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Whitney Houston Biography: Life and Career of the Singer and Actress

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born August 9th, 1963, Whitney Houston began performing as a teen alongside her mother. She was soon signed to Arista Records through which she released several number one albums and hit singles. She opened doors for her fellow female African-American artists and had her biggest success with "I Will Always Love You" from "The Bodyguard" movie. Despite continuing to work in music and film, personal problems including marriage trouble and drug abuse ultimately caused her tragic death in 2012. In this video, WatchMojo.com takes a look at the life and career of Whitney Houston.
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Transcript

Musical Family


Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born August 9th, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey. Her mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston, who was also aunt to Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick. With soul Queen Aretha Franklin as her godmother, it was not a surprise when Houston began performing in the church choir at eleven.

Modeling and Discovery


During high school, she accompanied her mother at shows and sang backup for other artists. After a brief modeling stint, Houston was discovered by Arista Records founder Clive Davis in 1983.

Debut


Her 1985 eponymous debut was not originally successful. However, several number one singles eventually changed that: the R&B and pop album went to number one on Billboard the next year. Houston showed off her vocal prowess on the subsequent Greatest Love Tour, and supported the majority of her albums with similar tours thereafter.

Number One Sophomore Effort


In 1987, the massively successful Whitney made her the first female to have an album premiere at the top of the Billboard chart. It spawned various number-ones, including a Grammy-winning single that turned her into a global star. An Emmy-winning track for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the foundation of a children’s charity followed.

Musical Variety


In 1990, I’m Your Baby Tonight received mixed reviews, but produced two number ones. Regardless, the record’s urban feel and combination of ballads and energetic tracks proved Houston had range.

“The Star-Spangled Banner”


Though the album didn’t sell like her previous work, Houston still managed a top twenty hit with her recording of the American national anthem from the Super Bowl XXV. When the charity single was re-released in the wake of 9/11, it reached a spot within the top ten.

“The Star Spangled Banner”


Though the album didn’t sell like her previous work, Houston still managed a top twenty hit with her recording of the American national anthem from the Super Bowl XXV. When the charity single was re-released in the wake of 9/11, it reached a spot within the top ten.

“The Bodyguard”


Houston was busy in 1992. Following her marriage to singer Bobby Brown of New Edition fame, she made her film debut in the romantic thriller “The Bodyguard.” The box office hit was accompanied by a Grammy-winning album that became history’s best-selling soundtrack. It contained the chart-topping Dolly Parton cover that became Houston’s signature tune.

“Waiting to Exhale”


Next, Houston joined the all-African-American cast of the number one movie “Waiting to Exhale.” The film’s hit soundtrack contained Houston’s Grammy-winning and chart-topping single “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” and contributions from other African-American artists.

“The Preacher’s Wife”


Her film and soundtrack work continued: 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife” made Houston Hollywood’s highest paid African-American actress at the time with a ten million dollar payday. The corresponding soundtrack became one of the best-selling gospel records in history.

More Acting and Live Shows


1997 saw Houston play the Fairy Godmother in her production company’s TV remake of musical “Cinderella.” She also honored some of her influences in a concert series titled “Classic Whitney.”

Critical and Commercial Success


Houston returned to non-movie related work with 1998’s My Love is Your Love. The commercially and critically acclaimed effort included an Oscar-winning duet with Mariah Carey that was also featured on “The Prince of Egypt” soundtrack. The next year, Houston performed on “VH1’s Divas Live.”

Personal Problems


However, her personal life was suffering. Marriage troubles, substance abuse issues and unreliable behavior tainted her reputation, and she addressed this in an interview with Diane Sawyer

More Music and Reality TV


After signing a one hundred million dollar deal with Arista/BMG, Houston released the top-ten effort Just Whitney… and the Christmas record One Wish: The Holiday Album. She then appeared on her husband’s reality show “Being Bobby Brown,” which exposed many of the couple’s problems and led to their 2007 divorce.

Last Album


Houston’s final album was 2009’s Billboard-topping I Look to You. Unfortunately, Houston’s concerts on the ensuing “Nothing but Love World Tour” received negative feedback and certain dates were called off.

More Acting and Death


Following time in rehab, Houston acted in “Sparkle.” However, she did not live to see the musical drama’s theatrical release. Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California on February 11th, 2012. Her death shocked the music industry, which paid tribute to her at the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony the next day.

Legacy


With her incomparable voice and a versatility that allowed her to tackle multiple musical styles and genres, Whitney Houston became one of the most popular female artists in history. Her success paved the way for future black female artists and her music has since influenced singers from all backgrounds.
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