Whitney Houston reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behaviour and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown.
Whitney Houston. Pic/AFP
The 48-year-old singer was found dead in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, but the cause of death still remains unknown. At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was 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.
She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston. But 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 demeanour and bizarre public appearances, the Courier Mail reported.
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 Bobby Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone. Houston was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.
She made her album debut in 1985 with 'Whitney Houston', which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. 'Saving All My Love for You' brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. 'How Will I Know', 'You Give Good Love' and 'The Greatest Love of All' also became hit singles. Another multiplatinum album, 'Whitney', came out in 1987 and included hits like 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go' and 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'.
In 1992, she married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown. 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 had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.
However, during her time reaching new career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said that 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 him in 1993. They divorced in 2007.
Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.