Kristen Foster, publicist for singer and actress Whitney Houston informed the news media on Saturday, February 11th, that Whitney has died at the age of 48.
The cause of Ms Houston’s passing was not immediately available, although given her history of drug abuse, speculation about the cause of death has already started. Beverly Hills Police Lieutenant Mark Rosen said the singer was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the 4th floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Reports are that paramedics spent about 20 minutes trying to revive her.
Her death, on the eve of the Grammy Awards show has shocked the music and movie industries.
Daughter of gospel performer Cissy Houston, cousin to Dionne Warwick and goddaugher of the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston enjoyed early career success as a fashion model before turning to singing and releasing her self-titled debut album in 1985. Scoring three #1 hit singles (“Saving All My Love”, “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All”), it was the beginning of a run of hit albums and singles that went on steadily until the mid-1990s. She had 11 #1 hits, including her biggest smash “I Will Always Love You” from the soundtrack of a film she starred in, which spent a then-record 14 weeks atop the charts.
The film “The Bodyguard” received mostly poor reviews but that didn’t stop producers from continuing to cast her in such films as “Waiting to Exhale”, “The Preacher’s Wife” and a film due out later this year, “Sparkle” which might well have been the launch of a comeback for the pop singer/actress.
Often criticized for drifting too far from her musical roots (she was once booed at the Soul Train Awards), Houston was the winner of 2 Emmys, 6 Grammys, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. She is recognized as holding the longest string of consecutive #1 hits at 7.
Many blame her 1992 marriage to singer Bobby Brown as the turning point in her career and life.
Brown, who already had children, fathered a child with Houston, but their union was fraught with problems. She was a pop diva, while he was the quintessential bad boy of R&B. He had drug problems already and Whitney began using cocaine, marijuana and pills. Use became abuse and the one thing that set her apart from other performers, her mezzo-soprano voice was later weakened by the physcial abuse she was doing to her body.
At concerts later in her life, she was unable to hit those high notes she’d nailed when churning out hit after hit, and disappointed audiences did not hide their displeasure at her efforts.
“Sparkle”, scheduled for an August release, is a remake of the 1976 film with the very same title. The original, involved an all girl trio in the 1950s is being remade and reimagined as being about a female trio from Detroit in the 1960s. Sound familiar to any fans of the musical “Dreamgirls” that gave Jennifer Hudson a ticket to Oscar?
Directed by Salim Akil and starring Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter and others in addition to Houston and featuring music by R. Kelly and Curtis Mayfield, many now wonder if “Sparkle” will be released sooner, or shelved altogether, in the wake of Houston’s passing.