9. Matchless Vocals, Auspicious Beginnings
Known for her vocal range and nuanced ability, Whitney was born into a family of vocalists. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a gospel singer herself and aunt to Dionne Warwick. Aretha Franklin was Whitney's godmother. Here, a young Whitney sings with her mother.
8. Taking Off With the ‘Greatest Love of All’
Whitney started singing backup for notable acts like Chaka Khan and soon found success for herself. Her first album, Whitney Houston, sold millions of copies and had several hit singles including “Saving All My Love for You” and “Greatest Love of All.”
7. Lighting Up the Stage
It wasn’t long before Whitney took off worldwide, scoring a remarkable seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard hits in the mid-1980s, beginning with the jazzy balled “Saving All My Love for You.” Watch as she performs on French television in 1986.
6. Whitney & Bobby
Not long after she found success, Houston met Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Awards. The two married in 1992, and Whitney gave birth to daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown the next year. Though the couple had a tumultuous relationship—Brown had several run-ins with the law, and Houston later revealed that they abused drugs together—the relationship started out with promise. Watch as they perform at the 1994 Soul Train Awards.
5. A Diva Duet at the Oscars
Houston was still at the top of her game at the 1999 Oscars, where she teamed up with fellow hit maker Mariah Carey to sing “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt. The song went on to win the award for Best Original Song.
4. ‘I Will Always Love You’
Whitney’s talents were not limited to singing. She struck out into the acting world, costarring with Kevin Costner in 1992’s The Bodyguard. The film was a hit, but the truly unforgettable contribution was her work on the soundtrack. Listen to how she holds those notes on her rendition of Dolly Parton’s song.
3. A Young Start, ‘Effortless’ Performer
In a rough, early video recording a young Whitney Houston belts out a vocal solo in the spirit of gospel.
2. Whitney’s Final Stage Performance
In what might be later eulogized as her final performance, Whitney Houston did a spontaneous performance at Tru Hollywood nightclub Feb. 9. She sang a raspy “Jesus Loves Me.”
1. Whitney Houston Sings the National Anthem
By far her most memorable performance, Whitney’s 1991 Super Bowl opener set the standard upon which all other renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” would be measured. Surely it will remain for a long, long time.