By Linda Tarrant-Reid
R & B legend Whitney Houston was found dead in her bathroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 11. Houston was scheduled to attend her mentor and music producer Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammys party that evening at the very same hotel where she was found unconscious in the bathtub in her suite. She was pronounced dead at 3:55 pm by paramedics. A spokesperson from the L.A. Coroner’s Office stated that there was no indication of physical trauma or foul play and unofficial reports indicated the songstress may have accidentally drowned in the tub. The Coroner’s Office has completed an autopsy, but will not release its findings until the toxicology reports are in, which could take four to six weeks.
Houston, a mega-star of the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, whose first two albums Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987) delivered seven consecutive No. 1 chart topping hits on BillBoards Hot 100 including: “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” Whitney, who comes from music industry royalty, was the daughter of award-winning soul and gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of R & B legend Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. During her spectacular career, Houston won 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards and sold over 170 million albums worldwide.
Whitney Houston was also an actress who starred in hit movies including: “The Bodyguard” (1992) co-starring with Kevin Costner; “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) based on Terry McMillan’s bestselling novel about four strong African American women; and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996) with Denzel Washington, a remake of “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) with Loretta Young, David Niven and Cary Grant.
Reaction to Whitney Houston’s premature death sparked a flood of tributes from around the world from friends, entertainers, industry execs, celebrities and fans on mainstream media and social media including blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other digital platforms. Her death came at a time when she was trying to turn her life around after years of struggle. Whitney had released her new album, I Look to You in 2009 which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, her first No. 1 album since The Bodyguard. Houston was awarded a Gold Certificate by the Italian Music Industry for selling over 50,000 CDs of the I Look to You album, it went Platinum in the U.S. after garnering sales of over one million records and in 2010, she won an NAACP Image Award for the “Best Music Video for a Single” for “I Look to You.” Although, her world tour billed as the “Nothing but Love Tour” was fraught with late performances, disappointed fans and cancelled concerts, Whitney continued to put herself out there. Her recent project was as executive producer and co-star of the remake of the 1976 film Sparkle, inspired by the Supremes, starring American Idol season six winner Jordin Sparks due out in August.
Whitney Houston’s untimely death comes at a time when we have experienced so many losses of our African American legends in the music business in the last couple of years. Etta James, Don Cornelius, Heavy D, Nick Ashford, Michael Jackson, Gil Scott-Heron, Abbey Lincoln, and Frank Foster are just some of the huge talent that has gone onto glory and will leave a tremendous void in our universe.
Whitney Houston was a singular and extraordinary talent who impacted the styles of Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Christine Aguilera to name a few. Her legacy lives on in the mentoring of the young talent that she took under her wings; it lives on in the memories of the students who attend the Whitney E. Houston Academy for Creative and Performing Arts, an elementary school Whitney attended in East Orange, New Jersey and named for her in 1997; and will live on amongst the congregation at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey where as a 12-year old she held the audience spellbound by her powerful voice. And her legacy lives on in her daughter Bobbi Kristina and the Houston Family.
Rest in Peace, Whitney, we will always love you.