Whitney Houston | 1963-2012
Whitney Houston, a willowy church singer with a towering voice who became a titan of the pop charts in the 1980s and 1990s, died Feb. 11 at the age of 48. By then much of her success had crumbled away amid the fumes of addiction and reckless ego. The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled her death an accidental drowning and reported that cocaine in her system contributed to her death.
David Letterman performance of ‘Saving All My Love’
One of Houston’s earliest television performances was on David Letterman’s show “Late Night,” and she sang one of her biggest early hits from her self-titled debut album. The songstress had been on “The Merv Griffin Show,” but this performance helped spread her early fame.
Tribute to Nelson Mandela
In 1988, stars like Houston and Tracy Chapman traveled to London to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday with a tribute. With Mandela still in prison, the highly political concert was also known as Freedomfest. Before singing “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” Houston told a reporter, “I think [this day] is important to me and a whole world of people. I think it makes them aware that one courageous individual has been in prison for so long and taken away from his family, the closeness of his family, you know, physically.”
Houston plays a leading role in a new version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
A Times theater critic writes that the most dramatic change of all “is the addition of three songs, including a ‘new’ Rodgers and Hammerstein number that was cobbled together for Whitney Houston, Cinderella’s fairy godmother.”
New album: “My Love is Your Love”
“When you’re as big a star as Houston, you don’t need to write your own material to make a personal statement,” Elysa Gardner writes in a review for The Times.
“For her first new studio album in eight years, she recruited both old colleagues and young talent from the contemporary R&B and hip-hop communities to come up with songs that reflect her growth as an artist and a woman.”
In an interview two days after singing the national anthem at the WNBA all-star game in New York City, Houston discusses her relationship with Brown and Clive Davis, the Arista Records president who is widely credited with guiding her success. Houston also reflects on the challenges of touring, music, motherhood and the recurring tabloid reports about her marriage.
Houston, described in this Q&A as a “workaholic,” postpones two dates on her first U.S. tour in five years because of strain on her celebrated vocal cords.
Houston is back on tour and displays a warmth and joyfulness that were unseen before, writes Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn.
“Instead of the mere vocal gymnastics of old, she injected personality and character into the songs,” he wrote. “It was a transformation so dramatic that it seemed like she was unveiling an entire new identity—enough so that we ought to start thinking of her as the Artist Formerly Known as Whitney Houston.”
Whitney Houston misses two high-profile performances on short notice — one at the Oscars, where producers scramble to get country singer Faith Hill to cover for Houston on the global telecast.
She also cancels concerts in six cities, some within minutes of the stage time. That track record, Houston’s erratic behavior during a recent interview with Jane magazine and the singer’s near drug arrest at a Hawaii airport (she boarded a plane that took off before police could cite her for alleged marijuana possession) trigger a wave of industry rumors about the veteran singer. But Houston’s publicist calls the whispers unfair and untrue.
Houston performs at Clive Davis’ “25 Years of Hits…” concert at the Shrine Auditorium, amid concerns that she would be a no-show. Times critic Robert Hilburn writes that Houston passed her test of credibility, “though not perhaps with the kind of knockout punch that is needed to fully dispel the dark rumors that have been flying around her since her high-profile cancellations at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner and the Academy Awards telecast.”
Houston’s publicist says the singer dropped out of both ceremonies because of throat or voice problems, but media speculation continues about Houston’s physical and emotional state. The most alarming rumor: that drug use has damaged her voice and is possibly threatening her career.
Houston denies the drug rumors.
Arista Records signs a $100-million pact with Whitney Houston under which she is expected to deliver eight albums to the Bertelsmann-owned record label. Since signing with Arista in 1983, Houston has sold tens of millions of albums.
Under her previous recording agreement, the singer already owed five albums to Arista, sources say. Houston agreed to deliver two additional albums plus a greatest-hits package under her new contract.
Whitney Houston admits she’s abused drugs in the past but says she’s gotten beyond that time through prayer.
Houston discusses her past, the pressures of stardom and her decade-long marriage to Bobby Brown in a notorious interview with Diane Sawyer on “Primetime.”
When Sawyer asks her, “Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana? Is it cocaine? Is it pills?” Houston responds, “It has been at times.”
Times critic Robert Hilburn says Houston’s latest album, “Just Whitney,” doesn’t follow up on her past ballads. “Houston’s voice is fine, but the album is a timid outing that fails to even generate the presence her earlier hits did.”
John Houston, 82, a theatrical manager since the early days of rhythm and blues and the father of singer Whitney Houston, dies at a New York City hospital after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease.
Relations between Houston and his daughter took an especially awkward turn when his company, John Houston Entertainment, sued hers for $100 million.
The suit sought compensation for helping to get a marijuana charge against her dismissed and for getting her a new record contract.
