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Houston, Whitney 1963–

Whitney Houston 1963

Singer, actress

From Church, to Runway, to Studio

Diva or Prom Queen?

Escalating Fame Incited Rumors

Bodyguard a Smash

Selected discography

Sources

Though her style is characteristic of the vocal athleticism of R&B music in the post-Hip-Hop era, pop singer Whitney Houston has a star quality that recalls the entertainment dynamos of a previous generation: elegant, professional, and versatile. Despite criticism from some corners that she conveys more technique than feeling in her music, Houston has scored enough commercial victories in the mercurial pop world to gladden the heart of any music executive.

From the beginning of her careerwith the highest-selling solo debut album in historyHouston went on to sell millions of copies of her subsequent releases and win numerous music awards. In 1992 she made her acting debut in a major motion picture, The Bodyguard, which became one of the most successful films in its companys history; her contributions to the films soundtrack were also phenomenally popular. If there remained any show-business frontiers for Houston to conquer, none seemed beyond her reach. Yet, in the wake of a high-profile marriage and well-publicized motherhood, the entertainer has remained philosophical. I almost wish I could be more exciting, she told Entertainment Weekly, that I could match what is happening out there to me.

Houston was born in New Jersey in 1963, the daughter of John R. Houstonwho would one day manage her production companyand acclaimed gospel singer Cissy Houston. Music was very much a part of her childhood; her cousin Dionne Warwick was another successful chanteuse, and she grew up around such star vocalists as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack. When I used to watch my mother sing, which was usually in church, that feeling, that soul, that thing its like electricity rolling through you, she recalled to Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone. If you have ever been in a Baptist church or a Pentecostal church, when the Holy Spirit starts to roll and people start to really feel what theyre doing, its its incredible. Thats what I wanted. When I watched Aretha sing, the way she sang and the way she closed her eyes, and that riveting thing just came out. People just ooooh, it could stop you in your tracks.

From Church, to Runway, to Studio

Houston-nicknamed Nippy, a moniker she would one day bestow on her production enterprisefirst sang

At a Glance

Born August 9, 1963, in East Orange, NJ; daughter of John R. and Cissy (a singer) Houston; married Bobby Brown (a singer), 1992; children: Bobbi Kristina (daughter). Education: Graduated from parochial high school in New Jersey.

Backup vocalist, 1975; fashion model, c. late 1970s; signed with Arista Records, 1983; released debut album Whitney Houston, 1985; contributed to Olympics tribute One Moment in Time, 1988; starred in film The Bodyguard, 1992; owner of Nippy, Inc., (New Jersey-based production company).

Selected awards: Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance, 1988, for Saving All My Love for You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me); Emmy Award for outstanding performance in a variety program, 1986; MTV Video Music Award, 1986; seven American Music Awards, 1986, for Whitney Houston; Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance, 1988; four American Music Awards, 1989, for Whitney distinguished achievement award, American Cinema Award Foundation, 1991; NAACP Image Award for entertainer of the year, 1994; seven American Music Awards, and three Grammy Awards, all 1994, all for The Bodyguard ; honorary doctorate from Grambling Slate University; United Negro College Fund Award for long-standing support and commitment to the black community.

Addresses: Home Mendham, NJ. Record companyArista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

publicly at the age of eight, performing Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah for a spellbound congregation at the New Hope Baptist Church. Four years later she was singing backups on recordings for major stars like Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. I sound like my mother when my mother was my age, she told DeCurtis, though I truly think my mother has a greater voice than me, because shes the master, Im the student.

When she was 17, student Whitney took a detour into modeling, appearing in magazines like Glamour and Seventeen. Her beauty and talent also got her acting jobs in episodes of two then-popular television programs, Silver Spoons and Gimme a Break. Houston ultimately found the runway degrading, as Ebony reported, and made her way back to music; she signed a management contract in 1981 and began seriously performingboth alone and with her mother. She was given the chance to sing the lead on the song Lifes a Party, which was recorded by the Michael Zager Band; Zager was so impressed by her voice that he offered her a record deal. Cissy declined the opportunity for her daughter, which turned out to be a wise decision. At a showcase performance in 1983, Arista Records president Clive Davis heard Houston perform and offered her a contract. This time Cissys advise was to accept the offer, and Houston signed on.

Davis took the new singer under his wing. Though she sang a duet with soul superstar Teddy Pendergrass that hit the charts in 1984, Houston would spend much of the next two years working with her mentor. Davis gathered successful songwriters and producers and helped put together the package that would make Houston a star. He calculated correctly: her self-titled debut, released in March of 1985, began a gradual ascent to the top of the charts. The first single, You Give Good Love made its way to the Number Three position and the second, a cover of the late-70s hit Saving All My Love for You, hit Number One later that year. Houston received the 1986 Grammy for best pop vocal performance for the songand came home with five trophies from the US music awards as well. And two more singles topped the charts: How Will I Know and The Greatest Love of All.

Whitney Houston finally hit the top of the U.S. album chart a year after its release; a number of singles also topped the U.K. charts. Accolades for the singer continued: Houston received an Emmy for work in a television variety program and commenced touring. Her concerts sold out throughout both the United States and Europe.

Diva or Prom Queen?

Though Houston was suddenly showered in acclaim, she had her share of detractors. Her choice of material was generally safe, critics complained, and Houstons voice, though a remarkable instrument, failed to convey much emotion. As music commentator Nelson George opined to Newsweek, Theres not a wisp of soul on those singles. Entertainment Weekly would later pay her a backhanded compliment by remarking, No one can oversing a song like Houston.

The simultaneously belittling and affectionate term Prom Queen of Soula parody of the royal sobriquet earned by fellow singer Aretha Franklinwas hard for Houston to shake. Yet the vocalist had only begun her meteoric rise. Her sophomore effort, Whitney, appeared in 1987 and debuted at the Number One position on the Billboard chartthe first album by a female artist to do so. Its first single, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), rocketed to the top, followed by three other Number-One hits: Didnt We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go. The single Love Will Save the Day was a disappointment only when measured against Houstons other hits; it only made it to Number Nine. Meanwhile, One Moment in Time, a ballad recorded by Houston for Aristas 1988 Olympics tribute album of the same name, topped the charts after Whitney ended its run.

In addition to her activities in the musical arena, Houston has used her high public profile to aid causes she personally supports. She took time out of a busy schedule to headline at a birthday gala for South African leader Nelson Mandela at Londons Wembley Arena. And she continued to rack up awards, taking home the 1988 Grammy for I Wanna Dance With Somebody and, in January of 1989, garnering both the female pop and soul/R&B vocal honors at the American Music Awards.

It was at the Soul Train Music Awards that same year that Houston crossed paths with someone who would have a lasting effect on her life. She made the acquaintance of singer Bobby Brown, a popular New Jack Swing performer in his own right. The two didnt hit it off immediately. Houston later recalled in the interview with DeCurtis: I always get curious when somebody doesnt like me. I want to know why. She invited Brown to a party; he accepted. As they got to know each other better, they realized their feelings surpassed mere friendship. After a year or so, I fell in love with Bobby, Houston explained after detailing her rebuff of his first proposal. And when he asked to marry me the second time, I said yes. The couple was married in July of 1992.

Escalating Fame Incited Rumors

Prior to this, Houston recorded and released Im Your Baby Tonight The album was a slight disappointment; it didnt perform as well as its predecessors and stopped climbing when it reached the Number Three position. Even so, Im Your Baby, which featured the chart-topping single All the Man That I Need, achieved triple platinum status. She received the 1990 Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and an invitation to the White House from then-President George Bush.

Around the same time, Houston was approached about a movie called The Bodyguard. Actor Kevin Costner, who planned to star in the film, was set on Houston for his female costar. He felt so certain that Houston was right for the role of imperiled singer Rachel Marron that he agreed to wait as long as she wantedas long as shed agree to do the film. There are certain singers that occupy that territory that includes a world-class voice, real elegance and a physical presence, Costner explained to Ebony. Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand are two. Whitney Houston is another. But Houston would keep Costner waiting for quite some time.

Meanwhile, the singer was busy with other things. She sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, a performance that crystallized strong patriotic sentiment during the period of U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War. There was a great demand for both a single and video of her rendition. She later sang the Star Spangled Banner again for returning troops at Norfolk Naval Air Station. However, Houstons prestige and success as an entertainer didnt protect her from rumors she found infuriating. These included speculation that she and Brown had a less-than-harmonious marriage-after all, he had gained a reputation as the bad boy of the business, and she was known as the good girl.

