Whitney Houston was one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. She released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of them have received diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certifications. In 2009, the Guinness Book of World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time. She was frequently referred to as "The Voice".
Music historians cite Whitney's record-setting achievements: the only artist to chart seven consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits ("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"), the first female artist to enter the Billboard 200 at #1 (with her second album "Whitney" in 1987) and the only artist with seven consecutive multi-platinum albums ("Whitney Houston", "Whitney", "I'm Your Baby Tonight", "The Bodyguard Original Soundtrack Album", "Waiting To Exhale Original Soundtrack Album", "The Preacher's Wife Original Soundtrack Album" and "My Love Is Your Love"). In fact,"The Bodyguard Original Soundtrack Album" is one of the Top 10 biggest-selling albums of all time (at seventeen times platinum in the U.S. alone) and Whitney's career-defining version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" is the biggest-selling U.S. single of all time (at four times platinum). Whitney is the fourth best-selling female recording artist of all time according to the Recording Industry Association of America and the most awarded female artist of all time according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Whitney Houston was born on August 9, 1963 in a rough neighborhood in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. She is the third and youngest child of John and gospel singer Cissy Houston. Her mother, along with cousin Dionne Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin are all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues and soul genres. Whitney was raised a baptist, but was also exposed to the pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle class area in East Orange, New Jersey, when she was four. While her mother was away touring with Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin as a backup singer, her father would spend most of the time raising the children. Whitney did not have many friends and she was picked on because her face was too light or her hair was too long compared to the other black girls. At the age of eleven, Whitney began to follow in her mothers footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah". When Whitney was a teenager, her parents divorced and she continued to live with her mother. She attended a Roman Catholic single-sex high school, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she describes as the "sister she never had". Crawford would later become Whitney's personal assistant. While Whitney was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. In addition to her mother, Franklin and Warwick, Whitney was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and Roberta Flack, most of which would have an impact on her as a singer and performer. Whitney spent much of her teenage years touring night clubs with her mother. In 1977, at fourteen years of age, Whitney was featured as the lead singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life`s A Party". Zager subsequently offered to help obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1979, at age sixteen, Whitney sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I`m Every Woman", a song she would later turn into a bigger hit in 1992. In the early 1980s, Whitney worked as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared in "Vogue" magazine and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of "Seventeen" magazine. She also appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink commercial. While modeling and touring nightclubs with her mother, she continued her recording career, working with producers Michael Beinhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called "One Down", which was credited to the group "Material". For that project, Whitney contributed the ballad "Memories", which Robert Christgau of "The Village Voice" called "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard". Whitney had previously been offered several recording contracts (Michael Zager in 1980 and Elektra Records in 1981). In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw her performing with her mother in a New York City night club and was impressed. He convinced Clive Davis, Arista's label head, to take time to see Whitney perform at the nightclub. Davis was also impressed after the performance and offered her a worldwide recording contract, which Whitney signed. Later in the year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on "The Merv Griffin Show". Whitney signed with Arista in 1983 but did not began work on her album immediately. Arista put forth the deal to make sure no other label signed the singer from under them. At first, Davis had a hard time finding material for Whitney to record. Many major producers passed on her. Whitney first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me", which appeared on his album, "Love Language". The single became a Top 5 R&B hit and would also appear on her debut album. Whitney also auditioned for acting roles; including the part of "Sondra Huxtable" on "The Cosby Show", which eventually went to Sabrina LeBeauf. Whitney appeared on an episode of "Gimme A Break" (1984) and "Silver Spoons" (1985).
