia Sherwell, Myrna Smith, and Estelle Brown. Before they recorded on their own, they were to perform on literally hundreds of songs for other artists. Labels they worked under included Atlantic Records in Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and New York.

Then in 1968 the experienced group decided to perform on their own. In that year they released their only two albums: Sweet Inspirations and What the World Needs Now is Love. They made the Top 20 that year with the hit single SweetInspiration. Soon after hitting the charts, however, Cissy left the Sweet Inspirations to pursue a solo career.

Cissy went on to utilize her musical talents in a variety of ways. She was the first person to record Midnight Train to Georgia, which later became a big hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. She did backup work for numerous artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and recorded with Wilson Pickett, Connie Francis, and Nina Simone. She also scored successes as a solo artist by recording Tomorrow and Think it Over, from the musical Annie.

Nightclub performing is one of Cissys strong points. In this venue she best showcases her talents as a cross-over artist, combining pop, gospel, and blues. Variety reported on a nightclub act that Houston performed, concluding: Houston has carved out a niche that defies easy categorization. She turned the country song You Are Always on My Mind into a rhythm and blues number and sang Just the Two of Us in a rock and roll tempo.

At a Glance

Bom Emily Drinkard; daughter of Nitch (a factory worker) and Delia (a housewife); married John Houston (divorced 1993); children: Gary, Michael, Whitney.

Career: Sang with The Drinkards gospel group; formed group Sweet Inspirations c. 1968; sang backup vocals with the Sweet Inspirations for Atlantic, Muscle Shoals, and New York records; backup singer for Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick; has recorded with Luther Vandross, David Bowie and daughter, Whitney Houston. Has appeared on The David Letter-man Show; subject of PBS television program, Sweet Inspiration, 1988; has sung in AIDS benefit concerts; recorded Ill Take Care of You with Chuck Jackson, 1992; recorded Face to Face, 1996; wrote autobiography How Sweet the Sound: My Life with God and Gospel, 1998; director of youth choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ.

Awards: Medal for Humanitarian Leadership, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, 1992; Pioneer Award, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, 1995; Grammy Award for Face to Face, 1996.

Addresses: HomeNewark, NJ.

In 1988, the Public Broadcasting System presented a television program chronicling Houstons life entitled Cissy Houston: Sweet Inspiration. The program examined Houstons long career and her impact on the music business. Houstons musical flexibility was showcased in her sessions with such diverse artists as David Bowie, Dionne Warwick, and Luther Vandross. Some artists shared anecdotes about Cissys music teaching style. According to Vandross, she was a taskmaster who could make the people around her want to sing their best. Houston responded, God didnt give you talents to keep to yourself. He gave them to you to share and thats exactly what I try to do. I try to train people to sing out their feelings in their own way.

One segment of the program focused on the reasons why so many gospel artists received criticism for moving into popular music during the 1950s and 1960s. Speaking as one who had experienced this particular type of criticism, Houston commented: I am a person who believes in what I am doing, whether in church or in secular music. Its all about the love you feel inside. Its really ridiculous, the attacks some gospel singers endure. They just dont know you inside, within your heart, or they wouldnt say those things.

Houston has received numerous awards during her remarkable career. The University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey presented her with its Medal for Humanitarian Leadership in 1992. In 1995, Houston was named as one of the recipients of the Rhythm & Blues Foundations prestigious Pioneer Award. At the awards ceremony held at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, Houston was presented with the award by her daughter, Whitney.

Houston returned to the recording studio in 1992 and collaborated with Chuck Jackson on the album Ill Take Care of You. She also recorded a gospel album Face to Face in 1996, an album which earned Houston her first Grammy award.

In 1998, Houston published her autobiography entitled How Sweet the Sound: My Life with God and Gospel. When explaining her reasons for writing the book Houston told People Weekly, I wanted to talk about my life and my experiences with God. Its important that my children and grandchildren know whence they came and that there was quality.

Houston is a very spiritual person, as her years of singing gospel music attest. It has been said that no matter where Houston is on any given Saturday nightin a recording session with Luther Vandross, David Bowie, or her daughter, or in a smoky nightclub belting out songsthe next morning she will be in church directing the youth choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. As she remarked in McCalls: The voice is God-given. What I have is only what God gave me, and Ive just expanded on that. Throughout her lengthy career, she has kept her life in perspective, and relied on her spirituality. Ive been very fortunate in this business, she remarked in Jet Ive never stopped working even without a current hit record. Somehow or another God has made it so that I could always keep going, she continued.

Selected discography

Sweet Inspirations, Atlantic, 1968.

What the World Needs Now is Love, Atlantic, 1968.

Ill Take Care of You, (with Chuck Jackson), 1992.

Face to Face, House of Blues, 1996.

Sources

Billboard, March 5, 1988.

Jet, April 14, 1986; April, 3, 1995; May 13, 1996.

McCalls, May 1989.

People Weekly, August 10, 1998.

Teen, December 1986.

Variety, July 30, 1986.