Bodyguard a Smash

After two years, Houston decided to venture into acting and went ahead with plans to star in The Bodyguard. I kind of waited too long for Kevin, she told DeCurtis, recalling her decision to appear in the film. He called one day and said, Listen, are you going to do this movie with me or not? I told him about my fears. I said: I dont want to go out there and fall. And he said: I promise you I will not let you fall. I will help you. And he did. In exchange for help with her acting, Houston gave her costar tips on singing.

The Bodyguard is about a singer (played by Houston) who requires the protection of a bodyguard (Costner) after being harassed by an obsessive fan; a romance then develops between the star and her protector. Although Entertainment Weekly included The Bodyguard in a list of films exploring interracial romance, color mattered little to the audience and was not even addressed in the film. Whitney, in a sense, is to music and now to film what [actor-comedian Bill] Cosby was to television, noted Entertainment Weeklys Sheldon Platt. The American middle class looks upon her as a person, and they extinguish other ethnic or racial boundaries. Houston herself observed, I dont think its a milestone that a black person and a white person made a movie together. I think for people to look at this color-blind is a milestone.

Critical feedback of the film was mixed. Houston, the Olympian pop-soul diva, has moments of quickness and humor; she shows more thespian flair than many musicians, stated Owen Gleibermanin in >Entertainment Weekly. Her presence, though, is defined by the same glassy perfection that makes her singing, for all its virtuosity, seem fundamentally anonymous. Whitney Houston is a diamond without flaws: Her cat-faced Mayan beauty is like a mask, and beneath it one never senses a glimmer of vulnerability, pain, doubt. Houston rebuffed such evaluations in Rolling Stone: People loved this moviethe critics dogged it, but people loved it. Houston was pregnant for most of the period of the films media blitz, and becoming a mother overshadowed any negative reviews. Theres been nothing more incredible in my life than having her, she declared of her daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Mixed reviews didnt affect The Bodyguards box-office success. It grossed $390 million worldwide by mid1993, and the soundtrack album, which featured six Houston performances, sold about 24 million copies. The biggest single generated from the soundtrackand the longest-running Number One single everwas her rendition of Dolly Partons I Will Always Love You, which earned Houston two of her three Grammys in 1994.

In addition to her impressive showing at the Grammys, Houston took several other honors in 1994, including two Soul Train Awards, entertainer of the year honors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples Image Awards, and seven American Music Awards.

At the close of 1993, Entertainment Weekly rated Houston Number Five among the top Entertainers of the Year. At the height of her professional game and happy with her new family, Houston has been, in the magazines phrase, enjoying a success so relentless that nothing but sledgehammered shards of conventional wisdom are left in its wake. The performer reflected on the years she has invested in her craft in an Upscale magazine piece: I started out working in little night clubssometimes getting paid, sometimes notsometimes performing for 200 people, other times working in front of ten. Today, its like people just want to jump out there and immediately become stars, but it takes time and it takes not giving up. It takes believing in ones self in spite of negativity and what people say.

Selected discography

(With the Michael Zager Band) Lifes a Party, Lifes a Party, 1981.

(With Teddy Pendergrass) Love Language, Hold Me, Asylum, 1984.

Whitney Houston (includes You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know and The Greatest Love of All), Arista, 1985.

Whitney (includes I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didnt We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, Where Do Broken Hearts Go and Love Will Save the Day), Arista, 1987.

(With various artists) One Moment in Time, One Moment in Time, Arista, 1988.

Im Your Baby Tonight (includes All the Man That I Need), Arista, 1990.

The Bodyguard (soundtrack; includes I Will Always Love You), 1992.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, edited by Julia Rubiner, Volume 8, Gale, 1993.

Rock Movers and Shakers, edited by Dafydd Rees and Luke Crampton, Billboard Books, 1991.

Periodicals

Ebony, January 1993, pp. 11822.

Entertainment Weekly, April 10, 1992, p. 8; December 4, 1992, pp.42-43; December 25, 1992, p. 104; February 5, 1993, pp.1721; October 22, 1993, p. 40; December 31, 1993, p. 27; February 18, 1994, pp.3233; March 18, 1994, p. 103.

Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1994, p. F 10. Newsweek, July 21, 1986, pp6061.

Rolling Stone, June 10, 1993, pp.4649; January 27, 1994, p. 40.

Upscale, December 1993.

Simon Glickman

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Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Award-winning singer Whitney Houston (born 1963) made her name with her powerful voice and emotional renditions of love songs, becoming one of rhythm and blues' most popular stars and selling hundreds of millions of albums. She later branched out into acting and eventually became a business mogul, setting up production and recording studios as she continued to deliver pop music performances.

Though her style is characteristic of the vocal athleticism of rhythm and blues music in the post-hip-hop era, Whitney Houston has a star quality that recalls the entertainment dynamos of a previous generation: elegant, professional, and versatile. Despite criticism from some corners that she conveys more technique than feeling in her music, Houston has scored enough commercial victories in the mercurial pop world to gladden the heart of any music executive.

From the beginning of her career-with the highest-selling solo debut album in history-Houston went on to sell millions of copies of her subsequent releases and win numerous music awards. In 1992 she made her acting debut in a major motion picture, The Bodyguard, which became one of the most successful films in its company's history; her contributions to the film's soundtrack were also phenomenally popular. If there remained any show-business frontiers for Houston to conquer, none seemed beyond her reach. Yet, in the wake of a high-profile marriage and well-publicized motherhood, the entertainer has remained philosophical. "I almost wish I could be more exciting," she told Entertainment Weekly, "that I could match what is happening out there to me."

Music Was In Her Roots

Houston was born in East Orange, New Jersey on August 9, 1963, the daughter of John R. Houston-who would one day manage her production company-and acclaimed gospel singer Cissy Houston. Music was very much a part of her childhood. Her cousin Dionne Warwick was another successful chanteuse, and Houston grew up around such star vocalists as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack. "When I used to watch my mother sing, which was usually in church, that feeling, that soul, that thing-it's like electricity rolling through you," she recalled to Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone. "If you have ever been in a Baptist church or a Pentecostal church, when the Holy Spirit starts to roll and people start to really feel what they're doing, it's … it's incredible. That's what I wanted. When I watched Aretha sing, the way she sang and the way she closed her eyes, and that riveting thing just came out. People just … ooooh, it could stop you in your tracks."

Houston first sang publicly at the age of eight, performing "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" for a spellbound congregation at the New Hope Baptist Church. Four years later she was singing backups on recordings for such major stars as Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. "I sound like my mother when my mother was my age," she told DeCurtis, "though I truly think my mother has a greater voice than me, because she's the master, I'm the student."

When she was 17, Whitney took a detour into modeling, appearing in magazines like Glamour and Seventeen. Her beauty and talent also got her acting jobs in episodes of two then-popular television programs, Silver Spoons and Gimme a Break. Houston ultimately found the fashion runway "degrading," as Ebony reported, and made her way back to music. She signed a management contract in 1981 and began seriously performing-both alone and with her mother. She was given the chance to sing the lead on the song "Life's a Party," which was recorded by the Michael Zager Band; Zager was so impressed by her voice that he offered her a record deal. Cissy declined the opportunity for her daughter, which turned out to be a wise decision. At a showcase performance in 1983, Arista Records president Clive Davis heard Houston perform and offered her a contract. This time Cissy's advise was to accept the offer, and Houston signed on.

First Album Reaped Awards

Davis took the new singer under his wing. Though she sang a duet with soul superstar Teddy Pendergrass that hit the charts in 1984, Houston would spend much of the next two years working with her mentor. Davis gathered successful songwriters and producers and helped put together the "package" that would make Houston a star. He calculated correctly: her self-titled debut album, released in March 1985, began a gradual ascent to the top of the charts. The first single, "You Give Good Love," made its way to the number three position and the second, a cover of the late-'70s hit "Saving All My Love for You," hit number one later that year. Houston received the 1986 Grammy award for best pop vocal performance and came home with five trophies from the US music awards as well. Two more singles also topped the charts: "How Will I Know" and "The Greatest Love of All."