After seeing Whitney perform in a New York City nightclub, Clive Davis believed the singer had the potential to crossover and be the next big superstar. He signed her in 1983 and the two began work on her debut album. Initially Davis had a hard time finding songs for her. During the time, rock bands and dance oriented acts were popular; many songwriters felt Whitney's gospel voice didn't fit in the pop landscape. After months of searching for material, they finally began finding material from Kashif, Narada Michael Walden, Jermaine Jackson and Michael Masser. After two years of recording, the album was ready for release on February 14, 1985. The album initially had a slow commercial response, but emerged as a success during 1986 with the help of three number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The album serves as Whitney's best-selling studio album to date, with sales of over 25 million copies worldwide, and one of the best-selling albums of all time in the United States and internationally. "Whitney Houston" has often been cited by critics as Whitney's best work. "Rolling Stone" magazine praised the new talent, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years" while "The New York Times" called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent". "Whitney Houston" debuted on the Billboard 200 the week of March 20, 1985, at #120. After the dance-funk single "Someone For Me" failed to chart in both the U.S. and UK, the album initially sold modestly and failed to make an impact. The plan was to first appeal to a black audience, hence the release of the next single, the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love", which peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 while going #1 on the R&B Charts. As a result, the album began selling and climbing the charts while Whitney continued promoting the album touring night clubs in the U.S. With success on the R&B Charts, Davis wanted Whitney to crossover to a broader audience. She began performing on popular night shows that usually weren't open to many black acts. The jazz-pop ballad "Saving All My Love For You" was released next and would become Whitney's first #1 hit single in both the U.S. and the UK. She was now an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osborne on his nationwide tour. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by African American artists while favoring rock acts. "Thinking About You" was released as the fourth single only to R&B-oriented radio stations. It peaked at #10 on the R&B Singles Chart and at #24 on the Dance Chart. The album continued climbing and finally reached the Top 20. The next single, "How Will I Know", peaked at #1 and would introduce Whitney to the MTV audience thanks to its video. This would make the singer one of the only African American female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network. By 1986, a year after its initial release, "Whitney Houston" topped the Billboard 200 and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. The final single, the black pride anthem "Greatest Love Of All" became Whitney's biggest hit at the time after peaking #1 and remaining there for three weeks. "All At Once" was released only to Adult Contemporary and Urban AC stations as a only-radio airplay single later in 1986. It received heavy airplay and can still be heard on AC stations. Whitney had established a cross-over base and was now able to headline her own tour thus embarking on "The Greatest Love Tour". The album had become an international success, selling over 13 million copies in the United States alone and becoming the best-selling debut album of all time by a female artist. To date, the album has sold approximately 25 million copies worldwide. At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Whitney was nominated for three awards including "Album Of The Year". Despite being the front runner, Whitney was ineligible for "Best New Artist" due to her previous duet recordings in 1984. Still, she won her first Grammy Award for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" for "Saving All My Love For You". At the same award show, Whitney sang her Grammy-winning hit; for the performance she won her first Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program". Whitney also won seven American Music Awards and an MTV Video Music Award, while "Greatest Love Of All" would receive a "Record Of The Year" nomination at the 1987 Grammys. Whitney's debut is currently listed as one of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" and on "The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's Definitive 200" list. Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry is considered "one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years", according to USA Today. Following Whitney's debut, other African-American female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker were able to find similar success in popular music.
Houston's second album, "Whitney", was released on June 29, 1987 by Arista Records. Following the same formula as her debut, the album featured productions from Masser, Kashif and Walden again, as well as Jellybean Benitez. It became the first album in history by a female artist to debut at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart, as well as topping the charts in several countries around the world (Canada, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, South Africa, Taiwan and many more). The album's first four singles, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" all peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, which brought her a total of seven consecutive number-one hits, thus breaking the record of six, previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. The album`s fifth and final single, "Love Will Save The Day" also peaked in the Top 10 on the Hot 100. However, unlike her previous album, neither song topped the R&B Charts. Whitney was certified nine times platinum in America and has sold approximately 20 million copies worldwide. At the Grammy Awards in 1988, Whitney was nominated for three Awards including "Album Of The Year", winning her second Grammy for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". She then embarked on the worldwide "Moment Of Truth Tour" which made Whitney one of the Top 10 highest grossing concert acts of 1987. In the same year, she recorded a song for the 1988 Summer Olympics, "One Moment In Time", which peaked at #5 in the U.S., while reaching #1 in Europe. With the huge success of her first two albums, movie offers came from Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones and Spike Lee, though she felt the time wasn't right.
