Archive for the ‘Singer’ Category
The O’Jays are an American R&B group from Canton, Ohio, formed in 1963 and originally consisting of Eddie Levert (born June 16, 1942), Walter Williams (born August 25, 1942), William Powell (January 20, 1942 – May 26, 1977), Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. The O’Jays were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. The O’Jays had their first hit with “Lonely Drifter”, in 1963. In spite of the record’s success, the group was considering quitting the music industry until Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters, took an interest in the group. With Gamble & Huff, the O’Jays (now a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey) emerged at the forefront of Philadelphia soul with “Back Stabbers” (1972), and topped the Billboard Hot 100 the following year with “Love Train“.
They formed the group in Canton, Ohio in 1958 while attending Canton McKinley High School. Originally known as The Triumphs, and then The Mascots, the friends began recording with “Miracles” in 1961, which was a moderate hit in the Cleveland area. In 1963, they took the name “The O’Jays”, in tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O’Jay who was part of the powerful management team of Frankie Crocker, Herb Hamlett & Eddie O’Jay, (Toop, 1991), and released “Lonely Drifter,” which was The O’Jays’ very first national chart hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963 . Their debut album was Comin’ Through. Throughout the 1960s, they continued to chart with songs such as “Lipstick Traces” (which they performed nationally on the ABC Television program, Shivaree), “Stand In For Love,” “Stand Tall,” “Let It All Out,” “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow,” “Look Over Your Shoulder,” “Deeper In Love With You,” and “One Night Affair,” along with several other regional and national pop and R&B hits. In 1972, they finally scored with their first million-seller, “Back Stabbers“, from the album of the same name. By this time, original members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey had also departed, leaving the group a trio. This album produced several more hit singles, including “992 Arguments,” “Sunshine,” “Time To Get Down,” and the #1 pop smash, “Love Train“.
During the remainder of the 1970s the O’Jays continued releasing hit singles, including “Put Your Hands Together” (Pop #10), “For the Love of Money” (Pop #9), “Give the People What They Want“, “Let Me Make Love To You”, “I Love Music” (Pop #5), “Livin’ for the Weekend“, “Message in Our Music” and “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love)“. Original member William Powell died of cancer in 1977 at age 35.
After adding Sammy Strain (born December 9, 1941) (of Little Anthony and the Imperials), the O’Jays continued recording, though with limited success. 1978’s “Use ta Be My Girl” was their final Top Five hit, though they continued placing songs on the R&B charts throughout the 1980s. The O’Jays success was not confined to the United States, as they also logged up nine hit singles in the United Kingdom between 1972 and 1983, including four tracks that reached the Top 20 in the UK Singles Chart. Their 1987 album, Let Me Touch You, was a breakthrough of sorts, and included the #1 R&B hit “Lovin’ You”. Though they continued charting on the R&B charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the O’Jays never again achieved pop success. In 1992, Sammy Strain left the group, and returned to the Imperials, to be replaced by Nathaniel Best, and later, by Eric Grant. Later in the 1990s, the group did little recording, though they remained a popular live draw. Their latest album was Imagination in 2004.
In 2003, they co-starred in the movie The Fighting Temptations, which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles. In the film, they played three barbers who joined the local church choir to help out the film’s protagonist Darrin (Gooding) who was the choir director.
In 2005, the O’Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Original members Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey and, posthumously, William Powell, were inducted. In a note of controversy, Sammy Strain was also inducted with the group, while original member Bill Isles was not. (Strain is one of the few artists in popular music history who is a double RRHOF inductee: with The O’Jays in 2005, and The Imperials in 2009). In 2006, the O’Jays performed at the ESPY awards, hosted by Lance Armstrong. “For the Love of Money” is the theme song to the hit reality TV show The Apprentice, starring Donald Trump.
On February 23, 2007, Radio-Canada’s website reported that Canadian Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, had used the song “For The Love of Money” without the group’s permission during a political event, a faux pas since Prentice is responsible for the application of the Copyright Act in Canada. Radio-Canada also reported that Prentice has since been contacted by the attorneys for both the O’Jays and Warner/Chappell Music.
On June 28, 2009, at the 2009 BET Award Show in the Shrine Auditorium the O’Jays were honored with BET’s 2009 Life Time Achievement Award. Tevin Campbell, Trey Songz, Tyrese Gibson, and Johnny Gill performed a medley of the group’s songs, followed by the presentation of the award by Don Cornelius. The group reminisced, joked with the audience and accepted their award before performing a rendition of their hit songs.
