BREAKING NEWS: Troubled U.S. music legend Whitney Houston is found dead in Beverly Hills hotel room after drugs battle, aged 48


-Award-winning singer and actress 'found unconscious by on-off boyfriend Ray J in her hotel room'
-Emergency services administered CPR for 20 minutes but were unable to save her
-Speculation that death is drug-related but cause is unknown
-Last appeared in public on Thursday where she looked dishevelled and reportedly smelled of alcohol
-Celebrities flock to Twitter to pay tributes to 'beautiful and talented' singer

By Hugo Gye and Lydia Warren

Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, died this afternoon. She was 48.

Publicist Kristen Foster said today that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unclear.

She died at the Beverly Hilton hotel. She was apparently found by her on-off boyfriend Ray J in her hotel room, though other reports dispute that account.

A spokesman for the local police department said that emergency services had been called to the hotel at 3.43 this afternoon, arriving minutes later.

Officials rushed to the room on the fourth floor where she was staying as a guest, where they found security staff and firemen attempting to revive her using CPR

Life-saving attempts proved unsuccessful after 20 minutes, and she was pronounced dead at 3.55pm.

Authorities are currently trying to determine a cause of death, according to the spokesman. It was initially unclear whether or not her death was drug-related, as has been speculated by some.

Celebrities, from singers and rappers to television personalities and business leaders, took to Twitter to express their sadness at the news.

Stars praised the singer's unmatched talent and passed on their wishes to her bereaved family, while others expressed their shock at how the award-winning singer passed away at the age of just 48.

'Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Ms. Whitney Houston,' said Mariah Carey, who recorded the Oscar-winning song When You Believe with the late star in 1998.

'My heartfelt condolences to Whitney’s family and to all her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth.'

'Shocked we've lost the immensely talented Whitney Houston!' wrote fellow singer Gloria Estefan. ‘Sending prayers of peace & solace 2 her family, friends & fans! Such a loss! Such an amazing talent!'

Rihanna tweeted: 'No words! Just tears. I honestly can't think of anything else!!! Feels so strange being at the Grammy rehearsal right now!!'

But it was not just the music industry that felt the influence of Houston, with other celebrities expressing their condolences and thanks to the award-winning singer.

One high-profile figure to speak out was Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, who said: 'R.I.P. Whitney Houston. Thank you for the amazing music you brought into the world.'

Performance: Throughout the 80s and 90s, Houston was one of the world's most popular singers

Superstar: Houston will long be remembered as one of the standout performers of her generation

Award success: Houston was a frequent winner at the Grammys and other high-profile award ceremonies

News of Houston's death came on the eve of one of the biggest nights in music - the Grammy Awards.

It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony.

Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.

Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had said that she would perhaps perform: 'It's her favorite night of the year... who knows, by the end of the evening.'

Producer Jimmy Jam, who had worked with Houston, said he anticipated the evening would become a tribute to her, and he expected there to be one at the Grammys as well.

She had been at rehearsals for the show on Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event.

The source said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.

Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.

After her death, the executive in charge of the awards issued a statement expressing sadness at the star's death.

'Six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades,' Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, said.

'Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice.'

At her peak in the 1980s and 90s, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry and one of the world's best-selling artists.

She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Among her hits were How Will I Know, Saving All My Love for You and I Will Always Love You. She won multiple Grammys including album and record of the year.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies like The Bodyguard.

Relationship: Houston's turbulent marriage to singer Bobby Brown was the subject of tabloid gossip for years

Mentor: Houston's career was started by record label boss Clive Davis, who saw her singing in a nightclub with her mother

But by the end of her career, drug use took its toll as her record sales plummeted and her voice became raspy and hoarse.

Her image became tarnished by her well-documented troubles, including her turbulent marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

By the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use.

Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances.

Hotel: Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton hotel in California

Scene: A police van and fire department officials were spotted outside the Hilton after Houston's death

She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

'The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy,' Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

Successor: Houston with Mariah Carey, one of the young singers who followed in her wake

With Ray J: According to some accounts Houston was found by her on-off boyfriend, who is himself a singer

Duet: Houston sings with Jermaine Jackson during rehearsals for a TV performance in 1984

However, she will be remembered not for the troubles she encountered in her last decade, but for her extraordinary voice and star charisma.

Houston was discovered by record label boss Clive Davis, who once said: 'The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club... it was such a stunning impact.

'To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine.'

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