"I'm Your Baby Tonight", Whitney's third studio album, was released in October 1990. Whitney was given more control as she had a hand in production and choosing producers. As a result, the album featured productions from Babyface and Antonio Reid, Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder. The album showed Whitney's versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks. Whitney arranged and co-produced "I'm Knockin'" with her tour musical director Rickey Minor, her first in that role. The album peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., selling 12.5 million copies worldwide. The first two singles, the new jack swing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and the soul ballad "All The Man That I Need" each hit number one on both the Pop and R&B Singles Chart respectively. This made her the female artist with the most number ones at the time. The third and fourth singles: "Miracle" and "My Name Is Not Susan" peaked at #9 and #20, respectively the fifth single, "I Belong To You", peaked in the Top 10 on the R&B Charts, while yet another single, the duet with Stevie Wonder entitled, "We Didn't Know", made the R&B Top 20. This album also had a japanese version which featured the tracks "Higher Love" and "Takin' A Chance" (a #1-Hit in Japan).
In 1992, Whitney married R&B singer Bobby Brown (July 18, 1992) and made her big screen debut, opposite Kevin Costner, in "The Bodyguard", which became a huge success at the box office, thanks in large part to the accompanying soundtrack. The movie grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide. It is currently among the Top 100 highest grossing films worldwide and "USA Today" listed it as "one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years". Whitney plays "Rachel Marron", a star who is stalked by a crazed fan that hires a bodyguard to protect her. Whitney recorded for "The Bodyguard Soundtrack" (released November 17, 1992) six songs, which featured productions from David Foster. The album was co-executive produced by Whitney Houston and Clive Davis. The soundtrack's lead single was a cover of the Dolly Parton country hit "I Will Always Love You". It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks and topping the charts in Europe, Australia and Japan. The song has sold approximately 12 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling single by a female solo artist. The soundtrack debuted at number one and remained there for 20 consecutive weeks. The follow-up singles "I'm Every Woman", a Chaka Khan cover and "I Have Nothing" both peaked in the Top 5. The album was certified seventeen times platinum in the United States with worldwide sales of 44 million copies and went on to become the best-selling soundtrack album ever. Whitney won three Grammys for the project including two of the Academy`s highest honors, "Album Of The Year" and "Record Of The Year". The songs "Run To You" and "I Have Nothing" were nominated as "Best Original Song" at the Academy Awards in 1994. One year earlier, Whitney gave birth to her first child, daughter Bobbi Kristina on March 4, 1993.
In 1995, Whitney starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon in the film "Waiting To Exhale", about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Whitney plays the lead character "Savannah", a TV producer who moves to Phoenix to find a new man, but ends up in love with a married man. It marked Whitney's first time portraying a character who isn't a singer. The movie and its soundtrack struck a chord with African American women and is considered a cultural classic. After opening at #1 and grossing $66 million in the U.S. at the box office and $82 million worldwide, it proved that a movie targeting black audiences can cross over to a white audience and make money, while paving the way for other all black movies. Whitney was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture", but lost to her co-star Bassett. Whitney co-produced with Babyface, the critically acclaimed cultural phenomenon "Waiting To Exhale Original Soundtrack Album". Though Babyface originally wanted Whitney to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she wanted it to be an album of women with vocal distinction to go along with the film's strong women message. As a result, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists including Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, Brandy and Mary J. Blige. Whitney herself contributed three songs including the smash "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)". After debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song spent a record 11 weeks at the #2 spot. Whitney also contributed two other songs: the Top 10 hit "Count On Me", a duet with friend Ce Ce Winans and the Top 30 hit, "Why Does It Hurt So Bad". The album debuted at #1, has since been certified seven times platinum in America and has sold 13 million copies worldwide.
