Born August 9, 1963, in Newark, NJ; daughter of John (head of music management company) and Cissy (R&B backup singer); cousin of Dionne Warwick (pop and soul singer). Married Bobby Brown (R&B singer) in 1992; daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Addresses: Record company-Arista Records, Arista Building, 6 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019; 8370 Wilshire Boulevard, 3rd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 Phone: (212) 489-7400; (213) 655-9222.
Pop singer Whitney Houston is known and admired for the use of her fluid, soaring vocal technique in soul, disco, and R&B music. Her self-titled debut release in 1985, Whitney Houston, sold more than 13 million copies and spawned three hit singles- "Saving All My Love For You," "How Will I Know," and "The Greatest Love of All." The multiplatinum album became the best-selling debut of all time by a female solo artist. The single "Saving All My Love for You" garnered Houston the first of five Grammy awards. Her 1987 release, Whitney, was the first album by a female to enter the charts at number one, and the album made her the first artist in history to score seven consecutive number one hits.
Houston's foray into movie soundtracks proved equally impressive. The Bodyguard earned more than $400 million worldwide and was the most successful soundtrack ever released, with more than 33 million units sold. The soundtrack's overwhelming success was due to Houston's rendition of the Dolly Parton song "I Will Always Love You." Her duet single with Mariah Carey, "When You Believe," for the movie The Prince of Egypt was released in 1998 on the same day as her fifth album, My Love is Your Love,which featured Missy Elliott, Faith Evans, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill. With My Love is Your Love in 1999, Houston began fusing hip hop with rhythm and blues in a revitalizing career move. Arista president Clive Davis told Billboard's Melinda Newman, "She certainly shows here that she can work at hip-hop and cutting-edge music. ... If anyone has underestimated the magnitude, the breadth of her incredible talent, they're going to be surprised."
Houston, the daughter of successful R&B backup singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of pop and soul singer Dionne Warwick, was deeply involved in music growing up in the Newark, New Jersey area. She sang in the New Hope Baptist junior choir, where her mother served as minister of music for many years. It was watching her mother that made Houston want to become a performer. By the time Houston was eleven, it was clear that she was destined for more than backup singing. When she took center stage to sing a solo, the power of her church-inflected soprano voice moved many in the congregation to tears. As a teenager, Houston sang backup vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls, and dabbled successfully in teen modeling, gracing the covers of Seventeen and Glamour.She also studied acting and dancing, appeared in television commercials and sitcoms, and performed occasional singing dates. Her family was grooming her for eventual global superstardom, as her combination of extraordinary talent and exceptional beauty promised to offer a bright career.
Shortly after her 18th birthday, Houston began to develop her material and to cement record industry contracts. She signed with Arista Records in 1985, because the label's president, Clive Davis, had a reputation for picking hits for his singers and for allowing artists to take their time to develop. Houston's debut cemented her career. Her 1985 release, Whitney Houston, had three number one singles, was a record-breaking debut, and earned her a Grammy award for "Saving All My Love for You." She spent the next two years touring to support the release, appearing on television shows, and working on material for her next release, Whitney, in 1987. Whitneyentered the charts at number one, and Houston's dynamic MTV videos further ingratiated her to fans. She was chosen to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" at the 1990 Super Bowl and released I'm Your Baby Tonight the same year.
After touring strenuously for five years, Houston took time off in the early 1990s to rest and enjoy her success. In 1992 she married R&B artist Bobby Brown before 800 people, and had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina. She appeared in the movie The Bodyguard in 1992 as the lead romantic female role opposite Kevin Costner, and sang the movie's theme song, "I Will Always Love You." In 1995 Houston appeared in the movie Waiting to Exhale, and she contributed to the soundtrack as well. Her third film appearance in a remake of The Preacher's Wife opposite Denzel Washington didn't fare as well at the box office, but did permit Houston to get back in touch with her gospel roots. Houston's shift from superstar singer to box office draw was successful, and placed her in the category of American icon along with other musical film performers such as Diana Ross, Madonna, Elvis Presley, and Dolly Parton.
