I’m not going to get political or focus on social commentaries here. I wonder, despite the black community contributing a lot to our culture, discrimination against them is still going on. It’s no secret that black singers produce a variety of popular songs that are now considered classics. However, I found out a while ago that some record labels didn’t pay black performers royalties when their songs were covered by white artists. It sucks, right?
But enough about that for now. Today, I’m going to take a look at one of my favorites: Whitney Houston. An undeniable superstar, and, sadly, it was indeed too early for her to leave this world. Despite dying at a young age (48), she left us with many legendary songs that every female singer I know, whether casual, amateur, and professional, loves to cover.
According to Guinness World Records, she’s the most awarded female artist of all time, and one of the best-selling artists in the world, which are dominated mostly by white American male singers.
Anyway, some of you might already be aware of this. So, let’s take a look at the beginning of this woman’s remarkable career and the details on how she became the legend we know and love.
The Early Life of Whitney Houston
First of all, she’s a New Jersey local and the daughter of an entertainment executive and a gospel singer, Cissy Houston. Most of her family members were involved in the music and entertainment industry. Her mother also was a renowned backup singer for famous singers at that time: Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick (Whitney’s cousin), Roy Hamilton, and Elvis Presley.
She started her singing career at a young age. At 11-years-old, she’s already assigned as a soloist in the local gospel choir. Her penchant in singing was further molded by her mother’s teachings. And thanks to her mother’s connections, she was able to sing as opening acts for other celebrities. Most of the time, during her teens, she performed in the clubs where her mother worked.
Aside from her mother’s music, she was heavily influenced by Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, and Chaka Khan. When she turned 14, she became a backup vocalist for Chaka.
Spike In Popularity
Aside from becoming a heavily sought-after performer, she also became a prominent fashion model. No one can deny that she’s the embodiment of a black girl next door. Her smile was captivating, and her personality was warm to boot.
She was a marketable personality. In the 1980s, she’s often hired in commercials, and frequently interviewed by high profile magazines such as Young Miss, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. Whitney was also involved in The Merv Griffin Show, a highly rated talk show. For those who’re unfamiliar with Merv Griffin, he’s the brains behind the beloved Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy shows.
It was in 1985 when she got a worldwide recording contract from Arista Records. The signing was delayed because her mother wanted Whitney to finish high school first. So, instead of pushing her to work, the label only monopolized her through the contract to prevent her from getting pirated.
When she was ready to work, she launched her album named after her. It immediately topped the charts, and it won her a Grammy award. In two-years’ time (1985-1986), her songs broke records after records. She also became the first woman to have an album that ended number one in a year (1986).
As I said before, Whitney Houston had the image of the girl next door type. But starting in 1999, a sudden shift in her attitude and personality happened. It was unfortunate, but it’s all attributed to substance abuse, which her husband coaxed her to do.
She started to cancel commitments and acted unprofessionally. Friends and families slowly stayed away from her, especially when she decided not to rehabilitate herself from her destructive habit.
She experienced massive weight loss, and her voice degraded, often experiencing throat problems. In interviews, she often stated that she’s dealing with a lot of family matters. Whitney didn’t even deny that she’s relying on drugs to allow her to cope.
Unfortunately, all the albums she released after didn’t garner as much attention and money like before. The family problem she primarily spoke of was mostly about her husband, Bobby Brown, beating her, but she never admitted it. She even said that she’s doing the hitting.
However, Whitney’s hand was forced to file a battery against her husband after he reportedly threatened to further hurt her. Police stated that she was bruised and battered when the report was claimed. In 2007, they divorced, ending 15 years of marriage.
After getting separated from her husband, her drug use stopped completely, she said in an Oprah interview. She then released her last album, and it reached the Billboard top hits almost instantly. Three of the singles in it were hits. And it put her back on the industry again.
It could’ve been a complete rebound from her dark years, but in 2012, she was found dead on her bathtub. According to toxicology reports, multiple recreational substances were found in her body in high doses.
The Key Takeaway For Aspiring Singers
If I’m going to be cruelly objective, the most significant factor in Whitney’s massive jumpstart in the industry was her mother’s connection and position in the industry. However, her immense success can be wholly and ultimately attributed to her singing ability.
And when it comes to improving her skills, having a highly-skilled teacher was crucial. It’s similar to how Michael Jackson developed lightning-fast without the unnecessary beating. She even exceeded the success of her mentor, her mother, leaps, and bounds.
Another factor that contributed to her amazing abilities is the fact that she relentlessly sang at a young age. She wasn’t just practicing at home to refine her skillset. Whitney joined her mother on her gigs, and never backed down on any songs thrown at her.
But as the ongoing pattern with our legends, they often face the worst after their success. And sadly, it led to Whitney’s premature death. Nonetheless, following her mother even to her workplace did wonders for her career. Do you think sticking like glue with your current or future mentor will do the trick for you? Share what you think down below.