Whitney's third motion picture, "The Preacher's Wife" (Buena Vista, December 1996), also starring Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance and directed by Penny Marshall, was based on the 1947 classic, "The Bishop's Wife" (with Cary Grant and Loretta Young). Whitney plays a gospel-singing wife of a Reverend. She earned $10 million for the role, making her one of the highest paid actress in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African American actress. Despite the success of "Waiting To Exhale", the movie's star power and Disney's high budget, many predicted the movie would not be a success due to its all black cast. The movie was a moderate success, earning approximately $48 million at the U.S. box office. Whitney won an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture" for the role, her first award for her acting. The gospel-soaked Arista soundtrack, Whitney's lifelong dream, became the biggest-selling Gospel album in Billboard chart history, three times platinum in the U.S. alone. Collaborations with an extraordinary roster of artists and producers (among them Grammy and Dove Award winner Mervyn Warren of "Sister Act" and "Sister Act II" fame) resulted in a unique album. Whitney sang lead vocals on 14 of the album's 15 tracks, including the beautiful first single "I Believe In You And Me", "Step By Step" (written by Annie Lennox) and two songs produced by Grammy Award winner Babyface. Other luminaries on the album included Cissy Houston, Shirley Caesar and the Georgia Mass Choir.
In 1997, Whitney's production company changed it's name to BrownHouse Productions and was joined by Debra Martin Chase. Their goal was "to show aspects of the lives of African-Americans that have not been brought to the screen before" while improving how African-Americans are portrayed in film and television. Their first project was a made-for-television remake of "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella". In addition to co-producing, Whitney starred in the movie as the Fairy Godmother along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg and Bernadette Peters. Whitney was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened and CBS lost interest. The film featured a multiracial cast and Whitney said the ultimate message was that "African-American girls and women are princesses just as much as white girls and those of other ethnicities and that they too can fulfill their dreams." An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years. The movie received seven Emmy nominations including "Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy", while winning "Outstanding Art Direction in a Variety, Musical or Comedy Special".
In November 1998, fans ecstatically received Whitney's first non-soundtrack related studio album in eight years, "My Love Is Your Love", which she produced with Clive Davis. Whitney proved her ability to stay absolutely contemporary with the first single, the #1 R&B/#2 Pop "Heartbreak Hotel" featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price. It was the beginning of a string of gold and platinum chart hit singles from the album spanning nearly a year and a half (into the spring 2000): the Grammy-winning "It's Not Right But It's Okay", "When You Believe" (a duet with Mariah Carey, from The Prince Of Egypt), the title tune "My Love Is Your Love" and "I Learned From The Best" (written by Diane Warren, produced and arranged by David Foster). The success of "My Love Is Your Love" kicked off a phenomenal year for Whitney. She stole the show at VH1's second annual "Divas Live 1999", with a performance characterized as "invincible" by Jon Pareles in the New York Times. Sharing the stage with a lineup that included Cher, Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and others, Whitney emerged as the star. VH1 announced that the show was the highest-rated telecast in its history. At the same time, gold, platinum and multi-platinum album sales were certified in every corner of the globe: Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and more. In late-June, as "It's Not Right But It's Okay" became the 17th Top 5 Pop hit of her career, Whitney commenced a successful world tour playing 16 cities in North America. The tour concluded in Europe in November. At the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in February 2000, 15 months after the album release, Whitney received her sixth career Grammy, as "It's Not Right But It's Okay" was voted "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance". Winning her first R&B Grammy Award in a category that included Mary J. Blige, Brandy, Faith Evans and Macy Gray was extremely gratifying for Whitney Houston.