On October 30, 2010, the group performed at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C.
Patricia Louise Holte-Edwards (born May 24, 1944), better known under the stage name, Patti LaBelle, is an American singer, author and actress who has spent over 50 years in the music industry. LaBelle spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, who changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s and released the iconic disco song, “Lady Marmalade“.
LaBelle started her solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 and crossed over to pop music with “On My Own“, “If Only You Knew“, “If You Asked Me To“, “Stir It Up” and “New Attitude“. She has also recorded R&B ballads such as “You Are My Friend” and “Love, Need and Want You“.
Patricia Louise Holte was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 24,1944 . Her father, Henry Holte (alternatively, Holt), was a railroad worker and lounge singer. Her mother, Bertha Holte, was a domestic and housewife. Holte was one of four daughters (Vivian, Barbara, Patricia and Jacqueline). Holte recalls having a happy childhood but said being sexually molested at the age of seven led her to be shy and withdrawn. Holte’s parents had an unhappy marriage. When Holte was twelve, her parents split up and Bertha Holte raised her daughters as a single mother. Holte’s mother later adopted Claudette Grant, who would become one of Holte’s closest friends.
Despite her shyness, Holte was known for her gifted voice even as a child. After first joining her church choir at ten, she sung her first solo at the Beulah Baptist Church at the age of twelve. Growing up, Holte listened not only to gospel, but jazz and rhythm and blues. By her teens, “Patsy”, as friends and family called her, also began listening to doo-wop and was encouraged to form a girl group in the late fifties. In 1958, she formed The Ordettes with three other friends. The following year, when two members of the group dropped out, singers Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, from a former rival group, joined them. Eventually with Cindy Birdsong included in the lineup by 1961 and with respected music impresario Bernard Montague managing them, the group gained a reputation around Philadelphia and soon caught the eye of a record scout, who introduced them to Newtown Records president Harold Robinson.
After hearing Holte’s voice during an audition, Robinson, who nearly ditched the group due to their looks – he allegedly thought Holte was “too plain and dark” to lead a singing group, agreed to sign the group, renaming them The Blue Belles (the name would simply be “The Bluebelles” by the mid-1960s), after a Newtown subsidiary label.
Not long after signing, the group was credited for the hit single, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman“, though the song was recorded by another girl group, the Chicago-based The Starlets. This led to a lawsuit by a manager of the group and its record label boss, later resulting in the group winning $5,000 in damages. “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” eventually reached the Billboard top 20. Despite this credited success, the group could not follow up with any other hit. The Blue Belles supported themselves by constantly touring including an appearance at the Apollo Theater.
In 1963, a record label executive sued Harold Robinson for use of the name “Blue Belles”, since another group was using the name. As a result, Robinson gave Holte the nickname, Patti La Belle (La Belle is French for “the beautiful one”) and the group’s name was altered to “Patti La Belle and Her Blue Belles”. A year later, the group left Newtown switching over to Cameo-Parkway Records. Their first hit for Cameo-Parkway was the top 40 hit, “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)“. Their follow-ups included “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Danny Boy“.
In 1965, Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun signed the group to the label, working with the group for a year. The group issued their first studio album (as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles) titled Somewhere Over the Rainbow in 1966. While they had a modest pop charted hit with “All or Nothing” and its b-side, a pop cover of Judy Garland‘s “Over The Rainbow“, the group was not as successful as the label predicted. In 1967, their second release, Dreamer, issued two singles, “Take Me For A Little While” and the Curtis Mayfield standard, “I’m Still Waiting”. In the middle of touring for that album, Cindy Birdsong suddenly left the group to join The Supremes after replacing Florence Ballard. The remaining trio of LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash struggled with subsequent recordings and by 1970, Atlantic had dropped the group from its roster, as had longtime manager Bernard Montague, who had by now focused his full energy on more successful Philly groups such as The Delfonics and The Stylistics.
After almost signing a management deal with Frankie Crocker and Herb Hamlett, the group settled on British manager Vicki Wickham (producer of the UK pop show, Ready, Steady, Go!) after Dusty Springfield had mentioned signing them. Wickham advised the group to perform in London and work on a brand new image and sound. LaBelle would later have disagreements with Wickham over changes often saying in interviews that she liked things the way they were. This led to some musical disagreements between LaBelle and Nona Hendryx.
