The rise and fall of a superstar: Tragic tale of the U.S. singing sensation whose life was destroyed by drugs


By Daily Mail Reporter

From the middle of the Eighties to the late Nineties she was one of the world's best-selling artists, wowing audiences with her powerful and effortless voice.

The showbiz world was rocked today with the tragic news that one of music's biggest legends Whitney Houston is dead.

We look back at the life and times of the Grammy and Emmy-Award winning artist whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 48.


Tragic: Music legend Whitney Houston died today at the age 48-years-old

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born to a middle class family in Newark, New Jersey in 1963.

She was the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr., who passed away in 2003, and gospel singer Cissy Houston.

It was clear that natural talent in music ran through her family.

A star is born: Whitney, seen here in 1984, first became interested in music after frequently accompanying her mother Cissy when she performed in nightclubs

Proud parents: Whitney is seen here with her mother Cissy and late father John Russell Houston, Jr. in 1985

Her cousins Dionne Warwick and the late Dee Dee Warwick, and also her godmother Aretha Franklin all made a huge mark on he gospel and R&B scene.

Whitney first became interested in being in the music industry after frequently accompanying her mother Cissy who often performed in nightclubs.

Sometimes the teen would even take to the stage herself and perform.

Houston was offered her very first recording contract at the age of 14 by Michael Zanger, after she wowed him with her back-up singing on a record for his group, Michael Zanger band.

Family of songstresses: Whitney seen here with her mother Cissy, left, and cousin Dionne Warwick, right, and Don King, far left

Musical masterminds: Whitney is seen here with Dionne in 2006

But she was forced to turn it down as her mother determined that she should instead finish school.

However, in the years that followed she lent her voice to albums of both American soul, jazz, and blues singer Lou Rawls and Michael Jackson's father Jermaine Jackson.

Naturally stunningly beautiful, Houston began dabbling in modelling after being spotted by a fashion photographer whilst she was performing with her mother.

Beauty: With her stunning good looks and incredible voice, Whitney was destined for stardom

Famous friends: Whitney was close friends with the late King Of Pop Michael Jackson and sang back-up vocals on his older brother Jermaine Jackson's album. Here they are seen in 1988

She went on to become the first ever woman of colour to appear in a fashion magazine after gracing the pages of Seventeen magazine in the early Eighties.

Subsequently she appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Young Miss magazines, and also in a TV advertisement for Canada Dry soft drink.

It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

Huge star: From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, Houston was one of the world's best-selling artist

Big earner: Over the span of her career, Houston sold a whopping 55 million albums in the United States

Powerful: It was clear as Whitney became more and more famous that she was born to be on the stage

'The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact,' the American record producer told Good Morning America.

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

Houston made her album debut in 1985 with the self-titled record Whitney Houston.

It sold millions and spawned hit after hit including Saving All My Love for You, which won her her first Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal.

Model looks: Houston often graced the covers and pages of several fashion magazines

Other tracks such as How Will I Know, You Give Good Love and The Greatest Love of All also went on to become giant hits.

Another multi-platinum album, Whitney, came out in 1987 and included hits like Where Do Broken Hearts Go and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

The New York Times wrote that Houston 'possesses one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners.

Best of friends: Whitney performed duets with Mariah Carey several times, here they are seen on stage at the Oscars in 1999

Protege: Whitney and record producer Clive Davis had one of the closest business relationships in showbiz

'She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.'

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences.

The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the Soul Train Awards in 1989.

Parlay onto the big screen: In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with The Bodyguard

Classic: The film, co-starring Kevin Costner, went on to become one of the romance greats of all time

'Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?' she told Katie Couric in 1996. 'You're not black enough for them. I don't know. You're not R&B enough. You're very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.'

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics.

It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own.

The couple went on to have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.

More screen time: She returned to the big screen in 1995 in Waiting to Exhale and then in 1996 in The Preacher's Wife, seen here

Over the years, he was arrested several times on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.

'When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,' she told Rolling Stone in 1993.

'You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.'

A romance was born: Whitney married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown in 1992

Odd pairing: It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own

It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of Houston.

Her moving 1991 rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America's sweetheart.

In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with The Bodyguard.

Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer guarded by a former Secret Service agent, played by Kevin Costner was an international success.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You, which sat atop the charts for weeks.

Apple of her mother's eye: The couple went on to have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina in 1993, here she is seen with her mother at a boxing match in 2008

Her everything: Kristina often accompanied her mother on the red-carpet and to various events

It was Grammy's Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal, and the Bodyguard soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.

Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, My Love Is Your Love, in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut It's Not Right But It's Okay.

Emaciated: At the height of her drug use, Houston was so startlingly thin that after performing at a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert, rumors spread she had died the next day

Public meltdown: During the height of her drug use there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns, here she is seen with former husband Bobby Brown in 2006

But during these career and personal highs, Houston began using drugs.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time The Preacher's Wife was released, '(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.'

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010.

Cleaning up her act: Houston declared herself drug-free to Oprah Winfrey in 2010

But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day.

Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown's reality show, Being Bobby Brown, was an example of her sad decline.

Her Sawyer interview, where she declared 'crack is whack,' was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

Looking fabulous: The singer looked like the Whitney of old when she took to the stage to perform at last year's Grammy Awards

Stunning in sequins: Swathed in a silver full-length gown she looked beautiful and healthy

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album I Look To You. The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on Good Morning America went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out.

Troubled again: Whitney Houston looked worse for wear as she left Tru Hollywood nightclub earlier this week

Stand by me: The singer was in dire need of some serious aid from her entourage

Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

Recently Houston appeared to be battling her demons once more.

She was spotted looking worse for wear earlier this week in Hollywood, California after enjoying a party with friends.

The superstar singer had been a guest at the Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For The Love Of R&B Grammy Party at Tru Hollywood and had even performed during the night.

Taking a bow: Whitney will be remembered as one of the greatest recording artists of all times