Whitney Houston: a brilliant and tragic life

Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:11am EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday, rose from a gospel church choir in New Jersey to become one of the best-selling and most-admired female singers of all time.

With hits like "I Will Always Love You" - the theme song of what was her film acting debut in "The Bodyguard" opposite Kevin Costner in 1992 - and "The Greatest Love of All," Houston won six Grammys and more than 400 other awards in a 25-year career.

Her soaring voice influenced singers ranging from Beyonce and Alicia Keys to Mariah Carey and Celine Dion - and inspired thousands of copy-cat performers on TV talent shows.

Her early successes also made her one of the first black artists, along with Michael Jackson, to find success on MTV. She later became the kind of singer and actress who could cross international barriers as well as ethnic ones.

"She had everything, beauty, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us," singing legend Barbra Streisand said in a statement.

Critics hailed the range of her voice and the passion behind her performances.

But behind closed doors, her life was far from the romantic dreams she captured so brilliantly in her singing. She struggled for years with drug and alcohol problems, entering rehab again as recently as May 2011.

And on Saturday, her sudden death shocked the world as much as Jackson's passing from an overdose of sedatives and a powerful anesthetic in June 2009, at age 50. She joins a short list of brilliant singers - Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse and Jackson - whose lives were cut short by personal problems and drug abuse.

Houston died on the eve of the Grammy Awards, and just hours before she was due to attend the annual pre-Grammy party thrown by record producer Clive Davis - the man who discovered her in a nightclub in the early 1980s and who guided her career through its many ups and downs.   Continued...