A month later in March 2000, Whitney was named "Female Artist Of The Decade" at the Soul Train Music Awards annual ceremonies virtually 15 years to the day since her debut single, "You Give Good Love" entered the Billboard Hot Black Singles Chart on March 9, 1985. In the midst of her 15th anniversary year as an Arista recording artist, the double-album "Whitney - The Greatest Hits" (May 2000) celebrated the past, present and future. In addition to newly-recorded tracks with Enrique Iglesias, Deborah Cox, George Michael and Q-Tip, there were rare vintage tracks unavailable for a decade, impossible-to-find club mixes and bonus tracks. The collection encompassed Whitney's success as a mainstay on the Pop and R&B singles front (on the double-CD/cassette), as a screen presence since her career began at the label (on DVD and VHS home-video) and in the clubs as a remixer's delight (on a limited edition four-record vinyl box-set). Individually, the 36-track double-CD/cassette comprised one volume of single hits (Cool Down) and another volume of memorable club mixes (Throw Down), each spanning Whitney's entire career to date, 1985 to 2000. She recorded new duets for the occasion with Enrique Iglesias (the Diane Warren composition, "Could I Have This Kiss Forever") and then-Arista label-mate Deborah Cox ("Same Script, Different Cast"), plus a new version of "If I Told You That" (from "My Love Is Your Love"), remade as a duet with George Michael. Hard-to-find rarities included "One Moment In Time", the 1988 Summer Olympics theme; 1991`s Super Bowl XXV version of "The Star Spangled Banner" and a 1986 duet with Jermaine Jackson ("If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful") released only on his second Arista album, "Precious Moments", never as a single. The two CDs (and cassettes) were programmed so that each volume displayed the full range of Whitney's career. Disc 1 (Cool Down), for example, built from her first hits of 1985, "You Give Good Love", "Saving All My Love For You" and "Greatest Love Of All", all the way through 2000. Disc 2 (Throw Down) recapped the hits from "My Love Is Your Love" with club remixes of "It's Not Right But It's Okay", "My Love Is Your Love", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Learned From The Best" followed by ten more hits remixed by Junior Vasquez, David Morales, Jellybean, Hex Hector, C+C Music Factory's Clivilles and Cole and others. Those remixers were showcased on "Whitney - The Unreleased Mixes", a special limited-edition four-record vinyl box-set acknowledging her importance in clubs around the world. There were seven songs, eight mixes, one track on each side of four 12-inch vinyl discs: "How Will I Know", "Greatest Love Of All", "I'm Every Woman", "Love Will Save The Day", "I Will Always Love You", "So Emotional" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight". "Whitney - The Greatest Hits" was also the title of Whitney's first DVD and VHS home-video collection. The lion's share of her hits were included in its 21 titles, a combination of video clips (with such noted directors as Wayne Isham, Peter Israelson, Julian Temple, Randee St. Nicholas, Brian Grant, and Kevin Bray) and live performance. Links were provided to such rarities as her television premiere (on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1985), appearances on several awards show, a tune from Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, interview segments featuring Whitney and her co-producer, Arista president Clive Davis and much more. The week after the release of "Whitney - The Greatest Hits", she appeared on the NBC television network special benefit concert "25 Years of #1 Hits: Arista Records' Anniversary Celebration", a tribute to the label as well as its founder and leader, Clive Davis.
Whitney and Debra Martin Chase obtained the rights to the story of Dorothy Dandridge. Whitney was to play Dandridge, who was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. She wanted the story told with dignity and honor. However, Halle Berry also had rights to the project and she got her version going first. Whitney and Chase, were then set to produce a remake of the 1976 film "Sparkle" about a 1960s singing group of three sisters in Harlem. Aaliyah, who was to star in the remake, was killed in a plane crash in 2001 before production began. Later, Whitney has also served as an executive producer of many successful Hollywood films including the Disney films "The Princess Diaries", "The Princess Diaries 2" and the Disney made-for-television films "The Cheetah Girls" and "The Cheetah Girls 2".
In the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001, Whitney's soaring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" was the first benefit single to be issued, coupled with her version of "America the Beautiful". The "Whitney Houston Foundation For Children" and Arista Records agreed to donate royalties and net proceeds from all single sales to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund and the New York fraternal Order of Police. Both groups as well as the families of those affected by the tragic event were to benefit from the sales.
The following year saw the release of "Just Whitney" (December 2002), her fifth studio album and first for the new millennium. An A-list of handpicked hitmakers and producers contributed to the album, among them Kenneth Babyface Edmonds, Missy Elliott, Kevin She'kspere Briggs, Teddy Bishop and Gordon Chambers. The diverse program of ballads included "Try It On My Own" (written by Babyface and Carole Bayer Sager), "My Love" (a duet with Bobby Brown) and a powerful remake of Debbie Boone's 1977 "You Light Up My Life". Also among the album`s gems were such hip grooves as "Love That Man" and the old-school style jam "Things You Say".
