Life and times of Whitney Houston: Tragic tale of the American singing sensation whose life was cut short at the age of 48

Life and times of Whitney Houston: Tragic tale of the American singing sensation whose life was cut short at the age of 48

From
the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's
best-selling artists wowing audiences with her powerful and effortless voice.

The showbiz world was rocked today with the tragic news that one of music's biggest legends Whitney Houston had died.

We look back at the life and times of the Grammy and Emmy-Award winning
artist whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 48.

Tragic: Music legend Whitney Houston died today at the age 48-years-old

Tragic: Music legend Whitney Houston died today at the age 48-years-old

Whitney was born to a middle class family in Newark, New Jersey.

She
was the third and youngest child of Army serviceman and entertainment
executive John Russell Houston, Jr., who passed away in 2003, and gospel
singer Cissy Houston.

It was clear that natural talent in music ran through her family.

A star is born: Whitney , seen here in 1984, first became interested in music after frequently accompanying her mother Cissy, when she performed in nightclubs and sometime would even take to the stage and perform

A star is born: Whitney
, seen here in 1984, first became interested in music after frequently accompanying her
mother Cissy, when she performed in nightclubs and sometime would even
take to the stage and perform

Proud parents: Whitney's mother Cissy and late father John Russell Houston, Jr. seen here with the singer in 1985

Proud parents: Whitney's mother Cissy and late father John Russell Houston, Jr. seen here with the singer in 1985

Her cousins Dionne Warwick and the
late Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother is Aretha Franklin all made a
huge mark on he gospel and R&B scene.

Whitney
first became interested in music after frequently accompanying her
mother Cissy when she performed in nightclubs and sometime would even
take to the stage herself and perform.

Houston
was offered her very first recording contract at the age of 14 by
Michael Zanger, whom she sometimes with as a back-up
singer for his group, Michael Zanger band.

Family of songstresses: Whitney seen here with her mother Cissy, left and cousin Dionne Warwick, right and Don King, far left

Family of songstresses: Whitney seen here with her mother Cissy, left and cousin Dionne Warwick, right and Don King, far left

Musical masterminds: Whitney is seen here with her other musically gifted cousin Dionne Warwick

Musical masterminds: Whitney is seen here with her other musically gifted cousin Dionne Warwick

But she was forced to turn it down as her mother was determined that she should finish school.

In the years that followed she lended her voice to both Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson's albums.

The
African-American beauty also dabbled in modelling after being spotted
by a fashion photographer whilst performing with her mother.

Beauty: With her stunning good looks and incredible voice, Whitney was destined for stardom

Beauty: With her stunning good looks and incredible voice, Whitney was destined for stardom

Famous friends: Whitney was close friends with the late King Of Pop Michael Jackson and sang back-up vocals on his father Jermaine Jackson's album. Here they are seen in 1988

Famous
friends: Whitney was close friends with the late King Of Pop Michael Jackson and sang
back-up vocals on his father Jermaine Jackson's album. Here they are
seen in 1988

She went on
to become the first ever woman of colour to appear in a fashion magazine
after gracing the pages of Seventeen magazine in the early Eighties.

Subsequently
she appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Young Miss magazines, and
also in a TV advertisement for Canada Dry soft drink.

It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

Huge star: From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artist

Huge star: From
the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's
best-selling artist

Model looks: The stunning singer became the first ever woman in colour to appear in a fashion magazine

Model looks: The stunning singer became the first ever woman in colour to appear in a fashion magazine

Model looks: The stunning singer became the first ever woman in colour to appear in a fashion magazine

'The
time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club … it
was such a stunning impact,' the American record producer 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.'

Houston made her album debut in 1985 with the self-titled record Whitney Houston.

It sold millions and spawned hit after hit including Saving All My
Love for You, which won her her first Grammy Award for Best Female Pop
Vocal.

Whitney

Powerful: It was clear as Whitney became more and more famous that she was born to be on the stage

Other tracks such as How Will I Know, You Give Good Love and The Greatest Love of All also went on to become giant hits.

Another multi-platinum 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.

Best of friends: Whitney performed duets with Mariah Carey several times, here they are seen on stage the Oscars in 1999

Best of friends: Whitney performed duets with Mariah Carey several times, here they are seen on stage the Oscars in 1999

Protege: Whitney and record producer Clive Davis had one of the closest business relationship in showbiz

Protege: Whitney and record producer Clive Davis had one of the closest business relationship in showbiz

'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.

Parlay onto the big screen: In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with The Bodyguard

Parlay onto the big screen: In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with The Bodyguard

Classic: The film, co-starring Kevin Costner, went on to become one of the romance greats of all time

Classic: The film, co-starring Kevin Costner, went on to become one of the romance greats of all time

'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 went on to have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.

More screen time: She returned to the big screen in 1995 with Waiting to Exhale and then in 1996 in The Preacher's Wife, which she is seen in here

More
screen time: She returned to the big screen in 1995 with Waiting to
Exhale and then in 1996 in The Preacher's Wife, which she is seen in
here

Over the years, he was 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.'

It would take several years, however, for the public to see that 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.

A romance was born: Whitney married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown in 1992

A romance was born: Whitney married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown in 1992

A romance was born: Whitney married former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown in 1992

In love: The couple were never far from each other's side, here they are seen in Israel in 2003

In love: The couple were never far from each other's side, here they are seen in Israel in 2003

Despite
mixed reviews, the story of a singer 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.

Apple of her mother's eye: The couple went on to have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993 and she became Whitney's world

Apple of her mother's eye: The couple went on to have a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993 and she became Whitney's world

Her everything: Kristina often accompanied her mother on the red-carpet and to various events

Her everything: Kristina often accompanied her mother on the red-carpet and to various events

But during these career and personal highs, Houston began using drugs.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in
2010, 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 2010.

Cleaning up her act: Houston declared herself drug-free to Oprah Winfrey in 2010

Cleaning up her act: Houston declared herself drug-free to Oprah Winfrey in 2010

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.

Looking fabulous: The singer looked like the Whitney of old when she took to the stage to perform at last year's Grammy Awards

Looking fabulous: The singer looked like the Whitney of old when she took to the stage to perform at last year's Grammy Awards

Looking fabulous: The singer looked like the Whitney of old when she took to the stage to perform at last year's Grammy Awards

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.

Troubled again: Whitney Houston looked worse for wear as she left Tru Hollywood nightclub earlier this week

Troubled again: Whitney Houston looked worse for wear as she left Tru Hollywood nightclub earlier this week

Stand by me: The singer was in dire need of some serious aid from her entourage

Stand by me: The singer was in dire need of some serious aid from her entourage

Stand by me: The singer was in dire need of some serious aid from her entourage

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.

Recently Houston appeared to be battling her demons once more.

She was spotted looking worse for wear earlier this week in Hollywood, California after enjoying a party with friends.

The superstar singer had been a guest
at the Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For The Love Of R&B
Grammy Party at Tru Hollywood and had even performed during the night.