Whitney Houston finally hit the top of the U.S. album chart a year after its release; a number of singles also topped the U.K. charts. Accolades for the singer continued: Houston received an Emmy for work in a television variety program and commenced touring. Her concerts sold out throughout both the U.S. and Europe. Though Houston was suddenly showered in acclaim, she had her share of detractors. Her choice of material was generally safe, critics complained. Houston's voice, though a remarkable instrument, failed to convey much emotion. As music commentator Nelson George opined to Newsweek, "There's not a wisp of soul on those singles."

Second Album Debuted at Number One

The simultaneously belittling and affectionate term "Prom Queen of Soul"-a parody of the royal sobriquet earned by fellow singer Aretha Franklin-was hard for Houston to shake. Yet the vocalist had only begun her meteoric rise. Her sophomore effort, Whitney, appeared in 1987 and debuted at the number one position on the Billboard chart-the first album by a female artist to do so. Its first single, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," rocketed to the top, followed by three other number-one hits: "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional," and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go." The single "Love Will Save the Day" was a disappointment only when measured against Houston's other hits; it only made it to number nine. Meanwhile, "One Moment in Time," a ballad recorded by Houston for Arista's 1988 Olympics tribute album of the same name, topped the charts after Whitney ended its run. She continued to rack up awards, taking home the 1988 Grammy for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and, in January 1989, garnering both the female pop and soul/rhythm and blues vocal honors at the American Music Awards.

In addition to her activities in the musical arena, Houston has used her high public profile to aid causes she personally supports. She took time out of a busy schedule to headline at a birthday gala for South African leader Nelson Mandela at London's Wembley Arena.

Married Bobby Brown

It was at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1989 that Houston crossed paths with someone who would have a lasting effect on her life. She made the acquaintance of singer Bobby Brown, a popular "New Jack Swing" performer in his own right. The two didn't hit it off immediately. Houston later recalled in the interview with DeCurtis: "I always get curious when somebody doesn't like me. I want to know why." She invited Brown to a party; he accepted. As they got to know each other better, they realized their feelings surpassed mere friendship. "After a year or so, I fell in love with Bobby," Houston explained after detailing her rebuff of his first proposal. "And when he asked to marry me the second time, I said yes." The couple was married in July 1992.

Prior to this, Houston recorded and released I'm Your Baby Tonight. The album was a slight disappointment; it didn't perform as well as its predecessors and stopped climbing when it reached the number three position. Even so, I'm Your Baby, which featured the chart-topping single "All the Man That I Need," achieved triple platinum status. She received the 1990 Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and an invitation to the White House from President George Bush.

Around the same time, Houston was approached about a movie called The Bodyguard. Actor Kevin Costner, who planned to star in the film, was set on Houston for his female costar. He felt so certain that Houston was right for the role of imperiled singer Rachel Marron that he agreed to wait as long as she wanted-as long as she'd agree to do the film. "There are certain singers that occupy that territory that includes a world-class voice, real elegance, and a physical presence," Costner explained to Ebony. "Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand are two. Whitney Houston is another." But Houston would keep Costner waiting for quite some time.

Meanwhile, the singer was busy with other things. She sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, a performance that crystallized strong patriotic sentiment during the period of U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War. There was a great demand for both a single and video of her rendition. She later sang the "Star Spangled Banner" again for returning troops at Norfolk Naval Air Station. However, Houston's prestige and success as an entertainer didn't protect her from rumors she found infuriating. These included speculation that she and Brown had a less-than-harmonious marriage. He had gained a reputation as "the bad boy of the business," and she was known as "the good girl."

Bodyguard Combined Acting and Singing

After two years, Houston went ahead with plans to star in The Bodyguard. "I kind of waited too long for Kevin," she told DeCurtis, recalling her decision to appear in the film. "He called one day and said, 'Listen, are you going to do this movie with me or not?' I told him about my fears. I said: 'I don't want to go out there and fall.' His response was: 'I promise you I will not let you fall. I will help you.' And he did." In exchange for help with her acting, Houston gave her costar tips on singing.

The Bodyguard is about a singer (played by Houston) who requires the protection of a bodyguard (Costner) after being harassed by an obsessive fan; a romance then develops between the star and her protector. Although Entertainment Weekly included The Bodyguard in a list of films exploring "interracial romance," color mattered little to the audience and was not even addressed in the film. "Whitney, in a sense, is to music and now to film what [actor-comedian Bill] Cosby was to television," noted Entertainment Weekly's Sheldon Platt. "The American middle class looks upon her as a person, and they extinguish other ethnic or racial boundaries." Houston herself observed, "I don't think it's a milestone that a black person and a white person made a movie together. I think for people to look at this color-blind is a milestone."

Critical response to the film was mixed. "Houston, the Olympian pop-soul diva, has moments of quickness and humor; she shows more thespian flair than many musicians," stated Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. "Her presence, though, is defined by the same glassy perfection that makes her singing, for all its virtuosity, seem fundamentally anonymous. Whitney Houston is a diamond without flaws: Her cat-faced Mayan beauty is like a mask, and beneath it one never senses a glimmer of vulnerability, pain, doubt." Houston rebuffed such evaluations in Rolling Stone:" People loved this movie-the critics dogged it, but people loved it." Houston was pregnant for most of the period of the film's media blitz, and becoming a mother overshadowed any negative reviews. "There's been nothing more incredible in my life than having her," she declared of her daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Mixed reviews didn't affect The Bodyguard's box-office success. It grossed $390 million worldwide by mid-1993. The soundtrack album, which featured six Houston performances, sold about 24 million copies. The biggest single generated from the soundtrack-and the longest-running number one single ever-was her rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which earned Houston two of her three Grammys in 1994.

In addition to her impressive showing at the Grammys, Houston took several other honors in 1994, including two Soul Train Awards, entertainer of the year honors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Image Awards, and seven American Music Awards. Entertainment Weekly had rated Houston number five among the top "Entertainers of the Year" for 1993. At the height of her professional game and happy with her new family, Houston was, in the magazine's phrase, "enjoying a success so relentless that nothing but sledge-hammered shards of conventional wisdom are left in its wake."

Success Tainted by Rumors

Despite success, Houston's life was not pure bliss in 1994. Redbook declared it her "toughest year of all." She had experienced a miscarriage while engaged in a demanding 22-city tour, weathered a barrage of criticism about how she was raising her daughter, and had to deal with a persistent stalker. In addition, some media pieces questioned her relationship with her female assistant, wondering if the two were sexually involved. Reports highlighted some of her allegedly impatient and odd behavior, such as snapping at fans that sought autographs. Rumblings of marital difficulties continued into 1995, compounded by the fact that Brown had spent time at the Betty Ford Clinic for alcohol abuse.

In late 1995, Houston starred in Waiting to Exhale, an adaptation of a popular novel by Terry McMillan about four black women struggling to find harmony in their lives. The soundtrack featured three songs by Houston and was produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Both the movie and its soundtrack were popular, with Houston holding her own in an ensemble cast also featuring Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, and Loretta Devine. The following year she starred in The Preacher's Wife, about a young woman who is having difficulty in her marriage to a minister as they try to build a new church together. Though it was not critically well-received, she earned an NAACP Image Award in 1997 as outstanding lead actress for this role.

Houston announced in November of 1996 that she was pregnant again, but suffered another miscarriage that December. The following year saw her play the Fairy Godmother in a pet project of hers, the highly-rated CBS television movie Cinderella, which won an Emmy Award. However, the scrutiny of her behavior continued, spotlighting the fact that she canceled an appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell Show in November of 1997. She blamed her absence on a bout of stomach flu, but was seen out and about with her husband later that day. Also that year, she and Brown separated for about a month, but were soon back together. The next year, rumors escalated about possible drug use on the part of both of them, which Houston denied.

Despite having to bear more than an average share of celebrity gossip, Houston kept her career sailing nicely into the late 1990s. In late 1998, she recorded a new album while managing to run a record label, Better Place Records, and a film production company, Whitney's Brown House Productions. In the meantime, she kept up with television appearances and charity events-she formed the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children in 1989 and also lent her support to the United Negro College Fund, the Children's Diabetes Foundation, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and various AIDS-related causes. The performer reflected on the years she invested in her craft in an Upscale magazine piece: "I started out working in little night clubs-sometimes getting paid, sometimes not-sometimes performing for 200 people, other times working in front of ten. Today, it's like people just want to jump out there and immediately become stars, but it takes time and it takes not giving up. It takes believing in one's self in spite of negativity and what people say."