Houston performed at a White House dinner honoring Nelson Mandela, and is known for her philanthropic endeavors. She has made significant contributions to the United Negro College Fund, the Children's Diabetes Fund, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and AIDS-related organizations. She also established the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, Inc., a nonprofit organization established to assist homeless children and children with cancer and AIDS. In August of 1998 Houston teamed up with singer Mariah Carey to record the theme song "When You Believe" for the animated DreamWorks movie The Prince of Egypt, which tells the story of Moses. Rumors that the two singers were competitive abounded, so the duo appeared together at the MTV Video Music Awards in September of 1998 wearing identical dresses to present Will Smith with the Best Male Video Award.
The Prince of Egypt soundtrack appeared in stores on the same day in 1998 as Houston's solo album, My Love is Your Love. It was her first full-length studio recording in eight years. The single "When You Believe" appeared on My Love is Your Love, the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, and Carey's 1998 greatest hits release. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield wrote of My Love is Your Love, "Whitney Houston's first album in eight years is her most consistent ever-in fact, it's her first consistent album....The former ingenue has some grown-up scars now, singing the marital blues with a bite in her voice that she's never come close to before." Esther Iverem of the Washington Post wrote, "Whitney Houston may well be heir to the diva mantle passed down by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross. Her singing cannot really be said to clone any of her inspirations. With a wide range and undeniable vocal power ... she can obviously belt out a song."
When in 2000 Arista released a compilation of Houston's Greatest Hits, the album quickly went double-platinum in the United States and within one year realized sales of ten million worldwide. In 2001, with career sales topping 140 million records, Houston signed a new multi-record deal with Arista, reportedly valued at more than $100 million. She released One Wish: The Holiday Album, in 2003, then experienced a range of ups and downs in 2004. After entering rehab in March, she emerged and toured Germany and China in July with fellow singers Dionne Warwick and Natalie Cole. It was Houston
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Whitney Houston's Career
Sang backup vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls as a teen; modeled; appeared in television commercials and sitcoms including The Merv Griffin Show, Silver Spoons, and Gimmie a Break; signed with Arista Records in 1985; released Whitney Houston, 1985; released Whitney in 1987; sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at 1990 Super Bowl, 1990; released I'm Your Baby Tonight, 1990; lead role in feature film The Bodyguard, 1992; appeared in Waiting to Exhale, 1995; starred in The Preacher's Wife, 1997; teamed with singer Mariah Carey to record the theme song "When You Believe" for The Prince of Egypt, 1998; released My Love is Your Love, 1998; signed for over $100 million with Arista, 2001.
Whitney Houston's Awards
Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety of Music Program, 1986; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1987; People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1987; People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1988; Emmy Award, 1988; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Female, 1989; People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1993; People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, 1993; Grammy Award for Record of the Year, 1993; Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1993; Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, 1993; NAACP Image Award for Best Female Artist 1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Gospel Album,1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Artist, 1997; NAACP Image Award for Best Actress, 1997; Essence Triumphant Spirit Award, 1997; People's Choice Award, Favorite Female Musical Performer (tied with Reba McEntire), 1998; Grammy, Female R&B Vocal Performance, "It's Not Right but It's Okay," 1999; BET Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001; honorary doctorate in humanities from Grambling State University; United Negro College Fund Award for long-standing support and commitment to the black community.
- Billboard , October 31, 1998.
- New York Daily News , November 29, 1998.
- New York Post , November 12, 1998.
- Rolling Stone, January 21, 1999.
- USA Today ,August 20, 1998.
- www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_4/rock.jsp, November 20, 2003.
- http://www.china.org.cn/english/NM-e/101956.htm, January 18, 2005.
- www.cnn.com, March 16, 2004.
- E! Online, http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,15539,00.html, December 16, 2004.
- http://www.whitney-houston.com/news/articles/120704.htm, July 12, 2004.