Every artist's first Christmas collection is a special career landmark and Whitney's "One Wish - The Holiday Album" (November 2003), her most recent album release, was no exception. Whitney worked with producers and arrangers Troy Taylor, Mervyn Warren and the team of Gordon Chambers and Barry J. Eastmond on a joyous mix of yuletide favorites from the traditional and contemporary songbooks, along with several new compositions. The album opened with the classic "The First Noel" and Mel Torm's timeless "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)". Other favorites included Freddie Jackson's "One Wish (For Christmas)", "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "O Come O Come Emanuel" and a medley of "Deck The Halls/Silent Night". Two tracks originated on "The Preacher's Wife Original Soundtrack Album", "Who Would Imagine A King" and "Joy To The World". The centerpiece was 10-year old daughter Bobbi Kristina recording debut on "Little Drummer Boy".
In 2004, Whitney embarked on an international tour, with solo dates in Russia, Dubai, Asia and the Soul Diva's Tour with friend Natalie Cole and cousin Dionne Warwick in Germany. In September 2004, she gave a surprise performance at the World Music Awards, in tribute to long time friend Clive Davis. Whitney received a thunderous standing ovation for her performance.
Husband Bobby Brown starred in his own reality TV program "Being Bobby Brown" (on the Bravo network) in 2005, which provided a view into the domestic goings-on in the Brown household. Though it was Brown's vehicle, Whitney was a prominent figure throughout the show. The show was canceled after the first season due to low demand after the couple split and Whitney no longer appeared in the show.
With a history of infidelity, marital problems and drug and alcohol scandals, Whitney filed for separation from Bobby Brown in September 2006. The following month, on October 16, 2006, Whitney filed for divorce from Brown. At the same time, Whitney recorded the song "Family First" with Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston and members of the Houston Family for the soundtrack "Daddy's Little Girls".
On February 1, 2007, Whitney asked the court to fast track their divorce. The divorce became finalized on April 24, 2007, with Whitney granted custody of the couple's daughter. Arista Records released "The Ultimate Collection" in October 2007. The compilation included, for the first time, all of Whitney's hit singles on one CD. It debuted at #5 in the UK, with sales of 37,228 and peaked at #3. In December 2007, Whitney performed at the Live & Loud Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In March 2008, Clive Davis announced at Billboard's Music & Money Symposium in New York that Whitney Houston`s forthcoming album is going to be released around the holiday season. Davis blames the delay on the creative process, saying he and Whitney were unwilling to rush out an album of substandard tracks. Davis states "We're not going to compromise who she is to fit into today's hip-hop radio market. The public wants Whitney material." In April 2008, Whitney performed at the Plymouth Jazz Festival in Tobago and one month later at the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco. In July 2008, a new song from Whitney leaked to the internet titled "Like I Never Left".
Whitney made her first appearance in 2009 at BET Honors. She presented an award to Tyler Perry. A few weeks later, a stunning looking and strong sounding Whitney Houston made a triumphant return to the stage at a Pre-Grammy Party honoring her mentor, music mogul Clive Davis. At the 51st Annual Grammy Awards Whitney pay tribute to her "industry father", music mogul Clive Davis. The singer wowed the Grammy audience and millions of American TV viewers when she took the stage to present the honor for "Best R&B Album" to Jennifer Hudson.