In late 1970, the group returned to the U.S. changing their name to Labelle and signing a contract with Warner Bros imprint, Track Records. Wickham then had the group open for rock group The Who. In mid-1971, the group released their Warner debut, Labelle. The record mixed harder-edged soul music with rock music elements, a marked departure from the pop sound of the Blue Belles. The album failed to catch on, as did their 1972 follow-up, Moon Shadow. The group, however, did find success singing alongside Laura Nyro on her acclaimed album, Gonna Take a Miracle. The group would tour with Nyro off and on for the next couple of years.
In 1973, Wickham had the group signed to RCA Records, in chicago where they recorded the Pressure Cookin’ album. In the middle of recording, LaBelle gave birth to her only child, Zuri. While promoting the album opening for The Rolling Stones, Wickham advised the group to adapt the same flamboyant costumes of rock artists such as T. Rex, Elton John and David Bowie. Soon, their own stage entrances started to take a life on its own, at one point the group members flew into the concert stage, while singing. Despite this change in direction, their third album failed to become a success. However, a scout for Epic Records advised the group to sign with them in 1974 at the end of the Rolling Stones tour.
Later that year, Labelle issued their most acclaimed album, Nightbirds. In October 1974, the group made history by becoming the first pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. In late December, Epic issued the single, “Lady Marmalade“. Within six months, the record became a smash and reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, the group’s first to do so. This helped their album sell over a million copies. Their fame was so massive during this time that they made the cover of Rolling Stone later in 1975.
Later in 1975, the group issued their follow-up, Phoenix, which did not quite catch on as fast though it was critically raved. They had a little more success with the Chameleon album in 1976, with the songs, “Get You Somebody New” and “Isn’t It A Shame”, the latter song Patti LaBelle would say was “the last record we ever did together”. Despite her success, LaBelle was not pleased at the group’s direction and by late 1976, neither LaBelle, Dash and Hendryx could agree on a musical direction. Following a concert in Baltimore in December 1976, LaBelle advised the others to break up.
LaBelle released her self-titled album in 1977 on Epic. The record was a critical success, with the highlights being the dance singles, “Joy To Have Your Love” and “Dan Swit Me” and the pop-R&B ballad, “You Are My Friend“, a song she and her husband co-wrote. Her subsequent follow-ups, however, 1978’s Tasty, 1979’s It’s Alright with Me and 1980’s Released, failed to be as successful. Though well-established in some circles, LaBelle never follow her live performance success with hit records, which was often the case with the Bluebelles. In 1981, she was switched to the CBS subsidiary, Philadelphia International Records, issuing the album, The Spirit’s In It.
LaBelle found success outside music, performing in the Broadway revival of Your Arm’s Too Short to Box with God, with Al Green. However, the play was criticized mainly because of what critics felt was vocal showboating by Green and LaBelle, criticism that LaBelle did not take lightly. In 1982, she recorded the Grover Washington ballad, “The Best Is Yet To Come“, which led to her first top 20 R&B hit and her first Grammy nomination in the spring of 1983. Later that year, LaBelle appeared in the PBS-produced play, Working. In October 1983, the mid-tempo love song, “If Only You Knew“, was released. The parent album, I’m In Love Again, was released the following month. In January 1984, “If Only You Knew” reached number-one on the Hot R&B Singles chart, where it stayed for four weeks. The song became LaBelle’s first charted hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist, reaching the lower regions of the top fifty, peaking at number 46. The success of that single and its similar-sounding follow-up, “Love, Need and Want You“, which reached number ten on the R&B chart, helped I’m in Love Again, reached gold in the U.S.
Later in 1984, LaBelle appeared in her first film, A Soldier’s Story. Her appearance in the film later led to Steven Spielberg handpicking her for the role of Shug Avery on The Color Purple, but she turned it down due to hearing that there was a nude scene and same-sex kissing. LaBelle would later regret her decision to turn down the role, after Margaret Avery won an Academy Award nomination for her role as Shug. In the fall of 1984, LaBelle recorded the songs, “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up“, later issued for the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop, released in December 1984. The soundtrack became a hit, thanks to the releases of “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up”. The former single reached as high as number seventeen on the Hot 100 and was number-one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in the spring of 1985, introducing LaBelle to pop audiences. In 1985, LaBelle left Philadelphia International signing a lucrative contract with MCA. PIR issued the final contractual LaBelle album, Patti. The album was not successful.
