Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Whitney Houston - Biography

The New Jersey-born star is one of the best-selling music artists of all time

whitney houston
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
Updated: 20 November 2023
Share this:

Whitney Houston was an American singer and one of the best-selling music artists of all time and has influenced countless other musicians in popular music. In her lifetime the gifted songbird amassed a $100 million fortune, six Grammy's and 11 US and four UK number ones.

Whitney Houston's early life

Whitney was born on August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey to  Emily "Cissy" and John Russell Houston Jr. She comes from a very musical family as her mother, Cissy, was a Grammy-winning gospel and soul singer who made her name in The Drinkards Singers gospel quartet, and later founded the Sweet Inspirations vocal group, who recorded with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. Through her mother, Whitney was also a first cousin of accomplished singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick.

Whitney Houston's career and personal life

The road to riches began when Arista Records boss Clive Davis heard Whitney singing in a nightclub. Then 19, she was using her voice to pay for her education. Her success in the music business translated to the big screen, and for her first starring role in the Kevin Costner film The Bodyguard, which grossed a staggering $400 million, she virtually played herself. I Will Always Love You, the soundtrack's lead single was top of the charts for 14 weeks, making it one of the best-selling discs in history. She also starred in two other movies, Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.

In June 1991, the singer married R'n'B star Bobby Brown, six years her junior. The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, born March 4, 1993. 

Concerns over the state of Whitney's health emerged in the late Nineties, after numerous allegations that she had a problem with substance abuse. Then, just 48 hours before her appearance at the Oscars ceremony in 2000, she was reportedly dropped by music director Burt Bacharach for her apparent inability to remember the lyrics to the songs she had been booked to sing. However, the singer continued to produce hit records - My Love Is Your Love, which was released in 1998, marked a radical change in direction for the soul star. 

Working with ultra-cool R'n'B producer Rodney Jerkins, of Spice Girls, Michael Jackson and Destiny's Child fame, Whitney sounded hipper and more urban than on her previous works. A greatest hits package was released shortly afterwards, but it wasn't long before the star dipped out of the limelight to deal with personal issues. 

She entered a rehabilitation facility in 2004 and again in 2005, and one year later troubled Whitney filed for divorce from Bobby. Whitney gained custody of their daughter and the divorce was finalised in April 2007. 

Slowly but surely she began to get her life back on track and in December the same year staged a long-awaited comeback, performing a selection of her greatest hits at a music festival in Kuala Lumpur. At the event she announced she was working on a new album. I Look To You gave the iconic performer her first number one since The Bodyguard soundtrack and went platinum with sales of over one million in the US.

Whitney Houston's death

In 2012, one of the greatest talents of her generation passed away on February 11, just hours before she was due to attend a pre-Grammys party.

Her passing was ruled as an accidental drowning with contributing factors of cocaine use and heart disease. She was 48 years old. 

More Profiles

See more