Nancy Rampson and David Oblender

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Houston, Cissy

Cissy Houston

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

When Whitney Houston skyrocketed to superstar-dom, many wondered what had made her an overnight sensation. Those on the musical scene, however, knew that Whitneys role model was her very talented mother, Cissy. The elder Houston has had a lengthy musical career as a gospel, pop, and blues singer. In fact, one reviewer for the Los Angeles Times commented that mother Cissys performance at an AIDS benefit put daughter Whitney to shame.

Cissy Houston started singing at the age of five with the family gospel group, the Drinkard Singers, in Newark, New Jersey. After years of singing gospel, she crossed over into the pop world and formed the group Sweet Inspirations with Sylvia Sherwell, Myrna Smith, and Estelle Brown. Before they recorded on their own, they were to perform on literally hundreds of songs for other artists. Labels they worked under included Atlantic Records in Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and New York.

Then in 1968 the experienced group decided to perform on their own. In that year they released their only two albums: Sweef Inspirations and What the World Needs Now is Love. They made the Top 20 that year with the hit single Sweet Inspiration. Soon after, however, Cissy left to pursue a solo career and the rest of the group did back up work for many artists.

Cissy then went on to use her musical talents in a variety of ways. She was the first person to record Midnight Train to Georgia, which later became a big hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. She has done backup work for a numerous artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and her niece, Dionne Warwick, and recorded with Wilson Pickett, Connie Francis, and Nina Simone. She also scored successes as a solo artist by recording Tomorrow and Think it Over, from the musical Annie.

Nightclub performing is one of Cissys strong points. In this venue she best showcases her talents as a crossover artist, combining pop, gospel, and blues. Variety reported on a nightclub act that Houston performed, concluding: Houston has carved out a niche that defies easy categorization. She turned the country song You Are Always on My Mind into a rythym and blues number and sang Just the Two of Us in a rock and roll tempo.

Although she has always maintained a busy schedule, the success of daughter Whitney has helped Cissys career.All of a sudden, Im being discovered, Houston commented in Jet. People are now realizing that shes my daughter and that I taught her and she worked with me in clubs and concerts. Now people are saying Oh, thats who that is. And this notoriety has translated into more bookings and more work for the elder

For the Record

Born Emily Drinkard; married John Houston (a Newark, NJ, city administrator); children: Whitney, Gary.

Sang with gospel group the Drinkards; formed group Sweet Inspirations c. 1968; sang backup vocals with the Sweet Inspirations for Atlantic, Muscle Shoals, and New York records; backup singer for Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick; has recorded with Luther Vandross, David Bowie and daughter, Whitney Houston. Has appeared on The David Letterman Show; subject of PBS television program, Sweet Inspiration, 1988; has sung in AIDS benefit concerts; director of church choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

Addresses: Home Newark, NJ.

Houston: It has helped me a great deal, she told Jet. More and more people call every day. I really wanted to slow down but Im getting just as busy.

In 1988 a Public Broadcasting Service television program on Houstons life was made, titled Cissy Houston: Sweet Inspiration. The program chronicled Houstons long career and her impact on the music business. Houstons musical flexibility was showcased in her sessions with such diverse artists as David Bowie, Dionne Warwick, and Luther Vandross. Some artists shared anecdotes about Cissys music teaching style. According to Vandross, she was a taskmaster who could make the people around her want to sing their best. Houston responded: God didnt give you talents to keep to yourself. He gave them to you to share and thats exactly what I try to do. I try to train people to sing out their feelings in their own way.

Houston was very flattered by this video tribute to her life. She remarked in Billboard that the program is the kind of thing that usually only happens at graveside. So the whole thing is very special to me.

One of the programs topics looks at why so many gospel artists received criticism for moving into popular music in the 1950s and 1960s. As one who came under this kind of attack, Houston commented: I am a person who believes in what I am doing, whether in church or in secular music. Its all about the love you feel inside. Its really ridiculous, the attacks some gospel singers endure. They just dont know you inside, within your heart, or they wouldnt say those things.

Houston is a very spiritual person, as the years of singing gospel music attest. It has been said that no matter where Houston is on any given Saturday nightin a recording session with Luther Vandross, David Bowie, or her daughter, or in a smoky nightclub belting out songsby 8 a.m. the next morning she will be directing her Radio Choir at the New Hope Baptist Church. She commented in McCalls: The voice is God-given. What I have is only what God gave me, and Ive just expanded on that. Throughout her lengthy career, she has kept her life in perspective, and relied on her spirituality.Ive been very fortunate in this business, she remarked in Jet. Ive never stopped working even without a current hit record. Somehow or another God has made it so that I could always keep going.

Selected discography

Sweet Inspirations, Atlantic, 1968.

What the World Needs Now is Love, Atlantic, 1968.

Sources

Billboard, March 5, 1988.

Jet, April 14, 1986.

McCalls, May 1989.

Teen, December 1986.

Variety, July 30, 1986.

Nancy Rampson

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"Houston, Cissy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Houston, Cissy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/houston-cissy-0

"Houston, Cissy." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/houston-cissy-0