Too many of us—myself included—are guilty of making insensitive jokes about the demise of Whitney Houston, her frail frame, loss of one of pop's purest voices, and battle with drugs.
But none of us are laughing now.
On Saturday, Houston's publicist confirmed to the Associated Press that the award-winning "I Will Always Love You" singer died. She was 48. The timing of her death, the eve of the Grammys, the biggest music event of the year, makes the horrible news even more tragic. According to CNN, Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. PT at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The Beverly Hilton is the venue for the music industry's most prestigious pre-Grammy party hosted by veteran executive Clive Davis, who discovered Houston.
In an industry flooded with novelty artists, who disappear after scoring one hit, Houston's longevity was unquestioned when she released her debut single, the ballad "You Give Good Love" in February 1985. The song's soothing opening ad-libs displayed her soulful roots while also celebrating her pop sensibilities.
Houston's sound was distinct, and clearly separated her from the funk-laden stylings of the era's other female R&B singers. Plus, she was a model who appeared in "Glamour" and "Cosmopolitan" magazines.
Houston's sound made sense when considering her pedigree. She was the perfect melding of the styles of her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston; cousin, 1960s pop singer Dionne Warwick; and godmother, queen of soul Aretha Franklin.
Houston's self-titled debut album topped the charts and was certified diamond. Her career was impenetrable throughout the release of several follow up albums, 1987's "Whitney," 1990's "I'm Your Baby Tonight," and 1992's "The Bodyguard" soundtrack.
Houston's fans were concerned when she married R&B bad boy Bobby Brown in 1992, but they professed their happiness.
By the late 1990s, Houston's drug problems began to become tabloid fodder. In a 2002 interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Houston admitted to her struggles, but maintained that she was doing fine.
The public received its first real glimpse of Houston behind-the-scenes in 2004 when she appeared on Brown's reality series "Being Bobby Brown." The bad publicity move depicted Houston as profane, combative, and delusional, seemingly supporting the behavior of someone on drugs.
Among the saddest indications of Houston's fall was her 2009 comeback album, "I Look To You." While the album received positive reviews, her live performances signaled that the damage to her voice was beyond repair.
Concertgoers stormed out of her 2010 "Nothing But Love World Tour" angry, complaining that Houston was not fit to sing live, and they demanded that their ticket costs be refunded.
On stage, Houston made light of her vocal struggles, and even seemed to be confident when doing so.
But the public scrutiny intensified, and was followed by additional stints in rehab.
While the cause of death has not yet been revealed, one can only wonder whether it was drug-related.
Anyone who remembers Houston's early work and the impact it had on music can only be saddened by her death.
I extended condolences to her family and friends, especially her daughter, Bobbi Kristina.(YAHOO)
Whitney Houston, who found fame as one of pop’s biggest voices, has died. She was 48.
Houston died Saturday afternoon, a representative for the singer told the Associated Press. Houston’s death comes on the eve of the Grammys and on the night of Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala, at which she performed last year and was expected to attend this year.
No cause of death has been announced and law enforcement sources said the singer was found in a hotel room at the Beverly Hilton, where emergency medical personnel were called sometime Saturday.
PHOTOS: Whitney Houston | 1963-2012
The Hilton is the scene for Davis’ annual gala. On Thursday, Houston dropped by the rehearsals to offer vocal tips for Brandy and Monica, who were slated to be one of the evening’s headliners.
Press, including The Times, were in attendance for a junket with the reunited R&B divas and Davis. Though Houston greeted people her with a warm smile, she appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and hair that was dripping wet with either sweat or water.
The visibly bloated singer displayed erratic behavior throughout the afternoon -- flailing her hands frenetically as she spoke to Brandy and Monica, skipping around the ballroom in a child-like fashion and wandering aimlessly about the lobby. It was mentioned by a Grammy staffer that security personnel received calls of the singer doing handstands by the pool.
After leaving rehearsals, Houston returned to the ballroom -- with her teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina in tow -- as camera crews set up for interviews. The singer smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. A Grammy staffer said that during the interviews with Brandy, Monica and Clive, Houston was dancing just off camera to make the singers and Davis laugh. Grammy personnel expressed concern that she'd be caught on camera, and that reporters would write about her behavior.