Whitney released her new album, "I Look To You", on August 31, 2009. The album contains a mixture of R&B, soft ballads and dance music. Writing and production from the album includes contributions from Swizz Beatz, Johntá Austin, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, Danja, Diane Warren, Claude Kelly, David Foster, as well as Whitney herself, who for the first time in her career is accredited as producing and writing songs. Akon has production credits on two of the album's songs as well as being the only featured artist. Upon its release, "I Look To You" received generally favorable reviews from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 70/100 from Metacritic. The album entered the Billboard 200 at #1, with Whitney's best opening-week sales of 305,000 copies, marking Houston's first number one album since "The Bodyguard", and Whitney's first studio album to reach number one since 1987's "Whitney". This also gave her a fourth chart-topping album and extending her lead as the female artist with the most cumulative weeks at the #1 position. It has topped the charts in over ten countries worldwide. "I Look To You" was released as a buzz single for the album in the U.S. and some part of Europe throughout July 2009 despite initial confirmation that "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" would be the first single. It gave Whitney her first Top 20 R&B hit in the U.S. in nearly a decade and charted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 at #70. The music video premiered on September 10, 2009. "Million Dollar Bill" which was written and produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz was released as the first official lead single worldwide in August 2009. It sits at #49 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Chart and #100 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The video premiered on September 16, 2009. Whitney's performance on "Good Morning America's Fall Concerts' series on ABC aired on September 02, 2009. She performed songs from the new album, including the single "Million Dollar Bill" and title song "I Look To You", as well as previous hits "I'm Every Woman" and "My Love Is Your Love". Whitney gave her first interview in seven years, appearing on Oprah Winfrey's season premiere on September 14, 2009. The interview was billed as "the most anticipated music interview of the decade". Whitney has also appeared on European television programs to promote the album. On October 3, 2009, she performed the song "I Look To You" on the German television show "Wetten Dass...?". Three days later, on October 6, 2009, she performed "Million Dollar Bill" on the French television show "Le Grand Journal". Whitney appeared as guest mentor on "X-Factor" in the UK on Saturday, 17 October 2009. She performed "Million Dollar Bill" on the following day's results show. On October 21, she performed in Italy's "X Factor" and did an impressive job singing her hit "Million Dollar Bill". At the end of the song, she also received a gold plaque for her album sales of "I Look To You" in Italy. On Sunday, November 22, 2009, Whitney performed "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" at the 2009 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California and she received the "International Artist Award". Two days later, on 24th November 2009 Whitney performed "Million Dollar Bill" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" on the "Dancing With The Stars" season 9 finale. As of December 1, 2009, "I Look To You" has been certified platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of one million copies in the United States.
On January 26, 2010, Whitney re-released her 25th anniversary edition of her debut album, entitled Whitney Houston - The Deluxe Anniversary Edition. In the same month, Whitney was nominated for 2 NAACP Image Awards and the Echo Award, Germany's version of the Grammy's. She also received the BET Honors Award for her lifetime achievements and the comeback success of the album "I Look To You". Jennifer Hudson and Kim Burrell sang in honor of her. In December 2010, Whitney performed the song "I Look To You" on the 2011 BET Celebration Of Gospel, with gospel-jazz singer Kim Burrell, held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles. The performance aired on January 30, 2011.
Early in 2011, Whitney gave an performance in tribute to cousin Dionne Warwick at music mogul Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy gala. In the fall of 2011, Whitney starred alongside Jordin Sparks and Mike Epps in the remake of the 1976 film "Sparkle". In the movie, Houston portrays Sparks' "not-so encouraging mother". Whitney is also credited as an executive producer of the film. "Sparkle" marks Whitney's final project before her tragic death.