After a weekend domestic dispute that left Houston with facial injuries, her husband Bobby Brown, 34, is charged with battery.
Police were called to the home of Brown and Houston in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta on a Sunday evening. Houston tells authorities Brown had struck her with an open right hand.
Houston, 40, enters a drug rehabilitation facility. She had said in December 2002 that she she had abused drugs in the past but had gotten beyond that time through prayer.
Whitney Houston’ appears in a 10-part TV reality series, “Being Bobby Brown,” that airs on the Bravo cable channel. “I would hesitate to call ‘Being Bobby Brown’ a reality show, were the staged reality it presents not so kookily convincing, with Brown, the former R&B star, and Houston, the pop diva with a career out there somewhere, gamely allowing themselves to be captured in various stages of celebrity ennui,” writes The Times’ Paul Brownfield.
Houston files for divorce from R&B singer Bobby Brown, ending a famously volatile marriage that inspired relentless tabloid coverage.
The couple had a stormy marriage, and Brown had frequent brushes with the law, including a 2003 domestic abuse charge in which he allegedly struck Houston in the face and threatened to beat her.
With R&B singer Bobby Brown a no-show in court, an Orange County judge Wednesday grants Whitney Houston a divorce and sole custody of their 14-year-old daughter.
During the 10-minute hearing, Houston testifies that she doesn’t need spousal or child support to raise her daughter, Bobbi Kristina. She also describes Brown as unreliable and a bad communicator.
Houston performs to a joyous reception at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala
She begins with her signature ballad, “I Will Always Love You.” Times pop music critic Ann Powers writes that “she simply sang, strongly but without melodrama. And before the high notes could challenge her, she moved on, switching to her 1983 hit ‘I Believe in You and Me,’ the scariest part of the night behind her.”
Houston receives a rousing ovation from celebrities and record-industry players at a preview party for her comeback album.
Coming after her six-year absence from the studio, the album, “I Look to You,” has long been enveloped by speculation about whether Houston has lost the vocal prowess and charisma that made her one of the most successful female singers of the last two decades.
But music mogul Clive Davis — who discovered Houston and has been spearheading her comeback — says the album should leave little doubt that Houston is still “one of the all-time great vocalists.”
The Times reviews Houston’s first new album in a decade. Pop music critic Ann Powers credits Houston for having one of the voices that “stand like monuments upon the landscape of 20th century pop.” Powers finds the new record far from her best work but says: “Should we begrudge the fact that Whitney Houston now has to work at singing?”
Nielsen SoundScan reports that Houston’s album “I Look to You” is the third top album for the week.
News reports of Houston’s tour in Australia quote disgruntled fans who complain about the star’s voice and performance. Video snippets of the 46-year-old Houston struggling to hit notes in concerts in Sydney and Brisbane circulate on YouTube and other outlets.
But Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, says in a statement that more than 9,000 people attended Houston’s show in Brisbane and more than 12,000 were at Acer Arena in Sydney. “Her fans were dancing and singing along with her and Whitney appreciates their support,” Foster said.
Foster also says the singer is in good health.
Houston goes back to rehab. Kristen Foster, a representative for the singer, says Houston has voluntarily entered an outpatient program for drug and alcohol treatment. Foster calls the move part of Houston’s “long-standing” recovery process.
Houston gets into a disagreement with a Delta Air Lines flight crew when she reportedly refuses to buckle her seat belt. TMZ reports the flight attendant ultimately buckles it for her.
Houston dies at age 48, on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
Authorities release details about Whitney Houston’s death, saying the singer was discovered underwater in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel where she was pronounced dead. Several prescription drugs were found in Houston’s hotel room, but Los Angeles County coroner’s officials say it’s too soon to say whether the medications played any role in the singer’s death.
Whitney Houston is laid to rest on Feb. 18 at Fairview Cemetery in New Jersey. Her funeral, held at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, is closed to the public; however, the family provides a live feed of the church to the media. Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder are among the famous guests to attend.
Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown leaves the funeral early after being asked to move several times.
Whitney Houston leaves her entire estate to her only child, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Bobbi Kristina will receive all of her mother’s money, furniture, clothing, personal effects, jewelry and cars. The funds will be placed in a trust until the 19-year-old turns 21. Under the will, additional funds go to Bobbi Kristina on her 25th birthday with the balance released when she turns 30.
Death ruled accidental drowning
The Los Angeles County coroner rules Whitney Houston’s death an accidental drowning. The coroner says cocaine found in her system, as well as heart disease, contributed to the death. In addition to cocaine, an autopsy found traces of marijuana, Xanax, Flexeril and Benadryl, but officials conclude those drugs did not contribute to her death. Officials say Houston may have suffered a heart attack before the drowning.
Sources: Times reporting, Associated Press
Credits: Rosanna Xia, TimelineSetter