LaBelle garnered headlines in 1985 for her showstopping, and some say, purposely show-stealing performances, first at Motown Returns to the Apollo engaging in the so-called “infamous mic toss” between her and Diana Ross during the show’s finale, to the Foreigner song, “I Want to Know What Love Is“. LaBelle later alleged that Ross grabbed the microphone away from LaBelle following her taking over the lead, though someone else gave LaBelle another microphone where she finished singing. That same year, LaBelle was accused again of showboating, after singing in the finale of Live Aid to “We Are the World” so loud that she sounded as the only audible singer. Due to this press, she was given her own television special later that fall. In 1986, LaBelle released her eighth album, Winner in You, which peaked at number-one on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the pop hit, “On My Own“, a duet with singer Michael McDonald. The song became LaBelle’s first number-one hit since “Lady Marmalade”. Winner in You eventually sold a million copies, becoming platinum. It remains her best-selling album. LaBelle took a break in 1988, re-emerging with Be Yourself, in 1989. The album went gold thanks to LaBelle’s soft rock ballad, “If You Asked Me To“. In 1989, LaBelle also sang the role of “the Acid Queen” in The Who’s star-studded performance of TOMMY in Los Angeles.
Her 1991 album, Burnin’, resulted in LaBelle’s first Grammy win for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and spawned three top ten hits on Billboard’s R&B chart also selling half a million copies becoming her third gold album. Her 1994 album, Gems and 1997 follow-up, Flame, also were certified gold and LaBelle’s 1990s singles, “The Right Kinda Lover” and “When You Talk About Love” hit number-one on the dance charts. She won a second Grammy in 1998 for her live album, One Night Only! Following the announcement of the end of her marriage to her husband, Armstead Edwards, who also dismissed himself as LaBelle’s manager after more than 20 years, LaBelle released the ballad-heavy When A Woman Loves album in 2000. LaBelle would not release another album until, after signing with the Def Jam Records imprint, Def Soul Classics, she released Timeless Journey, in 2004. The album became her highest-charted album in eighteen years. In 2005 a follow-up album, Classic Moments, was released. Shortly after LaBelle left Def Jam Records in 2006 over a public dispute with Antonio “L.A.” Reid. She released her first gospel album, The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle,which was #1 on the gospel billboard charts on the Bungalo label. She returned to Def Jam in 2007 and released her second holiday album, Miss Patti’s Christmas. As of 2011, LaBelle has yet to release a new solo album. In 2008, LaBelle briefly reunited with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash as Labelle on the group’s first new album in over thirty years, Back to Now.
Following her roles in A Soldier’s Story and Sing, LaBelle won a recurring role as Kadeem Hardison‘s mother on the hit show, A Different World. In 1992, following her success on the sitcom and responding to the success of rapper Will Smith‘s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, LaBelle starred in her own sitcom, Out All Night. The show was cancelled after only 19 episodes. In 1993, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and two years afterwards, performed at the Super Bowl half time show. For a period, LaBelle’s theme song for The Oprah Winfrey Show, titled “Get With the Program”, proved to be popular along with its catchphrase. In 2003, she starred in her own lifestyle show, Livin’ It Up With Patti LaBelle, which aired for three years on the TV-One channel. In 1996, LaBelle issued her autobiography, Don’t Block the Blessings. She released her first of five cookbooks in 1997, and in 2006, released the book, Patti’s Pearls. In addition, LaBelle began to sell collections of spices, lipstick and even wigs on her website. Her “Patti Labelle”wig collection,-featured in Especially Yours wig catalogs-.
On September 14, 2010, LaBelle made a return two decades after her last Broadway performance to star in the award-winning musical Fela! about Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. LaBelle replaced Tony Award-nominee Lillias White as Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and remained with the production through the end of its run on January 2, 2011.
On May 23, 2011, LaBelle appeared on “Oprah’s Farewell Spectacular, Part 1” the first show in a series of three shows constituting the finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show, singing “Over the Rainbow” with Josh Groban.
LaBelle was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards on June 26, 2011.
She performed for Obama at the 9/11 tribute, singing “Two Steps Away.” She received a standing ovation, after she walked away from the microphone and continued to be heard.
On December 21, 2011, she appeared on an episode of the Bravo television series Top Chef, surprising the ten remaining chefs after their “Quickfire” challenge. A shortened version of Lady Marmalade was in the broadcast, which was filmed in Austin, Texas. She then served as a guest judge on the episode.
