The Korea Herald


Whitney Houston, superstar of records, films, dies


Published : Feb. 12, 2012 - 10:07

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image was ruined by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen said Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton. A Los Angeles County coroner's official said the body remained in the building late Saturday.

``There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent,'' Rosen said.

(AP-Yonhap News) (AP-Yonhap News)

Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.

Rosen said police received an emergency call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday. Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party were not able to resuscitate her, he said.

Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night _ the Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and where she will be remembered Sunday in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson, organizers said.

Her longtime mentor Clive Davis went ahead with his annual concert at the same hotel where her body was found. He dedicated the evening to her and asked for a moment of silence as a photo of the singer, hands wide open, looking to the sky, appeared on the screen.

Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press that she would perhaps perform: ``It's her favorite night of the year ... (so) who knows by the end of the evening,'' he had said.

Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.

Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price. Singer Kenny Lattimore hosted the event, and said Houston sang the gospel classic ``Jesus Loves Me'' with Price, her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.

Lattimore said Houston was gregarious and was in a good mood, surrounded by friends and family, including daughter Bobbi Kristina.

``She just seemed like she was having a great night that night,'' said Lattimore, who said he was in shock over her death.

Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.

``I just can't talk about it now,'' Franklin said in a short statement. ``It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.''

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

``The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,'' Sharpton said in a statement.

In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston ``was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades.''

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful and peerless vocals rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like ``The Bodyguard'' and ``Waiting to Exhale.''

She had the perfect voice and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once-pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

``The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy,'' Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. In addition to being Franklin's goddaughter, she was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time that music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

``The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact,'' Davis told ``Good Morning America.''

``To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,'' he added.

Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with ``Whitney Houston,'' which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. ``Saving All My Love for You'' brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. ``How Will I Know,'' ``You Give Good Love'' and ``The Greatest Love of All'' also became hit singles.

Another multiplatinum album, ``Whitney,'' came out in 1987 and included hits like ``Where Do Broken Hearts Go'' and ``I Wanna Dance With Somebody.''

The New York Times wrote that Houston ``possesses one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.''

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the ``Soul Train Awards'' in 1989.

``Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?'' she told Katie Couric in 1996. ``You're not black enough for them. I don't know. You're not R&B enough. You're very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.''

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image and already had children of his own. (The couple only had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina, born in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.

``When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,'' she told Rolling Stone in 1993. ``You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.''

Brown was getting ready to perform at a New Edition reunion tour in Southaven, Mississippi, as news spread about Houston's death. The group went ahead with its performance, though Brown appeared overcome with emotion when his voice cracked at the beginning of a ballad and he left the stage.

Before his departure, he told the sell-out crowd: ``First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage.''

Brown said he decided to perform because fans had shown their loyalty to the group for more than 25 years. During an intermission, one of Houston's early hits, ``You Give Good Love,'' played over the speakers. Fans stood up and began singing along.

It would take several years for the public to see the ``down and dirty'' side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of ``The Star Spangled Banner'' at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America's sweetheart.

In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with ``The Bodyguard.'' Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton's ``I Will Always Love You,'' which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy's record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the ``Bodyguard'' soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with ``Waiting to Exhale'' and ``The Preacher's Wife.'' Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, ``My Love Is Your Love,'' in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut ``It's Not Right But It's Okay.''

But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, she said by the time ``The Preacher's Wife'' was released, ``(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.''

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2009. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown's reality show, ``Being Bobby Brown,'' was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared ``crack is whack,'' was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album ``I Look To You.'' The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on ``Good Morning America'' went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

Houston was to make her return to film in the remake of the classic movie ``Sparkle.'' Filming on the movie, which stars former ``American Idol'' winner Jordin Sparks, recently wrapped.


휘트니 휴스턴 호텔 욕조서 의문의 죽음

미국의 '팝의 여왕' 휘트니 휴스턴이 불명확한 사인으로 갑작스럽게 숨지면서 사망 직전 그에게 어떤 일이 있었는지에 관 심이 쏠리고 있다.

미국의 연예 전문 매체 TMZ는 11일(현지시간) 휴스턴이 미국 캘리포니아주 베벌 리 힐스의 베벌리힐튼 호텔방 욕조 안에서 숨진 채 발견됐다고 호텔 직원의 발언을 인용해 보도했다.

욕조 안에 정신을 잃은 채 쓰러져 있는 휴스턴을 가장 먼저 발견한 사람은 휴스 턴의 일행중 한 명이었다.

그는 휴스턴을 발견한 즉시 호텔 직원에게 전화를 걸었고, 연락을 받은 직원은 곧바로 911에 신고했다.

이후 몇분 내로 911 응급 구조팀이 호텔에 도착, 휴스턴에게 심폐소생술(CPR)을 행하는 등 약 30분간 응급조치를 취했지만 그는 끝내 깨어나지 못했다.

이것으로 휴스턴은 이날 오후 3시55분 공식적으로 사망진단을 받았다. 제54회 그래미상 시상식을 꼭 하루 앞두고 벌어진 일이었다.

이날 밤에는 미국의 유명 음반 프로듀서 클리브 데이비스가 베벌리힐튼  호텔에 서 저녁 만찬을 베풀기로 돼 있었다. 이 때문에 미 음악계의 수많은 스타가 해당 호 텔로 집결했다.

세계 최고의 권위를 자랑하는 팝 음악상인 그래미상을 과거에 6차례나 수상했던 휴스턴은 이날 저녁 만찬에서 공연할 예정이었다고 TMZ는 보도했다.

뉴욕타임스(NYT)는 데이비스가 주최하는 파티에 참여하려는 스타들과 팬들,  휴 스턴의 죽음을 알아보려는 취재단 등이 베벌리힐튼 호텔 주위에서 인산인해를  이루 고 있다고 전했다.

아직 휴스턴의 정확한 사인은 규명되지 않은 상태다.

다만, 현지 경찰은 "타살 등 범죄 흔적이 없으며 사망원인에 대한 조사가 진행 중"이라고만 밝혔다.

이런 가운데 일각에서는 휴스턴의 죽음이 최근 그가 보여왔던 심리적인 고통과 무관하지 않을 것이라는 추측이 조심스럽게 제기되고 있다.

현지 언론들은 지난 9일 휴스턴이 할리우드 인근의 한 나이트클럽 앞에서  헝클 어진 머리와 흐트러진 옷차림으로 나타났던 것이 대중들에게 공개된 마지막 모습이 됐다고 전했다.

실제로 휴스턴은 지난 2007년 가수 겸 작곡가 바비 브라운과 이혼한 뒤에  음주 와 마약 등에 빠져 살았고, 이 때문에 완벽에 가깝다는 찬사를 받았던 목소리까지 망가져 팬들을 안타깝게 했다. (연합뉴스)