Once again, the people have spoken. Who is the top female R&B singer as voted on by YOU? It’s none other than Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Once again defying expectations about how Tom Joyner Morning Show listeners would vote, in the final tally, Whitney dominated the competition. (Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle were #2 and #3 respectively.) The New Jersey native certainly deserves the title. Discovered as a teenager in the 1980’s, Houston’s self-titled debut CD, released in 1985, propelled her onto the pop and R&B charts with #1 hits like “Saving All My Love For You” and “You Give Good Love.”
Once established, Houston became a pop icon who ultimately sold hundreds of millions of records, was one of the most dominant females on the Billboard charts, shares the female record for most weeks (14) at number one for her signature hit “I’ll Always Love You,” (Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men co-own this distinction with “One Sweet Day”) won 22 American Music Awards (a record for a female solo artist) 6 Grammy Awards, recorded six multiplatinum albums and 11 #1 singles and basically changed the game for female singers, period.
Houston was well known for her string of #1 pop hits like “I Want to Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)” “How Will I Know” “I Have Nothing” and of course her record-setting hit ,“I Will Always Love You,” but in the later years of her career, songs like the remake of “I’m Every Woman,” “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” “Heartbreak Hotel’ (with Faith Evans and Kelly Price) and “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” showed off her R&B chops as well. Known for her flawless tone and perfect pitch, Houston was a dominant hit-maker into the 90s. Her acting career in hits like “The Bodyguard” “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Waiting to Exhale” led to platinum soundtracks for those films as well. Unfortunately drug abuse and an ill-fated marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown, who battled his own drug and alcohol problems, led to the downturn of Houston’s career.
But by 2012, it appeared that she was on the way to a comeback, starring in the remake of “Sparkle” and singing on the movie’s revamped soundtrack. Unfortunately, Houston would not live to realize a career revitalization. The night before the 2012 Grammy Awards on February 11, Houston was found dead of a drug overdose in her Los Angeles hotel room. Her funeral, which included tributes by “The Bodyguard” co-stsr Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys, her longtime label head and mentor Clive Davis and others was broadcast live on CNN.
Whitney may not have lived as long a life as either she or her fans would have wanted but her legacy of musical perfection will endure. As of now, she is the artist most performed by “American Idol” hopefuls. We can only hope that Houston has finally found the peace in death that she tried so hard to find in life.