Family Ties

Bobby Brown, Dionne Warwick: A Who’s Who in Whitney Houston’s Family (PHOTOS)

From ex-husband Bobby Brown to daughter Bobbi Kristina and cousin Dionne Warwick, a look at the family Whitney Houston leaves behind.

Ricki Rosen, SABA / Corbis

Ricki Rosen, SABA / Corbis

In the wake Whitney Houston’s sudden and tragic death, the spotlight now centers on the family she left behind, including her mother, Cissy Houston, and cousin Dionne Warwick, both musical legends in their own right. Whitney also is survived by her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, whom she divorced in 2007 after a tumultuous 14-year-marriage, and their daughter Bobbi Kristina, who took care of her mother when the star was in and out of rehab. From her half-brother, Gary, to her late father, John, a look at Whitney’s talented and occasionally troubled family.

Mitchell Gerber / Corbis

Bobby Brown

Whitney Houston met Bobby Brown at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1989. At first, they seemed like an improbable pair. Whitney was the girl next door with the amazing vocals. Bobby was the bad boy New Edition frontman. But three years later they had a storybook wedding at her New Jersey home. The fairy tale quickly turned grim, with reports of domestic violence and drug abuse punctuating their 14-year marriage. Many blame Brown for Houston’s involvement with drugs. The songstress would go to rehab twice before telling Oprah Winfrey in 2010 that she was drug-free. Houston filed for divorce in October 2006.

Scott Kirkland, Retna Digital / Corbis (left); Frank Trapper, Sygma / Corbis

Bobbi Kristina Brown

Houston’s turbulent marriage produced one child: Bobbi Kristina Brown. Now 18, Bobbi Kristina had grown so close to her mother that the teenager had to be rushed to the hospital and treated for anxiety after Houston’s death. Bobbi Kristina reportedly was in the hotel lobby when she learned that Whitney was unresponsive. When police prevented her from seeing her mother, she lashed out at the officers. As a girl, Bobbi Kristina had to deal with her mother’s drug addiction, often acting as a caretaker. More recently the mother-daughter duo had been in the recording studio working together.

Schroewig / CS / DPA / Corbis

Dionne Warwick

Houston came from a musically talented family. Her cousin Dionne Warwick has been an international star for more than four decades. Her first solo single, “Don’t Make Me Over,” was released in 1962 and since then she’s produced dozens of hits including, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” The five-time Grammy winner is still going strong, appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice and American Idol in recent years.

L. Busacca, WireImage / Getty Images

Cissy Houston

Whitney’s musical genes were passed to her by her mother, Cissy Houston. An award-winning gospel and soul singer in her own right, Cissy began her career as a member of the Drinkards, her family’s gospel group. She went solo in 1969 and had a few hits, but was never able to rise to the level of fame enjoyed by her daughter. A proud mother, Cissy said she recognized Whitney’s talent early on and encouraged her daughter to sing even when it sounded more like screaming. Whitney became interested in music at an early age, accompanying her mother to gigs for her group, the Sweet Inspirations. The group, which included Dee Dee Warwick, sang backup for some of the biggest names in music, including Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, and Otis Redding.

Gilles Petard, Redferns / Getty Images

Dee Dee Warwick

Dee Dee Warwick was Houston’s other famous cousin. Though not quite as well known as her sister, Dionne, Dee Dee had a respectable career in her own right as a two-time Grammy nominee and the singer of several soul and R&B hits. (Her best-known songs include “Foolish Fool,” “She Didn’t Know,” and the original version of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”) Dee Dee, who died in October 2008 at the age of 66, also sang backup for Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.


Gary Houston

Whitney’s half-brother, Gary Houston (née Garland), was the son of Cissy Houston and Freddie Garland, Cissy’s first husband whom she divorced before Gary was even born. While Gary is best known for his brief career in the NBA as a guard for the Denver Nuggets (an injury forced him to retire after only two years of playing pro), he could hold his own singing gospel with his mother and sister. He belted out “Wonderful Counselor” alongside the two divas during the 1988 American Music Awards, and sang a duet of “Endless Love” with Whitney at a 1997 concert in Washington.

L. Busacca, WireImage / Getty Images

John Houston

Whitney’s father, entertainment executive John Russell Houston Jr., managed much of her career through his business, John Houston Enterprises. Their relationship was tumultuous during his later years, after he divorced her mother and married Barbara Houston, a woman 40 years his junior. John Houston Enterprises sued Whitney in 2002 for $100 million, claiming the singer failed to pay the company for sorting out her 2000 pot bust and negotiating her contract renewal with Arista records. The company was run by Kevin Skinner at this point, however, and Whitney’s father didn’t even show up in court. When he died in 2003, John Houston still owed Whitney money he had borrowed from her years before, and had named her sole beneficiary of a life insurance policy that would have paid her back. Things turned particularly nasty between Whitney and her stepmother, who filed a lawsuit claiming she needed the money to pay off the mortgage on a house she shared with her late husband. Whitney countersued, and the case turned into a multiyear legal battle that was resolved in Whitney’s favor just weeks before her death.