Finally her daughter pulled Houston out of the room, and the singer skipped off. In our post of the event, we called Houston's behavior "loose and lively."
“She really loves and supports us both. For me, I went through a lot of very tumultuous moments and she would show up, not just with a phone call but physically when I needed,” Monica said when we asked about Houston coaching them. “That's something that I've carried with me, especially with all that she's been going through over the years herself. She's never turned her back on the people she cared about.”
Later that evening Houston appeared at Hollywood nightclub Tru, for fellow R&B singer Kelly Price’s pre-Grammy party. "Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For the Love of R&B" served as both a celebration and a jam session to preserve that genre, which was scaled back from eight categories to four this year.
Houston was billed as one of the evening’s special invited guests but after her appearance earlier it was shocking to see the singer arrive. More put together in her appearance, Houston briefly sang a duet with Price. In what has become her final performance, clips of the two singing a gospel hymn made the rounds because of the singer’s unsteady vocals.
Singer Whitney Houston's death Saturday at age 48 had few details immediately available, but celebrities on Twitter were quick to respond.
Russell Simmons said he was "deeply saddened by the death of Whitney Houston...may she rest in peace."
"Just heard the news. so crazy," tweeted Justin Bieber. "One of the GREATEST VOICES EVER just passed. RIP Whitney Houston. My prayers go out to her friends and family I am sadden to hear of the passing of Whitney Houston today..."
PHOTOS: Whitney Houston, 1963-2012
Melanie Amaro, who won the first season of "The X Factor" and recently belted out Aretha Franklin's "Respect" for Pepsi, tweeted, "I love u sooo much Whitney Houston :'( u will always be in my heart and my mind an my soul your music made me the girl I am today :("
"Is the sad news about Whitney Houston true?!?!," singer Michelle Branch asked early on.
Houston died Saturday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton hotel, authorities told L.A. Now. Houston was in the Los Angeles area for a musical tribute to music executive Clive Davis and had performed and spoken to reporters earlier in the week. The investigation into her death was ongoing.
"Wow. RIP Whitney Houston. Grew up on her," actress Elizabeth Banks said. "She contributed to the soundtrack of many of my 12-year old sleepover parties."
"So so sad that Whitney Houston died..," Kris Jenner said. "praying for her daughter and her family...tragic..just heartbreaking..amazing talent, amazing voice.."
TV host Nancy O'Dell kept it simple: "I am in shock and so sad...Whitney Houston reported dead."
"RIP Whitney Houston. Sad to see anyone go so early. My thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family," said actress and TV host Olivia Munn.
"Whitney Houston is dead. A beautiful & talented woman RIP Whitney," said author Jackie Collins.
CNN's Roland Martin, recently in the news over a Super Bowl tweet, noted that "Clive Davis has his annual Grammy party tonight. Something tells me it will be turned into a Whitney Houston memorial service."
In fact, Houston was to have attended that party Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton, L.A. Now reports.
And one touching non-celebrity tweet, from writer Jordan Bach: "May the wings of angels encircle Whitney Houston. Gratitude for her gifts, sorrow for her agony, and prayers for her release at last."
[UPDATED, 6: 30 p.m. Feb. 11: Fellow diva Mariah Carey expressed her condolences over a series of tweets, saying, "Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Ms. Whitney Houston. My heartfelt condolences to Whitney's family and to all her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."
Her husband, Nick Cannon, noted, "'To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord' RIP to Whitney Houston a true queen."
And more celebs weighed in:
Nick Lachey: "How tragic to hear about Whitney Houston's passing. Such a shame. She had one of the most iconic voices of my lifetime. #rip"
Wendy Williams: "My family & I are saddened by the loss of a true icon & legend - Whitney Houston. Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the entire Houston family."
Dwyane Wade: "RIP to a legend..Sad day for music lovers...Whitney Houston should be celebrated 4 blessing us with her gifts..#Icon #mother #beautiful"
Tyrese Gibson: "I'm in Houston on the night we lose Whitney Houston .. Tonight's show is dedicated to her legacy"]