Further Reading

Contemporary Musicians, edited by Julia Rubiner, Volume 8, Gale, 1993.

Rock Movers and Shakers, edited by Dafydd Rees and Luke Crampton, Billboard Books, 1991.

Ebony, January 1993, p. 118; December 1998, p. 156.

Entertainment Weekly, April 10, 1992, p. 8; December 4, 1992, pp. 42-43; December 25, 1992, p. 104; February 5, 1993, pp. 17-21; October 22, 1993, p. 40; December 31, 1993, p. 27; February 18, 1994, pp. 32-33; March 18, 1994, p. 103; January 10, 1997, p. 14; November 14, 1997, p. 6.

Essence, May 1997, p. 85.

Good Housekeeping, January 1997, p. 62.

Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1994, p. F10.

Newsweek, July 21, 1986, pp 60-61; November 23, 1998, p. 76.

Redbook, May 1995, p. 84.

Rolling Stone, June 10, 1993, pp. 46-49; January 27, 1994, p. 40.

Time, October 2, 1995, p. 89; December 4, 1995, p. 77.

Upscale, December 1993.

Internet Movie Database, March 3, 1999. http://us.imdb.com.

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Houston, Whitney

Whitney Houston

Singer

Displayed Talent Early

Debut Album Topped Charts

Became Tabloid Target

Entered New Phase

Selected discography

Sources

Since her debut on the music scene in the mid-1980s, Whitney Houston has established herself as an American pop institution. Born into a musical familyher mother, Cissy, is a gospel singer and backup artist, and the sultry-voiced Dionne Warwick is her cousinWhitney knew at an early age that she wanted to be a professional singer. After years spent as a backup vocalist on her mothers acts, she met Arista Records executive Clive Davis, who saw her star potential. Houstons first two albums sold millions, demonstrating her popular appeal to a large and diverse audience. But while a majority of critics acknowledge the singers technical finesse, some find her songs lacking in real depth and emotion.

Houston began her singing career in the basement of her parents home, belting out Aretha Franklin songs while pretending to perform in Madison Square Garden. By the time she got out of elementary school, she had decided on a career in music, even though her mother wanted her to be a teacher. Cissy Houston conceded to young Whitneys decision, however, and began to personally coach her daughter. My mom has been my biggest influence, Houston commented in the New York Times. Everything she knows physically and mentally about singing she has passed on to me, and she taught me everything I know about the technology of the recording studio and about the business.

Displayed Talent Early

Houston began singing with the church choir that her mother ran. As a high school student, she was singing backup for her mother and a variety of other artists including Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan. With a pretty face and a slim figure, the hardworking Houston also launched a successful modeling career, appearing in Vogue, Seventeen, and Cosmopolitan. She wanted to quit high school and devote more time and energy to her career, but her mother advised her to complete her education first. After graduation, Houston signed with a talent management agency and continued to model and sing.

When Houston was 19, she gave a special concert at a Manhattan nightclub to showcase her talents to industry executives. It was there that she met one of the most influential people in her life, Arista Records president Clive Davis. He had significantly boosted the careers of other artists, including Air Supply, Aretha Franklin, and Dionne Warwick. After careful consideration, Houston signed with him. Over the course of two years the shrewd executive showcased Houston at selected venues and carefully selected material for her debut

For the Record

Born August 9, 1963, in Newark, NJ; daughter of John (head of a music management company) and Cissy (a singer; maiden name, Drinkard) Houston; married Bobby Brown (a singer), July 18, 1992. Education: Graduated from parochial high school in New Jersey.

Backup vocalist on recordings of various artists, including Lou Rawls, Chaka Khan, Paul Jabara, Cissy Houston, and the Neville Brothers, 1975; singer of commercial jingles; fashion model, 1979; singer and recording artist with Arista, 1985. Started companies in publishing, video, and other related fields. Has appeared on several television programs, including The Merv Griffin Show, Silver Spoons, and Gimmie a Break; actress in feature film The Bodyguard, Warner Bros., 1992.

Awards: Grammy awards, 1986, for best female pop performance, for Saving All My Love for You, and for I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me); MTV Video Music Award for best female video, 1986, for How Will I Know; Emmy Award, 1986; seven American Music awards for album Whitney Houston; four American Music awards for Whitney; three Peoples Choice awards; honorary doctorate from Grambling State University; United Negro College Fund Award for long-standing support and commitment to the black community.

Addresses: Home Mendham, NJ. Record company Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

album. This recording, titled Whitney Houston, cost Arista an unprecedented $250,000a very rare expenditure for a first album.

Debut Album Topped Charts

Whitney Houston features songs from some of the top names in the recording industry. After debuting a single in Europe, the album was released in the United States. It contains duets with Jermaine Jackson and Teddy Pendergrass as well as the hit singles You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, and The Greatest Love of All. The album remained at the top of the charts for forty-six weeks.

This is infectious, cant-sit-down music, wrote Richard Corliss of the release in Time. Other critics were impressed by the catchiness of Whitneys songs and her professional delivery but complained about the lack of originality of her selections. Gary Graff summed up these complaints in the Detroit Free Press, noting, Critics... uniformly praised her exceptionally trained voice but attacked the unapologetically mainstream approach of her music and her stiff stage performances. Nevertheless, Whitney Houston sold over 13 million copies and launched the singer into superstardom almost overnight.

Houstons next album was delayed for half a year because of the resurgence in popularity of her first effort. In 1987, the follow-up LP, Whitney, was finally released. We intentionally sought a waiting period, manager Davis told Newsweek. We didnt want a saturation of the market. Whitney was the first album by a female singer to debut on the top of the Billboard charts. Corliss reported that the new album showcases a Whitney Houston who sings bolder, blacker, badder, and added, Whitney marks graduation day for the prom queen of soul.

Against charges that the albums songs were trite and hackneyed, Whitney became an overnight hit. Part of the reason for this was the singers popularity with a wide range of listeners. She can get the kids on the dance floor, said Narada Michael Walden in Time, then turn around and reach your grandmother. This was Houstons intention all along. We wanted that mass appeal, she commented in the Detroit Free Press. I wanted to appeal to everybodymoms, kids, dads.... Its great we achieved that.

Became Tabloid Target

After the completion of her second album, Houston stepped out of the limelight to assess her career. She established friendships with gospel singers and started a few businesses. By the early 1990s, however, Houston became the victim of rumors about her personal life. She was purported to be involved in a lesbian relationship with her personal assistant, but she was also romantically linked with comedian Eddie Murphy and actor Robert De Niro. Controversy within the music industry also plagued her. Several rhythm and blues enthusiasts suggested that she was too white to succeed as a black artist, while the television show In Living Color satirized her in a sketch called Whitney Houstons Rhythmless Nation. (In Living Colors producers apparently felt that Houstons dancing prowess failed to match that of chart-topper Janet Jackson, who showcased her expertise in skillfully choreographed videos from her hit album Janet Jacksons Rhythm Nation 1814.)

Houston, however, bounced back in 1990 with the release of Im Your Baby Tonight. The new album was proclaimed by Davis to be more mature and funky than her previous works. Although Houstons name alone seemed to be enough to sell the albums, Davis commented in a Detroit Free Press interview: We dont approach this with any sense of aggressiveness or cockiness. We worked hard to make this... as great as we can. Hopefully, everyone who liked or loved her before will be happy, and she will also make a giant number of new fans.

Entered New Phase

Im Your Baby Tonight sold over 6 million copies worldwide, which was a slight disappointment compared to sales of her first two albums. Commenting on speculation that the star was losing popularity, Graff suggested: Whats really happening is that, after a sizzling start, Houstons career is cooling down and settling in at a level thats impressive by any standardexcept when measured against her prior accomplishments.

Houston also scored with U.S. audiences with the release of her stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which she belted out at the start of the 1991 Super Bowl. Proceeds from that recording went to the American Red Cross Gulf Crisis Fund. The next year she again grabbed the spotlight with news of her marriage to singer Bobby Brownher wedding dress reportedly cost $40,000and her feature film debut opposite Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.

Like all of us in the family, Whitney was singing from the moment she came out, Dionne Warwick commented in Time. Houston has parlayed this family legacy into an amazingly successful career. And with her breakthrough superstardom, Houston has not only carved a nice niche for herself, but has made it easier for other talented young female singers to get into the business. Here I come with the right skin, the right voice, the right style, the right everything, commented Houston to Corliss in Time. A little girl makes the crossover and VOOOM! Its a little easier for the others.

