On the cusp of the Grammy Awards, Whitney Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills, California hotel room this past Saturday afternoon at the young age of 48. As the news spread throughout the corners of the globe, fans and peers alike gasped in disbelief as “one of the best vocalist to ever grace the earth” had left us. Houston’s voice was magical. She belted out flawless notes effortlessly. Throughout the history of music there has been no one quite like Houston, and there will never be another. A voice as sweet as honey, yet soulful to the core, only comes around once in a lifetime. More than a singer, Houston’s career evolved to include acting, modeling and business, which she excelled in all. Despite a rough patch in her life, the iconic singer was back on the track to success with her upcoming role in the remake of Sparkle. In remembrance of the music icon, BlackEnterprise.com Decodes Whitney Houston’s lasting impact. —Bené Viera
Along with singing, Houston had a successful modeling career in the early 1980s. Her girl next-door looks landed her on the cover of Seventeen in November 1981, making her the first Black woman to grace the magazine’s cover. That milestone led to features in Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Young Miss magazines. Although she continued modeling as a highly sought after teen model, Houston never stopped making music, which is what would eventually plateau her career to never seen before heights.
THE FIRST LADY OF SOUL
Signed to Arista Records in 1983 by music executive Clive Davis, Houston, then 19, released her self-titled debut two years later. The album was a hit, producing several chart-topping singles both domestically and internationally. She broke records along the way, becoming the first female artist with three No. 1 hits. Based on the disc’s success, Houston became the first Black female artist to get consistent airtime on MTV. Going on to sell more than 25 million copies, Houston’s LP was the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. A year after its release, Whitney Houston was No.1 on the charts and remained there for 14 consecutive weeks.
POPPING OFF THE CHARTS
Houston’s chart dominance continued throughout her career. Her sophomore effort, 1987’s Whitney, went nine times platinum and garnered four No. 1 hits, which made her the first female artist to generate four No. 1 hits from one album. The pop star’s success continued throughout the late 80s and 90s. Her third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990) peaked at No. 1 and has sold 12 million copies to date. Although her subsequent albums didn’t eclipse those numbers they were still produced notable sales. My Love is Your Love was a huge international success that sold 2,753,000 copies. Just Whitney, released in 2002, went on to sell more than three million copies worldwide. Houston’s final album I Look to You debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 305,000 albums in the first week, extending her lead as the female artist with the most consecutive weeks in the No. 1 spot.
POP STAR TURNED MOVIE STAR
In 1992 Houston made her big screen debut as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard, which grossed $16.6 million in its opening weekend. The film’s total domestic haul was $121.9 million and grossed $410.9 million worldwide. Three years later Houston starred in the adaptation of Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, which opened at No. 1 at the box office, grossing $14.1 million in its first week. The film grossed $81.5 million worldwide. In 1996 Houston went back to her church roots in The Preacher’s Wife, which earned her three NAACP Image Awards.
In addition to acting, Houston’s Hollywood clout extended to movie soundtracks. The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album became the best-selling soundtrack of all time (45 million copies worldwide), powered by the hit “I Will Always Love You,” which sold 12 million units alone. As a result, Houston became the first act in history to sell more than a million albums in a week for the soundtrack, which won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album topped the Billboard 200 charts and would eventually go seven times platinum, receive 11 award nominations and the soundtrack’s single Exhale “(Shoop Shoop)” won a Grammy for Best R&B song. The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack is the best-selling gospel album of all time, selling roughly six million copies worldwide. It debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 charts, before peaking at No. 1 on the Top Billboard R&B albums.
In 1997 Houston starred as the Fairy Godmother in the made-for-TV Cinderella movie, starring singer Brandy Norwood. It was the No. 1 show of the week with over 60 million viewers. Over the years Houston would continue to draw viewers with her TV appearances—ranging from her 1993 Barbara Walters special to her 2005 reality show Being Bobby Brown with her ex husband. In 2009, two years post her divorce from ex-husband Bobby Brown, after rehab stints and being clean, Houston agreed to do an interview with Oprah, saying it would be the last time she discussed Brown or her addiction to cocaine. Oprah opened her 24th season with the Houston interview, which ranked 45 percent higher than the launch of the previous season. The two-part interview also earned Oprah the highest ratings she’d had in two years.
TOUR DE FORCE
Houston’s first album tour grossed nearly $4.8 million in ticket sales. Her second tour was almost as successful, grossing $4.1 million in ticket sales. Her Bodyguard tour was a huge success helping her earn a spot on Forbes’ “Richest Entertainers” list. Between 1993 and 1994, Houston grossed $33 million. My Love is Your Love tour did exceptionally well internationally as the highest grossing arena concert of that year. Her last and final tour, Nothing But Love World Tour made her $36 million.
According to Guinness World Records, Houston is the most awarded female act of all time with a total of 415 awards. Throughout her career, she won 22 American Music Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 99 RIAA awards, one Emmy, seven Soul Train Music Awards, six Grammy awards, six People’s Choice Awards and 16 NAACP Image Awards. Right out of the gate with her debut album in 1985, Houston racked up three NAACP Image Awards. In 1986, she won a jaw-dropping 13 awards, ranging from a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance to the Billboard Year-End Charts award for Top Black Album. She won multiple awards every single year in the ’90s, and she continued receiving them until 2010. Houston literally had a 25-year history of being a renowned pop star who broke many records and earned numerous awards. You can’t mention the words “music legend” without mentioning Whitney Houston.