Six-time Grammy-award winning artist Whitney Houston was found dead Saturday afternoon in a hotel room in the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. She was 48 years old. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Whitney Houston burst onto the scene with her breakout debut album Whitney Houston, which produced three number one hits. Houston also set chart records with a record seven consecutive number one singles between 1985 and 1988, a first for any artist. She became the first female to debut at number one on Billboard’s Album Chart with Whitney (1987), and her number one single from the movie The Bodyguard (I Will Always Love You) became the biggest-selling single by a female of all time. With The Bodyguard soundtrack, she also became the first artist to sell more than a million copies of an album in a week’s time.
However, Ms. Houston’s career stalled the last decade or so as she tried to get back on track after years of drug abuse. Her last album release in 2009 (I Look To You) was perceived as a commercial and critical flop, despite selling more a million copies.
In total, Whitney Houston has had 22 top ten hits, with eleven of those hitting number one.
As for awards, she won a boatload of them. In addition to her six Grammy wins, Houston has won 22 American Music Awards (including eight in 1994); 30 Billboard Music Awards, sixteen NAACP Image Awards, seven Soul Train Music Awards, 99 RIAA Awards, and one Emmy. In all, she won 415 awards during her career, making her the most-awarded female entertainer of all time, according to Guinness World Records.
Ms. Houston also became a trailblazer in the music video world, becoming the first African-American female artist to receive heavy rotation on MTV. She recorded the hit single One Moment In Time, which was heard prominently during NBC’s 1988 Summer Olympic coverage. Her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV in 1991 brought rave reviews and was released as a single twice.
Outside of music, Ms. Houston also dabbled in modeling (where she toiled before she launched her music career) and acting.
Her first television appearance was in a 1984 episode of Gimme A Break, but her first televised singing performance came a year later on The Merv Griffin Show and on the second-season premiere of Silver Spoons performing Saving All My Love For You, which became her first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 a month later. Houston had a major role in the highly-rated 1997 TV movie Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and appeared as herself in a 2002 episode of Boston Public. She also was a spokeswoman for Diet Coke, appearing in several commercials in the late 1980’s and appeared in ads for AT&T in the mid-1990’s.
Ms. Houston’s success as a recording artist led to starring roles in many motion pictures, including The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife. She just wrapped filming her fourth film, Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 film.
Her most recent television roles were less memorable. Houston appeared in the short-lived and critically panned reality series with her then-husband Bobby Brown in So Bobby Brown, which aired on Bravo during the summer of 2005 (Houston did create a catch phrase with her repeatedly saying “Hell to the No”.) Performances on several European television shows when promoting I Look To You were also heavily panned. Her frail appearance during concerts lead to speculation about whether or not she was continuing her drug use.
In all, she recorded seven albums, which sold 55 million copies combined in the United States, and more than 200 million worldwide.
With the death of Whitney Houston, she’s become the latest prominent music figure to pass away in the last few years, following the death of Michael Jackson in 2009 and the recent passing of Etta James and Soul Train creator Don Cornelius.
Ms. Houston is survived by her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown; her cousin Dionne Warwick; her mother Cissy Houston; and brothers Michael and Gary.
(This is an update to an earlier story to add photo and links; this was first posted February 11 at 9:30 p.m.)