Selected discography

Whitney Houston, Arista, 1985.

Whitney, Arista, 1987.

Im Your Baby Tonight, Arista, 1990.

Sources

Books

Greenberg, Keith Elliot, Whitney Houston, Lerner Publications, 1988.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, July 1, 1991.

Detroit Free Press, November 5, 1990; June 30, 1991.

Ebony, June 1990; May 1991.

Harpers, September 1986.

Jet, June 20, 1988; September 11, 1989; July 16, 1990.

Ladies Home Journal, March 1988; March 1989.

Newsweek, July 21, 1986; July 13, 1987.

New York Times, November 11, 1990.

New York Times Biographical Service, October 1985.

People, May 19, 1986; December 22-29, 1986.

Vogue, July 13, 1987.

Nancy Rampson

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Houston, Whitney

Whitney Houston

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Pop singer Whitney Houston is known and admired for the use of her fluid, soaring vocal technique in soul, disco, and R&B music. Her self-titled debut release in 1985, Whitney Houston, sold more than 13 million copies and spawned three hit singlesSaving All My Love For You, How Will I Know, and The Greatest Love of All. The multiplatinum album became the best-selling debut of all time by a female solo artist. The single Saving All My Love for You garnered Houston the first of five Grammy awards. Her 1987 release, Whitney, was the first album by a female to enter the charts at number one, and the album made her the first artist in history to score seven consecutive number one hits.

Houstons foray into movie soundtracks proved equally impressive. The Bodyguard earned more than $400 million worldwide and was the most successful soundtrack ever released, with more than 33 million units sold. The soundtracks overwhelming success was due to Houstons rendition of the Dolly Parton song I Will Always Love You. Her duet single with Mariah Carey, When You Believe, for the movie The Prince of Egypt was released in 1998 on the same day as her fifth album, My Love is Your Love, which featured Missy Elliott, Faith Evans, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill. With My Love is Your Love in 1999, Houston began fusing hip hop with rhythm and blues in a revitalizing career move. Arista president Clive Davis told Billboards Melinda Newman, She certainly shows here that she can work at hip-hop and cutting-edge music. If anyone has underestimated the magnitude, the breadth of her incredible talent, theyre going to be surprised.

Houston, the daughter of successful R&B backup singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of pop and soul singer Dionne Warwick, was deeply involved in music growing up in the Newark, New Jersey area. She sang in the New Hope Baptist junior choir, where her mother served as minister of music for many years. It was watching her mother that made Houston want to become a performer. By the time Houston was eleven, it was clear that she was destined for more than backup singing. When she took center stage to sing a solo, the power of her church-inflected soprano voice moved many in the congregation to tears. As a teenager, Houston sang backup vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls, and dabbled successfully in teen modeling, gracing the covers of Seventeen and Glamour. She also studied acting and dancing, appeared in television commercials and sitcoms, and performed occasional singing dates. Her family was grooming her for eventual global superstardom, as her combination of extraordinary talent and exceptional beauty promised to offer a bright career.

For the Record

Born August 9, 1963, in Newark, NJ; daughter of John (head of music management company) and Cissy (R&B backup singer); cousin of Dionne Warwick (pop and soul singer). Married Bobby Brown (R&B singer) in 1992; daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Sang backup vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls as a teen; modeled; appeared in television commercials and sitcoms including The Merv Griffin Show, Silver Spoons, and Gimmie a Break; signed with Arista Records in 1985; released Whitney Houston, 1985; released Whitney in 1987; sang the Star Spangled Banner at 1990 Super Bowl, 1990; released Im Your Baby Tonight, 1990; lead role in feature film The Bodyguard, 1992; appeared in Waiting to Exhale, 1995; starred in The Preachers Wife, 1997; teamed with singer Mariah Carey to record the theme song When You Believe for The Prince of Egypt, 1998; released My Love is Your Love, 1998.

Awards: Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety of Music Program, 1986; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1987; Peoples Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1987; Peoples Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1988; Emmy Award, 1988; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Female, 1989; Peoples Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1993; Peoples Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1993; Grammy Award for Record of the Year, 1993; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1993; Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1993; NAACP Image Award for Best Female Artist 1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Gospel Album, 1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Artist, 1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Actress, 1997.

Addresses: Record company Arista Records, Arista Building, 6 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019 (212) 489-7400; 8370 Wilshire Boulevard, 3rd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (213) 655-9222.

Shortly after her 18th birthday, Houston began to develop her material and to cement record industry contracts. She signed with Arista Records in 1985, because the labels president, Clive Davis, had a reputation for picking hits for his singers and for allowing artists to take their time to develop. Houstons debut cemented her career. Her 1985 release, Whitney Houston, had three number one singles, was a record-breaking debut, and earned her a Grammy award for Saving All My Love for You. She spent the next two years touring to support the release, appearing on television shows, and working on material for her next release, Whitney, in 1987. Whitney entered the charts at number one, and Houstons dynamic MTV videos further ingratiated her to fans. She was chosen to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the 1990 Super Bowl and released Im Your Baby Tonight the same year.

After touring strenuously for five years, Houston took time off in the early 1990s to rest and enjoy her success. In 1992 she married R&B artist Bobby Brown before 800 people, and had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina. She appeared in the movie The Bodyguard In 1992 as the lead romantic female role opposite Kevin Costner, and sang the movies theme song, I Will Always Love You. In 1995 Houston appeared in the movie Waiting to Exhale, and she contributed to the soundtrack as well. Her third film appearance in a remake of The Preachers Wife opposite Denzel Washington didnt fare as well at the box office, but did permit Houston to get back in touch with her gospel roots. Houstons shift from superstar singer to box office draw was successful, and placed her in the category of American icon along with other musical film performers such as Diana Ross, Madonna, Elvis Presley, and Dolly Parton.

Houston performed at a White House dinner honoring Nelson Mandela, and is known for her philanthropic endeavors. She has made significant contributions to the United Negro College Fund, the Childrens Diabetes Fund, St. Judes Childrens Hospital, and AIDS-related organizations. She also established the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, Inc., a nonprofit organization established to assist homeless children and children with cancer and AIDS. In August of 1998 Houston teamed up with singer Mariah Carey to record the theme song When You Believe for the animated DreamWorks movie The Prince of Egypt, which tells the story of Moses. Rumors that the two singers were competitive abounded, so the duo appeared together at the MTV Video Music Awards in September of 1998 wearing identical dresses to present Will Smith with the Best Male Video Award.

The Prince of Egypt soundtrack appeared in stores on the same day in 1998 as Houstons solo album, My Love is Your Love. It was her first full-length studio recording in eight years. The single When You Believe appeared on My Love is Your Love, the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, and Careys 1998 greatest hits release. Rolling Stones Rob Sheffield wrote of My Love is Your Love, Whitney Houstons first album in eight years is her most consistent everin fact, its her first consistent album. The former ingenue has some grown-up scars now, singing the marital blues with a bite in her voice that shes never come close to before. Esther Iverem of the Washington Post wrote, Whitney Houston may well be heir to the diva mantle passed down by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. Her singing cannot really be said to clone any of her inspirations. With a wide range and undeniable vocal power she can obviously belt out a song.

Selected discography

Whitney Houston, Arista, 1985.

Whitney, Arista, 1987.

Im Your Baby Tonight, Arista, 1991.

The Bodyguard (soundtrack), 1992.

My Love is Your Love, Arista, 1998.

Compilations/Soundtracks

One Moment in Time (1988 Summer Olympics Album), Arista, 1988.

A Very Special Christmas, A&M, 1990.

Bobby Brown: Bobby, MCA, 1992.

A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Warner Brothers, 1994.

Ultimate Dance Party, Arista, 1997.

Ultimate Christmas, Arista, 1998.

The Prince of Egypt (soundtrack), DreamWorks, 1998.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 31, 1998.

New York Daily News, November 29, 1998.

New York Post, November 12, 1998.

Rolling Stone, January 21, 1999.

USA Today, August 20, 1998.

Online

http://www.cdnow.com.

http://www.entertainmentweekly.com.

http://www.geocities.com.

http://www.wallofsound.go.com.

http://www.whitney-fan.com.

