On this day in 2012, Whitney Houston, one of the world’s top-selling singers from the mid-1980s to late 1990s, is found dead in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Houston’s death was the result of accidental drowning; heart disease and cocaine, which was found in her system, were determined to be contributing factors. The 48-year-old pop diva, known for her soaring voice and beauty, won a total of six Grammy Awards and 22 American Music Awards (more than any other female), and was credited with influencing several generations of singers, from Mariah Carey to Jennifer Hudson.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, to John Houston, a theatrical manager, and Cissy Houston, a singer who backed up a variety of artists, including Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. Growing up, the younger Houston sang in her church’s gospel choir. In high school, she performed background vocals on songs for Chaka Khan and others, and modeled, becoming one of the first African-American women to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine.
In 1983, music producer Clive Davis heard Houston perform at a New York City nightclub and signed her to a recording deal. Her self-titled debut album, released in 1985, sold more than 25 million copies around the world and featured the hit singles “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All.” Her next album, 1987’s “Whitney,” was also a top-seller and included the hits “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “So Emotional.” Her third album, 1990’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” was another big commercial success.
In 1992, the songstress made her movie debut, starring opposite Kevin Costner in the blockbuster “The Bodyguard.” The film’s soundtrack featured Houston’s recording of the ballad “I Will Always Love You,” which became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. She went on to co-star in “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996), and also performed on the hit soundtracks for both movies.
In 1992, Houston married singer Bobby Brown, whose bad boy reputation was a contrast to her then-wholesome public image. The couple had a daughter in 1993. Houston and Brown’s relationship was tumultuous and became frequent tabloid fodder. They divorced in 2007.
In 1998, Houston released “My Love is Your Love,” which, like her previous albums, sold millions of copies. However, over the next decade, her career was marred by substance abuse and erratic public behavior and she spent time in rehab facilities. In 2009, Houston released what would be her final album, “I Look to You.” In 2010, she embarked on her first world tour in more than 10 years, with concerts in Asia, Australia and Europe. However, these shows received mixed reviews, with some critics and fans complaining Houston’s voice sounded strained. In 2011, she entered rehab again for drug and alcohol treatment.
On the afternoon of February 11, 2012, Houston died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was expected to perform that night at a pre-Grammy Awards party hosted by Clive Davis. A week later, on February 18, her televised funeral was held at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, and featured musical tributes by such performers as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and the gospel singers BeBe and CeCe Winans. Tyler Perry, Kevin Costner and Houston’s cousin, Dionne Warwick, were among those who spoke at the service. The following day, Houston was buried next to her father at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey.