Whitney Houston, R.I.P.

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Whitney Houston, the big-voiced belter who dominated radio in the 1980s and '90s and whose cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" spent 14 weeks at the top of the Hot 100, passed away tonight at the Beverly Hilton, where Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammy party was about to take place. (Her cause of death has not been declared yet.) Houston's catalog is spangled with chart-topping hits (seven of her singles went to No. 1 in a row) and awards that included six Grammys; her commanding presence on the pop landscape was attributable not just to her voice, with its roots in the gospel world and undeniable ability to hit high, glorious notes while also conveying emotion with a single beat, but to her songs' melding of pop's glossy aesthetics with R&B, soul, gospel, and disco elements.

Houston, the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of Dionne Warwick, was born in Newark in 1963. In the early '80s she was taken under the wing of music supermogul Clive Davis, who would prove to be a bedrock for her career. Houston's self-titled debut came out in 1985, and it quickly established her voice—brave and open, muscular yet buoyant—as a force to be reckoned with in pop music. It spawned three chart-topping singles, went 13 times platinum in the U.S., and was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy. (It lost to Phil Collins' No Jacket Required.)


Whitney Houston, "How Will I Know"


Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love Of All"

In 1987 Whitney, Houston's second album, was released; four of its tracks went on to top the charts, including the Narada Michael Walden-prodced dancepop classic "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," which despite its pleading lyric is one of the most deliciously ebuillent songs from an era filled with contenders for that title.


Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"


Whitney Houston, "So Emotional"


Whitney Houston, "Love Will Save The Day" (Morales/Jellybean Classic House Mix)

Houston's 1991 rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which she performed before Super Bowl XXV, is the only version of the national anthem to reach the Hot 100, and it did so twice—it peaked at No. 20 in 1991 and No. 6 in 2001. It became the standard version of the anthem, the one that so many singers were out to top, her voice soaring around the song's notoriously difficult leaps and bounds as if it was a scale.


Whitney Houston, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (live in 1991)


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