B. Kimberly Taylor

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Houston, Whitney

WHITNEY HOUSTON

Born: Newark, New Jersey, 9 August 1963

Genre: R&B, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: The Bodyguard (1992)

Hit songs since 1990: "I Will Always Love You," "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," "It's Not Right but It's Okay"


During the 1980s and 1990s, Whitney Houston set new standards for vocal artistry in pop and rhythm and blues music. Her magnificent voicepowerful, wide-ranging, and pitch-perfectwas the key ingredient in a remarkable string of hits featuring sudden, dramatic swoops into her upper register and liberal use of melisma, the singing of multiple notes within a single syllable. In the 1990s Houston's style was so influential that it inspired a generation of pop singers, including major stars such as Toni Braxton, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey. In the words of a critic for The Los Angeles Times, "No other female pop starnot Mariah Carey, not Celine Dion, not even Barbra Streisandquite rivals Houston in her exquisite vocal fluidity and purity of tone."

Gospel Roots and Meteoric Rise

The daughter of the legendary gospel and pop singer Cissy Houston, Whitney was raised in a religious household and spent much of her childhood performing in church and singing with her mother in New York nightclubs. By the age of fourteen, when she sang on her mother's album Think It Over (1978), Houston already sounded startlingly mature. By the early 1980s Houston was modeling for teen-oriented magazines and acting on television shows.

In 1983 the president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, heard Houston and immediately offered her a recording contract. Her self-titled first album was released in 1985 and became the biggest-selling debut album by a female artist in pop history. The album's big ballads "The Greatest Love of All" and "Saving All My Love for You" were played so often that they became indelible parts of the era's musical consciousness. Heavily orchestrated showcases for Houston's flamboyant vocals, the songs were the musical equivalent of the glossy nighttime soap operas so popular during the 1980s. Like Falcon Crest and Dynasty, Houston's songs exuded an aura of class and glamour. A follow-up album, Whitney (1987), was just as successful, selling more than 9 million copies.


Success in Films

By now Houston was an established superstar, one of the most recognizable voices of her generation. Soon Houston turned her attentions to acting, earning the starring role in the 1992 film The Bodyguard. For much of the 1990s, Houston eschewed solo albums in favor of performing on soundtracks to films in which she also starred, such as The Preacher's Wife (1997).

After the success of "I Will Always Love You" (1992) from the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, it seemed that Houston could do no wrong commercially, although some critics complained that her music was long on style and short on substance. Reviewing a CD compilation of her greatest hits, a reviewer for Entertainment Weekly observed in 2000, "So much has been made of Houston's R&B lineage, it bears observing that her singing, for all its power and agility, suffers from a crucial lack of soulfulness."


Maturing as an Artist

Notwithstanding the criticism, Houston's performance on the soundtrack to the film Waiting to Exhale (1995) was a turning point. The album features performances by some of the greatest female voices in rhythm and blues, among them Aretha Franklin and Toni Braxton. It is Houston, however, who makes the strongest impression, singing lead on three of the sixteen songs. On the hit single, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," she exhibits a new sensitivity. In lines such as, "Life never tells us / the whens or whys," there is an emotional pull in Houston's voice, as if, in her decade of stardom, she had gained life experience and wanted to share it with her fans. There was now an artist of intelligence and depth discernible beneath the high gloss of Houston's public persona. Overall, the Exhale soundtrack showcased an older, more restrained Houston, suggesting that her best years lay ahead of her.

Houston's next nonsoundtrack album, My Love Is Your Love (1998), substantiated this impression. Teaming with some of the hottest producers and artists in the industry, among them Fugees group members Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean, Houston had never sounded so adult or contemporary. Although the album sports a few old-fashioned ballads that recall Houston's 1980s music, its most startling moments are assertive midtempo songs such as the hit "It's Not Right but It's Okay" and the reggae-infused title track. The former in particular is one of the peak moments in Houston's career. Singing against a jittery, complex rhythm devised by her producer, Rodney Jerkins, Houston creates a sinuous vocal groove, giving listeners a glimpse of her sharp rhythmic skills and timing. The lyrics are far removed from her girlish image of the past: "It's not right, but it's okay / I'm gonna make it anyway / Pack your bags, up and leave / Don't you dare come running back to me." Houston's masterful voice has deepened with age, grittier and tougher than it was in the 1980s. With its streetwise sound, My Love Is Your Love gives listeners the impression that they are finally hearing the "real" Whitney Houston in what many consider to be her finest work. Critics responded positively to the new direction Houston's music was taking. Writing in The Village Voice, Vince Aletti commented, "We have a record that is Whitney's sharpest and most satisfying so far. If we still come away from it wondering, who is this person? at least we've got a few more solid clues. . . . Whitney remains a mystery, but she's opening doors."

Personal Turmoil

By the end of 1998, Houston's troubled personal life was making more headlines than her music. She married the singer Bobby Brown in 1992 and gave birth to a daughter the following year, but the union was a volatile one, giving rise to rumors of spousal abuse and indulgence in drugs. Furthermore, Houston gained a reputation for erratic behavior and canceled engagements. In 1999 she startled fans by appearing on a Michael Jackson tribute concert looking alarmingly thin, and in 2000 she failed to appear on an Oscar Awards ceremony due to rumored vocal problems. Early that year she was stopped at a Hawaii airport for possession of marijuana, and in 2001 she was forced to dispel widespread rumors that she had died of a drug overdose.

Spot Light: "I Will Always Love You"

When the actor Kevin Costner chose Whitney Houston to co-star with him in the 1992 film The Bodyguard, a Hollywood barrier was broken. The film marked one of the first instances of a love interest between a Caucasian man and an African-American woman in which race was not depicted as an issue. It was Houston's first starring movie role after seven years of success as a recording artist. For the film's big ballad, Costner persuaded Houston to record a 1974 country hit by Dolly Parton, "I Will Always Love You." Bolstered by its inclusion in The Bodyguard' s television ad campaign, "I Will Always Love You" became one of the biggest singles in pop music history, selling 5 million copies. In the song's intro, Houston sings without any orchestral accompanimentan unusual tactic for a contemporary pop song. Soon these soft opening lines became famous around the world: "If I should stay / I would only be in your way. . ." The restrained opening hooks listeners into the song's drama, which Houston builds with dazzling vocal flourishes. Later in the song, after a dramatic key change, Houston bursts forth with a loud, full-bodied repetition of the chorus: "And I . . . will always love you. . . ." "I Will Always Love You" displays the full range of Houston's vocal talent and leaves no doubt that she was a notable pop voice of the 1990s.


Amid the continuing tabloid frenzy, Houston released Just Whitney in 2002, her first album of new material in over four years. This release marked a return to more conventional territory, with little of the risk-taking that characterized her previous album. Overall the critical response was lukewarm and disappointing. In December 2002, Houston granted a much-publicized network television interview to Diane Sawyer; alternately tearful and defensive, she discussed the rumors surrounding her life and career, addressing her past drug use for the first time in public. When Sawyer asked which drug was "the biggest devil" for her, she responded, "That would be me . . . nobody makes me do anything I don't want to do. It's my decision. So the biggest devil is me."

In spite of Houston's personal troubles and the erratic quality of her albums, she remains one of the most formidable singers in contemporary music. Throughout her evolution from wide-eyed teenager to mature, complex artist, her vocal powers have never flagged, attesting to the continued vitality of an artist who redefined pop singing in the 1980s and 1990s.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Whitney Houston (Arista, 1985); Whitney (Arista, 1987); I'm Your Baby Tonight (Arista, 1990); My Love Is Your Love (Arista, 1998); Just Whitney (Arista, 2002).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

The Bodyguard (1992); Waiting to Exhale (1995); The Preacher's Wife (1996); Cinderella (TV, 1997).

WEBSITE:

www.whitneyhouston.com.

david freeland

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Houston, Whitney 1963–

Whitney Houston 1963

Singer, actress

At a Glance

Found a Mentor in Clive Davis

Sophomore Effort Debuted at Number One

Escalating Fame Incited Rumors

The Bodyguard a Smash

Furthered Acting Career

Continued to Battle Rumors

New Album, New Tour

Selective Discography

Sources

Though her style is characteristic of the vocal athleticism of R&B music in the post-Hip-Hop era, pop singer Whitney Houston has a star quality that recalls the entertainment dynamos of a previous generation: elegant, professional, and versatile. Despite criticism from some corners that she conveys more technique than feeling in her music, Houston has scored enough commercial victories in the mercurial pop world to gladden the heart of any music executive.

