Whitney: An iconic diva of our time | Sunday Observer

Whitney: An iconic diva of our time

12 June, 2021

With over 200 million combined album, singles and videos sold worldwide during her career with Arista Records, Whitney Houston has established a benchmark for superstardom that will quite simply never be eclipsed in the modern era. She is a singer’s singer who has influenced countless other vocalists female and male.

Record setting achievements

Music historians cite Whitney’s record-setting achievements: the only artist to chart seven consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits (Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know, Greatest Love Of All, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go); the first female artist to enter the Billboard 200 album chart at #1 (her second album, Whitney, 1987); and one of a select number of solo artists with eight consecutive multi-platinum albums (Whitney Houston, Whitney, I’m Your Baby Tonight, The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife soundtracks; My Love Is Your Love and Whitney: The Greatest Hits).

In fact, The Bodyguard soundtrack is one of the top five biggest-selling albums of all-time (at 18x-platinum in the U.S. alone), and Whitney’s career-defining version of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You is the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist (at 8x-platinum for physical and digital in the U.S. alone).

Born into a musical family on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, Whitney’s success might have been foretold. Her legendary heritage is as familiar as America’s greatest icons; the daughter of famed singer Cissy Houston (who made her name in the Drinkards gospel quartet, and later the Sweet Inspirations vocal group of Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley renown); and the cousin of singers Dee Dee Warwick (who introduced the original ’60s versions of You’re No Good and I’m Gonna Make You Love Me) and her sister, superstar Dionne Warwick. Whitney’s mother and cousins nurtured her passion for gospel music since birth. As a teenager, Whitney was already singing on the scene in New York, and records with her first young performances in the ’70s and early ’80s album credits with such eclectic acts as Michael Zager, Chaka Khan, Herbie Mann, the Neville Brothers, Bill Laswell’s Material, and others are much sought-after collector’s items.

Debut album

In 1983, near the end of Arista’s first mega-successful decade of operation, Clive Davis was taken to a New York nightclub where Whitney was performing and signed her on the spot. Two years went into the making of her debut album, but the results were worth it. The self-titled Whitney Houston (February 1985) launched Arista’s second decade, and yielded a string of hits including You Give Good Love and three consecutive #1 singles, the GRAMMY-winning Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, and Greatest Love of All, which has become a veritable anthem. Not only did the album establish her as an important new recording artist, but it went on to sell over 13 million copies in the U.S., plus many millions more abroad. This LP set the record as the biggest selling debut album by a solo artist.

With the highly anticipated release of her second album Whitney (June 1987), she made history as the first female artist to enter the Billboard album charts at #1. The new album soared past 9x-platinum on the strength of four #1 chart-toppers, the GRAMMY-winning I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go. This established Whitney as the only artist ever to have seven consecutive #1 hits, surpassing a record previously set by The Beatles and the Bee Gees.

Whitney’s third best-selling album, I’m Your Baby Tonight (November 1990), displayed her versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks. With back-to-back #1 hits for the title tune and All the Man That I Need, followed by Miracle and My Name Is Not Susan, sales records were set once again, as the album became an international multi-platinum best-seller, to the tune of 10 million copies worldwide.

After establishing her screen appeal in her well-received music videos where she dominated MTV’s rotations during its first decade on the air, Whitney finally made her movie debut in The Bodyguard (November 1992), in which she co-starred with Oscar-winning actor/director Kevin Costner. The film not only broke box office records worldwide but was ultimately responsible for the biggest selling motion picture soundtrack album of all time, voted the GRAMMY-winning Album of the Year.

First single release

I Will Always Love You, the first single release, became the biggest selling single by a female artist in history, and reaped GRAMMYs for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Three other singles from the album, I’m Every Woman, I Have Nothing, and Run to You, also were major international hits for Whitney. The Bodyguard soundtrack album, featuring six Whitney Houston songs in all, has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. At 18-times platinum in the U.S., it is the biggest selling motion picture soundtrack album in history, ahead of Saturday Night Fever, Forrest Gum and Titanic among others.

Guinness World Records lists Whitney as music’s ‘most awarded female artist of all time’, with an amazing tally of 411 awards (as of 2006) a tally that is certainly topped by her six GRAMMY Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, two Emmy Award nominations and one win, as well as MTV VMAs in the U.S. and Europe, NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, Soul Train Music Awards among others.She received the Nickelodeon Kids Choice award (she was inducted into the ‘Kids Choice Hall Of Fame’ in 1996), the Dove (Gospel Music Association) Award, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award. Whitney was inducted into the BET (Black Entertainment Television) Walk of Fame in 1996; and received Soul Train’s prestigious Quincy Jones Career Achievement Award in 1998.

Whitney’s tragic passing on February 11, 2012 is still deeply felt by her family, friends and millions of fans worldwide. Her estate is committed to keeping her legacy alive. To that end, they along with Sony Music’s egacy Recordings have released (to date) two albums – Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances on November 10, 2014 and most recently on November 17, 2017- I Wish You Love: More From The Bodyguard, marking the 25th anniversary of The Bodyguard and containing rare unreleased versions of many songs from the film.

Nearly 35 years after the release of her debut album, Whitney was honoured with induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020, in recognition that her unique fusion of pop, R&B and gospel – the very roots of rock & roll – subverted genres and influenced just about every contemporary vocalist. Whitney’s contributions continue to touch the hearts and souls of millions of fans the world over.