Early YearsWhitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 9, 1963; her mother is Grammy award winning gospel/R&B singer Cissy Houston, and her cousin is Grammy Award winning pop singer Dionne Warwick. By age 11, Houston was performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist church in Newark. As a teenager, she began accompanying her mother in concert (as well as on the 1978 album Think It Over). She was a backing singer with established acts, such as Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls, as well as the lead vocalist on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's A Party". Somewhat bizarrely, Houston's first recording as a featured vocalist was with Bill Laswell's experimental jazz-funk ensemble Material; their 1982 album One Down placed Houston alongside such unlikely avant-gardists as Archie Shepp and Fred Frith. She also appeared as a model in various magazines, appearing on the cover of "Seventeen" and as an actress in television shows such as Give Me A Break and Silver Spoons." (Steve Huey, All Music Guide)
By 1983, Whitney Houston had entered a worldwide contract with Arista Records after Arista chief Clive Davis heard Houston perform at a nightclub with her mother. The following year had her first commercial success when "Hold Me", a duet with Teddy Pendergrass , crept into the US Top 50. However, the rest of that year was taken up with the recording of a debut album. Clive Davis, who had taken a strong personal interest in the vocalist, insisted on selecting the best songwriters and producers in search of the definitive debut album. Her self titled debut, Whitney Houston, was released in March of 1985, from which time it would begin its slow stalking of the album charts. Its steady climb was encouraged by the success of the singles "You Give Good Love" and "Saving All My Love For You", which hit numbers 3 and 1, respectively. The latter single also saw her on top of the charts in the UK and much of the rest of the world. The disco-influenced "How Will I Know" and the more soul-flavored "Greatest Love Of All", both topped the US charts in rapid succession. A year to the month after its release, Whitney Houston hit number one on the album charts. It eventually sold over 13-million copies in the U.S. alone, making it the best-selling debut ever by an American female artist. Her domination was acknowledged by a series of prestigious awards, notably a Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female Grammy for "Saving All My Love For You" and an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Program On TV.
"Whitney Houston cemented her superstar status on her next album, Whitney; despite the unimaginative title, it sold over nine-million copies in the U.S" (Steve Huey, All Music Guide). "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", released in 1987, topped charts around the world, paving the way for Houston to become the first album by a female artist to debut at number 1 on the US album chart, a feat it also achieved in the UK. The album included a version of "I Know Him So Well", sang as a duet with her mother Cissy, and the ballad "Didn't We Almost Have It All" which became her fifth successive US number 1 shortly afterwards. However, even this was surpassed when "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" continued the sequence, making seven consecutive number one hits, breaking a record previously shared by the Beatles and the Bee Gees. In 1988, she made a controversial appearance at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Party, where other acts accused her of behaving like a prima donna. By September, "Love Will Save The Day" had finally broken the winning sequence in the USA where it could only manage number 9. Another series of awards followed, including the Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female Grammy for "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and Pop Female Vocal and Soul/R&B Female Vocal categories at the American Music Awards. Rumors abounded of film offers alongside such actors as Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy, however Houston turned down all movie offers at this time.
Her recording of the title track to the 1988 Olympics tribute, One Moment In Time, restored her to US Top 5 prominence and topped the UK singles chart. The follow-up single "I'm Your Baby Tonight" put Houston back on top of the US singles chart. Despite the relatively modest success of the album of the same name (number 3 in the US charts), "All The Man That I Need" compensated by becoming her ninth number 1. She became permanently enshrined in the hearts of the American public, however, when she took the microphone to perform "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in Miami. The public response ensured that the version emerged as a single shortly afterwards. The single went gold and helped to raise funds for The American Red Cross. She also performed the song and her other hits at Norfolk, VA as she welcomed back US troops returning from the Gulf War with a highly rated HBO concert.
Early To Mid-90'sIn July 1992, Whitney Houston married R&B singer Bobby Brown; the relationship would prove turbulent. The same year she made a credible acting debut in the movie "The Bodyguard" alongside Kevin Costner. Houston recorded six songs for the phenomenally successful soundtrack album - cover versions of Dolly Parton's powerful "I Will Always Love You", which topped the US chart for 14 weeks and the UK charts for nine, and Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman", in addition to "I Have Nothing", "Run To You", "Queen of the Night" and "Jesus Loves Me". The album went on to sell 17 million copies in the U.S. making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time. The movie went on to gross $120 million + in the U.S. and over $300 million worldwide, making Whitney Houston a movie star was well as a pop music star. Houston won numerous awards in 1993 including Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year. In 1993, Houston gave birth to her only child, a daughter, who she named Bobbi Kristina Brown. In 1994, Whitney Houston became the first American singer to perform in post-apartheid South Africa. Her concerts raised money to aid South Africa's children.