Houston was born in New Jersey in 1963, the daughter of John R. Houstonwho would one day manage her production companyand acclaimed gospel singer Cissy Houston. Music was very much a part of her childhood; her cousin Dionne Warwick was another successful chanteuse, and she grew up around such star vocalists as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack. When I used to watch my mother sing, which was usually in church, that feeling, that soul, that thingits like electricity rolling through you, she recalled to Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone. If you have ever been in a Baptist church or a Pentecostal church, when the Holy Spirit starts to roll and people start to really feel what theyre doing, itsits incredible. Thats what I wanted. When I watched Aretha sing, the way she sang and the way she closed her eyes, and that riveting thing just came out. People just..ooooh, it could stop you in your tracks.

Houstonnicknamed Nippy, a moniker she would one day bestow on her production enterprisefirst sang publicly at the age of eight, performing Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah for a spellbound congregation at the New Hope Baptist Church. Four years later she was singing backup on recordings for major stars like Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls. I sound like my mother when my mother was my age, she told DeCurtis, though I truly think my mother has a greater voice than me, because shes the master, Im the student.

When she was 17, student Whitney took a detour into modeling, appearing in magazines like Glamour and Seventeen. Her beauty and talent also got her acting jobs in episodes of two then-popular television programs, Silver Spoons and Gimme a Break. Houston ultimately found the runway degrading, as Ebony reported, and made her way back to music; she signed a management contract in 1981 and began seriously performingboth cilone and with her mother. She was given the chance to sing the lead on the song Lifes a Party, which was recorded by the Michael Zager

At a Glance

Born August 9, 1963, in East Orange, NJ; daughter of John R. and Cissy (a singer) Houston; married Bobby Brown (a singer), 1992; children; Bobbi Kristina (daughter). Education: Graduated from parochial high school in New Jersey.

Career: Backup vocalist, 1975-; fashion model, c. late 1970s; signed with Arista Records, 1983; albums include: Whitney Houston, 1985; Im Your Baby Tonight, 1990; My Love Is Your Love, 1999; Whitney: The Greatest Hits, 2000; actress, The Bodyguard, 1992; Waiting to Exhale, 1995; The Preachers Wife, 1996; Cinderella, 1997; owner of Nippy, Inc., (New Jersey-based production company).

Awards: Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance, 1986, for Saving All My Love for You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) Emmy Award for outstanding performance in a variety program, 1986; MTV Video Music Award, 1986; seven American Music Awards, 1988, for Whitney Houston; Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance, 1988; four American Music Awards, 1989, for Whitney; distinguished achievement award, American Cinema Award Foundation, 1991; NAACP Image Award for entertainer of the year, 1994; seven American Music Awards, and three Grammy Awards, all 1994, all for The Bodyguard; honorary doctorate from Crambling State University; United Negro College Fund Award for long-standing support and commitment to the black community.

Addresses: Home Mend ham, NJ. Record company Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Band; Zager was so impressed by her voice that he offered her a record deal. Cissy declined the opportunity for her daughter, which turned out to be a wise decision. At a showcase performance in 1983, Arista Records president Clive Davis heard Houston perform and offered her a contract. This time Cissys advise was to accept the offer, and Houston signed on.

Found a Mentor in Clive Davis

Davis took the new singer under his wing. Though she sang a duet with soul superstar Teddy Pendergrass that hit the charts in 1984, Houston would spend much of the next two years working with her mentor. Davis gathered successful songwriters and producers and helped put together the package that would make Houston a star. He calculated correctly: her self-titled debut, released in March of 1985, began a gradual ascent to the top of the charts. The first single, You Give Good Love made its way to the Number Three position and the second, a cover of the late-1970s hit Saving All My Love for You, hit Number One later that year. Houston received the 1986 Grammy for best pop vocal performance for the songand came home with five trophies from the US music awards as well. And two more singles topped the charts: How Will I Know and The Greatest Love of All.

Whitney Houston finally hit the top of the U.S. album chart a year after its release; a number of singles also topped the U.K. charts. Accolades for the singer continued: Houston received an Emmy for work in a television variety program and commenced touring. Her concerts sold out throughout both the United States and Europe.

Though Houston was suddenly showered in acclaim, she had her share of detractors. Her choice of material was generally safe, critics complained, and Houstons voice, though a remarkable instrument, failed to convey much emotion. As music commentator Nelson George opined to Newsweek, Theres not a wisp of soul on those singles. Entertainment Weekly would later pay her a backhanded compliment by remarking, No one can oversing a song like Houston.

Sophomore Effort Debuted at Number One

The simultaneously belittling and affectionate term Prom Queen of Soula parody of the royal sobriquet earned by fellow singer Aretha Franklinwas hard for Houston to shake. Yet the vocalist had only begun her meteoric rise. Her sophomore effort, Whitney, appeared in 1987 and debuted at the Number One position on the Billboard chartthe first album by a female artist to do so. Its first single, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), rocketed to the top, followed by three other Number-One hits: Didnt We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go. The single Love Will Save the Day was a disappointment only when measured against Houstons other hits; it only made it to Number Nine. Meanwhile, One Moment in Time, a ballad recorded by Houston for Aristas 1988 Olympics tribute album of the same name, topped the charts after Whitney ended its run.

In addition to her activities in the musical arena, Houston has used her high public profile to aid causes she personally supports. She took time out of a busy schedule to headline at a birthday gala for South African leader Nelson Mandela at Londons Wembley Arena. And she continued to rack up awards, taking home the 1988 Grammy for I Wanna Dance With Somebody and, in January of 1989, garnering both the female pop and soul/R&B vocal honors at the American Music Awards.

It was at the Soul Train Music Awards that same year that Houston crossed paths with someone who would have a lasting effect on her life. She made the acquaintance of singer Bobby Brown, a popular New Jack Swing performer in his own right. The two didnt hit it off immediately. Houston later recalled in the interview with DeCurtis: I always get curious when somebody doesnt like me. I want to know why. She invited Brown to a party; he accepted. As they got to know each other better, they realized their feelings surpassed mere friendship. After a year or so, I fell in love with Bobby, Houston explained after detailing her rebuff of his first proposal. And when he asked to marry me the second time, I said yes. The couple was married in July of 1992.

Escalating Fame Incited Rumors

Prior to this, Houston recorded and released Im Your Baby Tonight. The album was a slight disappointment; it didnt perform as well as its predecessors and stopped climbing when it reached the Number Three position. Even so, Im Your Baby, which featured the chart-topping single All the Man That I Need, achieved triple platinum status. She received the 1990 Hitmaker Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and an invitation to the White House from then-President George Bush.

Around the same time, Houston was approached about a movie called The Bodyguard. Actor Kevin Costner, who planned to star in the film, was set on Houston for his female co-star. He felt so certain that Houston was right for the role of imperiled singer Rachel Marron that he agreed to wait as long as she wantedas long as shed agree to do the film. There are certain singers that occupy that territory that includes a world-class voice, real elegance and a physical presence, Costner explained to Ebony. Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand are two. Whitney Houston is another. But Houston would keep Costner waiting for quite some time.

Meanwhile, the singer was busy with other things. She sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, a performance that crystallized strong patriotic sentiment during the period of U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War. There was a great demand for both a single and video of her rendition. She later sang the Star Spangled Banner again for returning troops at Norfolk Naval Air Station. However, Houstons prestige and success as an entertainer didnt protect her from rumors she found infuriating. These included speculation that she and Brown had a less-than-harmonious marriageafter all, he had gained a reputation as the bad boy of the business, and she was known as the good girl.

The Bodyguard a Smash

After two years, Houston decided to venture into acting and went ahead with plans to star in The Bodyguard. I kind of waited too long for Kevin, she told DeCurtis, recalling her decision to appear in the film. He called one day and said, Listen, are you going to do this movie with me or not? I told him about my fears. I said: I dont want to go out there and fall. And he said: I promise you I will not let you fall. I will help you. And he did. In exchange for help with her acting, Houston gave her co-star tips on singing.

The Bodyguard is about a singer (played by Houston) who requires the protection of a bodyguard (Costner) after being harassed by an obsessive fan; a romance then develops between the star and her protector. Although Entertainment Weekly included The Bodyguard in a list of films exploring interracial romance, color mattered little to the audience and was not even addressed in the film. Whitney, in a sense, is to music and now to film whcit [actor-comedian Bill] Cosby was to television, noted Entertainment Weeklys Sheldon Platt. The American middle class looks upon her as a person, and they extinguish other ethnic or racial boundaries.

