Music world unites in tribute to Whitney

Updated: 2012-02-13 10:20

By Chen Nan, He Na and Wang Chenyan (China Daily/Agencies)

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Angelic star who struggled with demons

At her peak, Whitney Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. She had the perfect voice and the perfect image.

Yet, by the end, she had become a stunning cautionary tale of drug use.

Growing up in New Jersey, Houston seemed born to greatness: the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of soul legend Aretha Franklin.

She started singing in church, and by her teens was working as a studio backup for Chaka Khan, and modeling. It was then that music mogul Clive Davis heard her perform.

"To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine," he said of the occasion.

Houston's debut album, Whitney Houston, in 1985, sold millions and brought her first Grammy. She followed this with the multi-platinum Whitney in 1987.

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism from some who saw her as playing down her black roots. Some saw her 1992 marriage to soul bad-boy Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics.

The couple had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina, born in 1993, the year after Houston's starring role in The Bodyguard and the worldwide chart hit I Will Always Love You.

During the career highs of the 1990s, Houston was using drugs. There were missed concert dates and public meltdowns, and she went to rehab twice before declaring herself drug-free to Oprah Winfrey in 2009. She blamed the drug use on her rocky marriage to Brown. (The couple divorced in 2007.)

Houston came back with the 2009 album I Look To You, but things soon fell apart. At concerts, Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key, while a world tour launched overseas left many fans unimpressed.

Before her death on Sunday, Houston's once-serene image was shattered. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her voice had become raspy and hoarse.

"The biggest devil is me," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in a 2002 interview. "I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy."

Agencies - China Daily

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