In 1995, Waiting to Exhale was released. The movie was very successful, earning over $70 million in the U.S. alone. The all female African-American soundtrack was an even bigger hit, selling over 10 million copies worldwide. It was written and produced by Houston's close friend Babyface. It featured three songs by Houston, the # 1 hit "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)", a top ten duet with gospel artist CeCe Winans, "Count On Me" and "Why Does It Hurt So Bad" an emotional song about love gone wrong.
Late 90's To PresentIn 1996, Whitney Houston co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Preacher's Wife, a remake of the 1947 classic, The Bishop's Wife. The movie did not do as well as the others, bringing in just over $40 million in the U.S. The soundtrack, a Gospel dominated album with 14 new songs from Houston, sold poorly compared to her previous releases. However, it is still the best selling Gospel album of the Billboard Era with sales of more than 3 million copies. The two big singles from the album were the top five hit "I Believe In You And Me" and the surprise Pop and Dance hit "Step By Step".
In 1997, Houston stared in and produced a multicultural version of the classic fairly tale "Cinderella". When Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella premiered on ABC-TV on November 2, 1997, it was watched by over 60 million Americans. The movie went on to win an Emmy Award and has become the best selling video ever of a made-for-TV movie.
As you can see Whitney Houston spent most of the 90's concentrating on her acting career, but made a surprise return to the studio for 1998's My Love Is Your Love. The album, which was supposed to be a greatest hits collection, instead feature 13 new tracks from Houston. Enlisting the songwriting help of Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott , Diane Warren and Wyclef Jean, among others, the album was a confident attempt by Houston to reclaim her status as the preeminent musical Diva. "When You Believe", a sappy duet with Carey taken from the animated DreamWorks movie The Prince Of Egypt, was a transatlantic hit. With the album selling poorly, however, Houston's fortunes were revived by the US #2 single, "Heartbreak Hotel". The atypical and hard-hitting "It's Not Right But It's Okay", and the reggae inspired title track, both were US/UK Top 5 hit singles. "Heartbreak Hotel", "It's Not Right, But It's Okay", "My Love Is Your Love", and the fifth single from My Love Is Your Love, "I Learned From The Best" all went on to become #1 dance hits for Whitney, making her one of the club scenes hottest artists. Houston also stole the show at VH1's Diva Live in 1999, her show stopping performance of "I Will Always Love You" was hailed as her best performance of her signature song ever, and helped to make Divas '99 the highest rated show in VH1 history.
In 2000, Houston got into trouble as she was found with marijuana at an airport in Hawaii and she skipped out on a performance at the Oscars. Nevertheless, in 2000, Arista released, Whitney: The Greatest Hits, a two CD compilation of Houston's biggest hits. Disc One- Cool Down featured a collection of her ballads as well as two new tracks, "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (a duet with Enrique Iglesias) and "Same Script, Different Cast" (a duet with Deborah Cox). Both songs received considerable airplay in the U.S. Disc Two- Thrown Down, is a collection of her dance songs and remixes. It also featured two new songs, "Fine" and "If I Told You That" (a duet with George Michael). Neither song made a splash in the U.S., however they were hits internationally. The Greatest Hits has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. In 2001, Houston and Arista Records agreed to re-release her version of the Star Spangled Banner to benefit the families of police officers and firefighters killed during the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It sold more than 300,000 copies, raised more than $1 million, and earned Whitney yet another Top 10 single as it peaked at #6.
In November of 2002, Houston released her 5th non-soundtrack studio album, Just Whitney. The lead off single, "Whatchulookinat", is a attack on the media for their reporting about her personal life. The song did poorly worldwide. The follow up singles "One of Those Days" and "Try It Own My Own" also failed to make much of an impact. The album has sold one million copies in the U.S.
In October of 2003, Houston released a holiday album, One Wish. The album's single, One Wish, barely registered a pulse on radio and the album made a poor showing on the charts. It amassed sales of just 500,000 copies.