Critical feedback of he film was mixed. Houston, the Olympian pop-soul diva, has moments of quickness and humor; she shows more thespian flair than many musicians, stated Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Her presence, though, is defined by the same glassy perfection that makes her singing, for all its virtuosity, seem fundamentally anonymous. Whitney Houston is a diamond without flaws: Her cat-faced Mayan beauty is like a mask, and beneath it one never senses a glimmer of vulnerability, pain, doubt. Houston rebuffed such evaluations in Rolling Stone: People loved this moviethe critics dogged it, but people loved it. Houston was pregnant for most of the period of the films media blitz, and becoming a mother overshadowed any negative reviews. Theres been nothing more incredible in my life than having her, she declared of her daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Mixed reviews didnt affect The Bodyguards box-office success. It grossed $390 million worldwide by mid-1993, and the soundtrack album, which featured six Houston performances, sold about 24 million copies. The biggest single generated from the soundtrackand the longest-running Number One single everwas her rendition of Dolly Partons I Will Always Love You, which earned Houston two of her three Grammys in 1994.

In addition to her impressive showing at the Grammys, Houston took several other honors in 1994, including two Soul Train Awards, entertainer of the year honors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples Image Awards, and seven American Music Awards.

At the close of 1993, Entertainment Weekly rated Houston Number Five among the top Entertainers of the Year. At the height of her professional game and happy with her new family, Houston was, in the magazines phrase, enjoying a success so relentless that nothing but sledgehammered shards of conventional wisdom are left in its wake. With three best-selling records and a successful acting debut behind her, there seemed few show-business frontiers left for her to conquer.

Furthered Acting Career

In the coming years, Houston focused on her film career. In 1995, she joined an ensemble cast that included Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in Waiting to Exhale. The film, based on Terry McMillans novel and directed by Forrest Whitaker, explores the friendship of four modern women as they deal with the challenges of love, career, and family. The film resonated with audiences and, like The Bodyguard, was a huge hit. And, just as The Bodyguard soundtrack had topped music charts, so too did the soundtrack of Exhale, thanks in no small part to the three songs Houston contributed, including Exhale (Shoop Shoop), Count on Me, and Why Does it Hurt So Bad.

The Preachers Wife (1996), director Penny Marshalls gospel-injected remake of the 1947 holiday classic, The Bishops Wife, provided Houston with the chance, not only to reunite with Exhale co-stars Loretta Devine and Gregory Hines, but to work with Oscar-winner Denzel Washington. The story of this film evolves around Reverend Henry Biggs, played by Courtney B. Vance. While fighting to save his neighborhood church from a property developer, Biggs prays to God for help. His prayer is answered with the arrival of Dudley, an angel played by Washington. However, instead of assisting Biggs in his struggle to save the church, Dudley begins spending time with the Reverends wife, Julia, played by Houston. Biggs, jealous of Dudleys attentions to his wife, begins to reevaluate his priorities. Although this film emerged as Houstons first box office failure, the soundtrack, filled with Houstons renditions of gospel and Christmas standards, sold well.

In 1997, Houston ventured into the realm of producing. Acting as executive producer, she cast R&B star Brandy as Cinderella in Rogers & Hammerstiens Cinderella. Houston herself appeared as Cinderellas fairy godmother. The two-hour special, which aired on ABC on November 2nd, earned the network its highest Sunday night ratings in ten years.

Continued to Battle Rumors

However, in the wake of her blossoming acting career, rumors of drug abuse surfaced after Houston missed several appearances. Houston had been scheduled to appear on the Rosie ODonnell Show on October 30, 1997 to promote Cinderella, but canceled at the last minute due to a stomach flu. ODonnell expressed her frustration at the last-minute cancellation, aiming several on-air jokes at Houston. Whitney is not here shes ill, ODonnell said, according to Entertainment Weekly. I hope shes very ill. The nature of Houstons illness was questioned after she accompanied her husband for his appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman that same day. She was feeling better, Houstons publicist explained to Entertainment Weekly.

Despite Houstons claims that her absences were due to illness, the rumor mill relentlessly churned out stories of drug abuse. Then, in January of 2000, airport security officials in Hawaii discovered 14 grams of marijuana in Houstons luggage. Houston did not wait for police to arrive. Rather, she boarded her flight, which took off before law enforcement officials appeared on the scene.

A string of other missed appearances followed. Three weeks before the 2000 Academy Awards ceremony, Houston, who had been scheduled to help induct her mentor, Clive Davis, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, failed to appear at the induction dinner. Houstons publicist told the media that, according io the South China Morning Post, voice problems were the cause for Houstons absence. Three weeks later, after Houston failed to perform at the Oscars, her publicist cited a sore throat as the reason.

Drug possession charges were filed against Houston after the Hawaii airport incident, but were dismissed in March of 2001. A certified substance abuse counselor had submitted a substance abuse assessment of Houston on February 22nd. After reviewing the assessment, which stated that Houston did not require substance abuse treatment, Hilo District Judge Joseph Fiorendo, Jr. dismissed the misdemeanor charge.

New Album, New Tour

Just as Houston was battling rumors of drug abuse, she was also promoting her first studio album in seven years. My Love is Your Love was released in 1999. In June of that year, Houston launched her first tour in five years. John Scher, president of the Metropolitan Music Group, which served as the tours U.S. promoter, commented on the changes in Houstons career since her last tour. Her career has shifted a bit and she has become a pretty big movie star, Scher told Amusement Business. As such, her demographic has widened to include not just music and concert fans, but more of the general public. In addition, thanks to the of the singles, My Love is Your Love and Its Not Right But Its Okay, Houstons success on urban radio had introduced her to another new audience.

In 2000, 15 years after the release of her debut album, Houston released Whitney: The Greatest Hits. The two-disc collection featured 36 songs spanning Houstons career. The first disc showcased her best love songs, while the second disc contained several remixes. Amazon.com reviewer Heidi Sherman noted that Junior Vasquezs remix of How Will I Know, pokes fun at the songs 80s fluffiness by layering bells, lasers effects, and echoes on top. The collection also featured duets with George Michael, Deborah Cox, Jer-maine Jackson, and Enrique Iglesias.

Houston reflected on the years she has invested in her craft in an Upscale magazine piece: I started out working in little night clubssometimes getting paid, sometimes notsometimes performing for 200 people, other times working in front of ten. Today, its like people just want to jump out there and immediately become stars, but it takes time and it takes not giving up. It takes believing in ones self in spite of negativity and what people say. Houston has certainly faced her share of negativity, from rumors about her marriage to tales of drug abuse. She has weathered storms of whispers and tabloid reports, and emerged with a successful marriage and career.

Selective Discography

Lifes a Party, (with the Michael Zager Band), 1981.

Love Language, (with Teddy Pendergrass), Asylum, 1984.

Whitney Houston, Arista, 1985.

Whitney, Arista, 1987.

Im Your Baby Tonight, Arista, 1990.

The Bodyguard (soundtrack), 1992.

Waiting to Exhale (soundtrack, with various artists), 1995.

The Preachers Wife (soundtrack), 1996.

Prince of Egypt (soundtrack, with various artists), 1998.

My Love is Your Love, Arista, 1999.

Whitney: The Greatest Hits, Arista, 2000.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 8, Gale, 1993.

Rees, Dafydd and Luke Crampton, editors, Rock Movers and Shakers, Billboard Books, 1991.

Periodicals

Amusement Business, July 5, 1999, p. 5.

Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2001, p. 2A.

Ebony, January 1993, p. 118-22.

Entertainment Weekly, April 10, 1992, p. 8; December 4, 1992, p. 42-43; December 25, 1992, p. 104; February 5, 1993, p. 17-21; October 22, 1993, p. 40; December 31, 1993, p. 27; February 18, 1994, pp. 32-33; March 18, 1994, p. 103; November 14, 1997, p. 6.

Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1994, p. F10.

Newsweek, July 21, 1986, p. 60-61.

Rolling Stone, June 10, 1993, p. 46-49; January 27, 1994, p. 40.

South China Morning Post, April 12, 2000.

Upscale, December 1993.

Other

Additional material was obtained online at: the All Music Guide website, http://allmusic.com; the Internet Movie Database, http://www.us.imdb.com; and http://www.amazon.com.

Simon Glickman and Jennifer M. York

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