On January 2, 2012, she performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the NHL Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park.
A longtime resident of Philadelphia, LaBelle currently lives in the Philadelphia suburb, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards. In July 1973, their first and only child, Zuri Kye Edwards, was born. In the late 1970s, Labelle and Edwards adopted two teenage boys, Stanley and Todd, the children of their next-door neighbor, after their mother died of cancer. Following the death of her youngest sister Jackie Padgett, Labelle raised Padgett’s teenage children. Following the disbanding of the group Labelle in 1976, Edwards, who was a schoolteacher, took over as his wife’s manager. In 2000, the couple announced their separation. Their divorce was finalized in 2001. LaBelle’s son Zuri has since taken over as her manager.
Her youngest sister Jackie Padgett became president of her sister’s fan club in the early 1980s. When Jackie later died of lung cancer in 1989, LaBelle dedicated her 1991 album, Burnin’, to Padgett and filmed the video for “If You Asked Me To” a day after her funeral. Her two other sisters, Vivian and Barbara preceded Jackie in death, dying of cancer themselves. LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992. Prior to her marriage to Edwards, LaBelle was once engaged to Temptations singer Otis Williams breaking it off due to conflicting schedules.
In June 2011 a West Point cadet filed civil suit against LaBelle after he was allegedly assaulted by her bodyguards at Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston in March. Houston police department is reviewing the conduct of officers responding to the incident after they posed for photographs with the singer, and have also filed assault charges against members of her entourage and warrants were issued. In August 2011, the cadet, who had initially been suspended from West Point for his involvement in the altercation, was allowed back in West Point. LaBelle has countersued alleging the cadet was drunk and using racial slurs.
In November 2011, LaBelle was sued by a woman named Roseanna Monk, from New York, after LaBelle allegedly hurled insults at her for allowing her then 18-month-old daughter to walk steps away from her at an apartment lobby where LaBelle was renting during her appearance on Fela! in November 2010. According to the lawsuit, after Monk reportedly told LaBelle it was none of her business as to why the child was “scampering”, she allegedly threw water at Monk and her child. 
Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens; March 23, 1953), frequently known as the “Queen of Funk“, is a 10-time Grammy Award winning American singer-songwriter who gained fame in the 1970s as the frontwoman and focal point of the funk band Rufus. While still a member of the group in 1978, Khan embarked on a successful solo career. Her signature hits, both with Rufus and as a solo performer, include “Tell Me Something Good“, “Sweet Thing” which she wrote for her then husband RIchard Holland, “Ain’t Nobody“, “I’m Every Woman“, “I Feel for You” and “Through the Fire“.
Early life: 1953–1972
Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, Illinois. Raised in Chicago’s rough South Side housing projects, Khan was the eldest of five children to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman. Her sister Yvonne Stevens later became a successful musician in her own right under the name Taka Boom. Her only brother Mark Stevens, who formed the funk group Aurra, also became a successful musician. She has two other sisters, Kathleen Burrell and Tammy McCrary, who is her current manager. Unlike many of her musical contemporaries, Khan was raised as Roman Catholic. Khan attributed her love of music to her grandmother, who introduced her to jazz music as a child. Khan became a fan of R&B music as a preteen and at eleven formed her first all-female singing group the Crystalettes, which also included her sister Taka. In the late 1960s, Khan and her sister formed the vocal group Shades of Black and joined the Black Panther Party after befriending fellow member, activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton in 1967. While a member, she was given a name change to Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi by an African shaman. In 1969, she left the Panthers, dropped out of high school, having attended Calumet High School and Kenwood High School (now Kenwood Academy), and began to perform in small groups around the Chicago area, first performing with the group Lyfe, which included her then boyfriend Hassan Khan, whom she’d later marry. Khan was asked to replace the late Baby Huey of Baby Huey & the Babysitters after Huey’s untimely death, in 1970. The group disbanded a year later. While performing in local bands in 1972, Khan was spotted by two members of a new group simply called Rufus and soon won her position in the group. The group later signed with ABC Records in 1973. Prior to Khan signing with the label, she married her on-again, off-again boyfriend Hassan Khan, changing her stage name to Chaka Khan.
