Singer/Actress Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.
Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, according to the Associated Press.
TMZ reports paramedics were called to the Beverly Hilton today when Houston was found unresponsive in her hotel room. Reportedly, police arrived to the scene within minutes and fire was already there. Paramedics performed CPR, however, Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 PM.
Beverly Hills Police Lt. Mark Rosen said there were “no obvious signs of criminal intent” and that the cause of her death is being investigated.
Houston’s bodyguard found her body, said Courtney Barnes, publicist for hip-hop artist Ray J, who was dating the pop diva. Houston’s body was found partially submerged in her hotel room bathtub. Pill bottles were found at the scene.
News of Houston’s death came on the eve of the 54th annual Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death is sure to put a damper on Sunday’s ceremony. Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis still held his annual concert and dinner Saturday.
At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone. According to her official website, Houston sold more than 170 million albums, singles and videos over her career.
Houston was born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.
Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.
Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.
Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to silence critics who claimed she was playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant through much of her career. It seemed to be an odd union as Houston was seen as pop’s pure princess while Brown had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993. Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.
Houston’s moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America’s sweetheart.
In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with “The Bodyguard.” Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.
It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the “Bodyguard” soundtrack was named album of the year.
She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, “My Love Is Your Love,” in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”
But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time “The Preacher’s Wife” was released, “(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. … I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. … I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”
In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.
Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.
She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown’s reality show, “Being Bobby Brown,” was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.
Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album “I Look To You.” The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.
Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on “Good Morning America” went awry as Houston’s voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.
A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.
Houston was set to appear in this year’s “Sparkle,” a remake of the 1976 hit, which was loosely based on the story of The Supremes. It was her first movie role since 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife.”
A voice of a generation has been silenced far too soon.
Bobbi Kristina Brown, Houston’s only child, was rushed to an LA-area hospital twice – once late Saturday and again just before noon Sunday – suffering from stress and anxiety.
Bobbi Kristina, 18, had been staying at the Beverly Hilton, the same hotel where her mother had registered to stay at for a pre-Grammy party Saturday night.
Beverly Hills police confirmed to KCBS that Bobbi Kristina was transported at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and has since been released.
A Beverly Hills Police Dept. watch commander said that Bobbi Kristina was treated for anxiety. She has also been treated for exhaustion.
Us Weekly, reports Bobbi Kristina is having a “total breakdown.”
An autopsy on Houston’s body has been completed, however the results have been placed on a security hold until further notice.