On February 11, 2012, Whitney was found dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Paramedics found the singer unresponsive and performed CPR for about 20 minutes before declaring her dead at 3:55 p.m. The L.A. County Coroner's Office later said, "Whitney Houston's death was an accidental drowning in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel." But, in its preliminary report, the coroner cites 'effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use' as contributing factors in her death.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists Whitney as music's most awarded female artist of all time with an amazing tally of 415 awards (as of 2010) a tally that is certainly topped by her 6 Grammy Awards, 1 Emmy Award, 22 American Music Awards, 24 Billboard Music Awards, 15 NAACP Image Awards, 6 People's Choice Awards, 6 World Music Awards, 8 Soul Train Music Awards, as well as MTV VMAs in the U.S. and Europe . She received the Nickelodeon "Kids Choice Award" (she was inducted into the "Kids Choice" Hall Of Fame in 1996), the Dove (Gospel Music Association) Award and Blockbuster Entertainment Award. Whitney was inducted into the BET (Black Entertainment Television) Walk Of Fame in 1996 and received Soul Train's prestigious "Quincy Jones Career Achievement Award" in 1998. Whitney holds the all-time record for the most AMA's of any single artist and shares the record with Michael Jackson for the most AMA's ever won in a single year (1994) with 8 wins. She also has the record for the most WMA's and BMA's won in a single year, 5 Awards at the 6th World Music Awards in 1994 and 11 Awards at the 4th Billboard Music Awards in 1993. In May 2003, Whitney placed at #3 on VH1's list of "50 Greatest Women Of The Video Era", behind Madonna and Janet Jackson. She was also ranked at #116 on their list of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons Of All Time". In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the "Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts" to celebrate the US singles chart's fiftieth anniversary, ranking Whitney at #9. Similarly, she is ranked as one of the Top 100 "Greatest Artists Of All Time" by VH1 in September 2010. In November 2010, Billboard released its "Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists Of The Past 25 Years" list and ranked Whitney at number three whom not only went on to earn eight No. 1 singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, but also landed five No. 1s on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Whitney's debut is currently listed as one of the "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" by Rolling Stone magazine and is on "Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame's Definitive 200" list. In 2004, Billboard picked the success of her first release on the charts as one of "110 Musical Milestones" in its history. Whitney's entrance into the music industry is considered one of the "25 Musical Milestones" of the last 25 years, according to USA Today in 2007. It stated that she paved the way for Mariah Carey’s chart-topping vocal gymnastics. In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange, New Jersey was renamed to "The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts". In 2001, Whitney was the first artist ever to be given a "BET Lifetime Achievement Award". She is also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide. Although she has released relatively few albums, she is ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 57 million certified albums sold in the U.S. alone. She holds an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Grambling State University, Louisiana.
In 1989, Whitney formed the "Whitney Houston Foundation For Children", a non-profit organisation that has raised funds for the needs of children around the world. The organisation cares for homelessness, children with cancer and AIDS and other issues of self-empowerment. In 1995, Whitney's organisation was awarded a VH1 Honor for all the charitable work. In 1997, Whitney paid tribute to her idols such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Billie Holliday by performing their hits during the three night HBO Concert "Classic Whitney" live from Washington DC. The special raised over $300.000 for the "Children's Defense Fund". Whitney was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modelling days, the singer refused to work with any agencies who did business with a the apartheid in South Africa. In 1988, Whitney joined other musicians to perform a set at Wembley Stadium in London to celebrate a then imprisoned Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday. Over 72.000 people filled Wembley Stadium and over a billion people tuned in worldwide as the rock concert raised over $1 million for charities while bringing awareness to apartheid. Whitney dedicated the gospel song "He/I Believe" to Mandela and his people. In 1994, at the end of "The Bodyguard Tour", Whitney performed 3 concerts in South Africa, playing to over 200.000 people. This would make the singer the first musician to visit the newly unified and apartheid free nation following Mandela's winning election. The funds of the concerts were donated to various charities in South Africa. The event was considered "the biggest media event since the inauguration of Nelson Mandela". Whitney performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. Her recording of the song was released as a commercial single, reaching the Top 20 on the U.S. Hot 100 and making her the only artist to turn the national anthem into a chart hit. (Ten years later, the song was re-released after the September 11, 2001 attacks, this time peaking becoming a Top 10 hit.) Whitney donated her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross. This legendary performance of the national anthem was named number one in the NFL's 2003 list of Top 25 greatest moments in NFL history. VH1 also listed it as the 12th greatest moment that rocked TV. Whitney then performed her "Welcome Home Heroes" concert for the soldiers fighting in the gulf war. Like many African American artists, Whitney has contributed to the "United Negro College Fund". One of Houston's first gigs before being discovered was at a UNCF benefit backing up her mother in the early 1980s. Whitney has since appeared at UNCF telethons and specials in 1988, 1989 and 2001. As a result, UNCF has awarded the singer with the "Frederick D. Patterson Award" for her donations.