Lauded diva Houston dies
Despite an upbeat reunion performance from The Beach Boys; a techno collaboration from Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and David Guetta; and an opening performance from Bruce Springsteen, a somber mood hung over the 54th Grammy awards. Talk of Whitney Houston's death overshadowed the most fashionable celebrities' dresses, and host LL Cool J skipped the typical opening monologue in favor of a prayer.
Cool J said: "Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us. … We remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit, and to have had her lasting legacy of music to cherish and share forever." In the audience, larger-than-life celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, bowed their heads in homage.
Super pop diva Whitney Houston was pronounced dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room at 3:55 p.m. this past Saturday, sending massive ripples throughout the pop world. Houston's death prompted countless montages in her memory and fueled a slew of articles speculating about the scope and importance of her legacy. The singer was only 48 years old.
Daughter of entertainment executive John Russell Houston and gospel singer Cissy Houston, the New Jersey native began performing in her church's gospel choir at a young age. Growing up, she was influenced by her notable gospel singer cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother, Aretha Franklin.
In her teens, Houston sang backup vocals for notable singers such as Chaka Khan and Jermaine Jackson. At the same time, she began modeling and became the first woman of color to grace the cover of Seventeen. While she was offered a record contract at the age of 14, she declined the offer, opting to finish school instead. Several years later at the age of 20, Houston signed with Arista Records and released a self-titled debut album in 1985.
Whitney Houston spawned a string of hits, including "You Give Good Love," "Saving All My Love For You," "The Greatest Love of All" and "How Will I Know." In the years that followed, she racked up several awards, more hit singles and recognition as one of the music industry's most sought after and well-respected vocalists. By 1994, she solidified her status as a pop icon with her lead role in the movie The Bodyguard, which was complemented by a hit soundtrack featuring her song, "I Will Always Love You." The song is currently the best-selling single of all time by any female artist.
While in recent years Houston's career faltered as a result of substance abuse and personal issues, at the peak of her career, Houston represented what most musical artists aspire to someday reach. She did not box herself into any category or gimmick and was seen simply for her talent.
She was considered beautiful, but Houston never had to capitalize on her sex appeal in order to sell records or gain attention. While Houston was a black artist, she did not appeal to only black audiences. Her voice transcended color lines. She was a universal artist.
It could be argued for hours where Houston's true legacy lies. However, I think the scope of her importance can really be seen in the reaction of those most profoundly influenced by music—the artists themselves.
One has to look no further than Sunday night's Grammy awards, where tears swelled up in Jennifer Hudson's eyes while she performed a Houston tribute, and as Stevie Wonder proclaimed, "I love you, Whitney," to know that Houston's music and influence will not be forgotten.