Early career and success: 1973–1978
In 1974, Rufus released their self-titled debut album. Despite their fiery rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s “Maybe Your Baby” from Wonder’s acclaimed Talking Book and the modest success of the Khan-led ballad “Whoever’s Thrilling You (Is Killing Me)”, the album failed to garner attention. That changed when Wonder himself collaborated with the group on a song he had written for Khan. That song, “Tell Me Something Good“, became the group’s breakthrough hit, reaching number-three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974 later winning the group their first Grammy Award. The single’s success and the subsequent follow-up, “You Got the Love“, which peaked at number-eleven on the Billboard Hot 100 helped their second parent album, Rags to Rufus, go platinum selling over a million copies. Between 1974 and 1979, Rufus would release six platinum-selling albums including Rufusized, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Ask Rufus, Street Player and Masterjam. Hits the group would score during this time included “Once You Get Started”, “Sweet Thing“, “Hollywood”, “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)” and “Do You Love What You Feel“.
The band gained a reputation as a live performing act with Khan becoming the star attraction, thanks to her powerful vocals and stage attire, which sometimes included Native American garb and showing her midriff. Most of the band’s material was written and produced by the band itself with few exceptions. Khan has also been noted for being an instrumentalist playing drums and bass, she also provided percussion during her tenure with Rufus. Most of Khan’s compositions were often collaborations with guitarist Tony Maiden. Relations between Khan and the group, particularly between Khan and group member Andre Fischer, became stormy. Several group members left with nearly every release. While Khan remained a member of the group, she signed a solo contract with Warner Bros in 1978. While Khan was busy at work on solo material, Rufus released three albums without Khan’s participation including 1979’s Numbers, 1980’s Party ‘Til You’re Broke and 1983’s Seal in Red.
Early solo career and final years with Rufus: 1978–1983
In 1978, Warner Bros. Records released Khan’s solo debut album, which featured the crossover disco hit, “I’m Every Woman“, written for her by songwriters Ashford & Simpson. The success of the single helped the album go platinum, selling over a million copies. Khan also was a featured performer on Quincy Jones‘ hit, “Stuff Like That”, also released in 1978.
In 1979, Khan reunited with Rufus to collaborate on the Jones-produced Masterjam, which featured their hit, “Do You Love What You Feel“, which Khan sang with Tony Maiden. Despite her sometimes-acrimonious relationship with some of the group’s band mates, Khan and Maiden have maintained a friendship over the years. In 1979 she also duetted with Ry Cooder on his album Bop Till You Drop. In 1980, while Rufus released their second non-Khan release, Party ‘Til You’re Broke, Khan released her second solo album, Naughty, which featured Khan on the cover with her six-year-old daughter Milini. The album yielded the minor disco hit “Clouds” and went gold. Khan released two albums in 1981, the Rufus release, Camouflage and the solo album, What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me. The same year, Khan appeared on three tracks on Rick Wakeman‘s concept album 1984. In 1982, Khan issued two more solo albums, the jazz-oriented Echoes of an Era and a more funk/pop-oriented self-titled album. The latter album’s track, the jazz-inflected “Bebop Medley”, won Khan a Grammy and earned praise from Betty Carter who loved Khan’s vocal scatting in the song.
In 1983, following the release of Rufus’ final studio album, Seal in Red, which did not feature Khan, the singer returned with Rufus on a live album, Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live, which featured the studio single, “Ain’t Nobody“, which became the group’s final charting success reaching number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-one on the Hot R&B chart, while also reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom. Following this release, Rufus separated for good.
I Feel For You and Solo success: 1984–1996
In 1984, Khan released her sixth studio album, I Feel for You. The title track was the first single released. Originally written and recorded by Prince for his eponymous follow-up to his debut album in 1979, it had been previously recorded by The Pointer Sisters and Mary Wells. Khan’s version featured a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and was closely associated with the singer as in the song’s introductory rap Grandmaster Melle Mel states “Chaka Khan” repeatedly. This version of the song became a million-selling smash in the U.S. and UK, and it helped to relaunch Khan’s career. I Feel For You topped not only the U.S. R&B and dance charts, but achieved great success on U.S. pop charts, and reached number one in the United Kingdom as well. The song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1984, and remained on that chart for 26 weeks, well into 1985. It was listed as Billboard’s number 5 song for the year 1985, and netted Prince the 1985 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. In addition to the song’s successful radio airplay and sales, a music video of Chaka Khan with break dancers in an inner-city setting enjoyed heavy airplay on television and helped to solidify Chaka Khan’s notoriety in popular culture.
Other singles which helped the I Feel For You album to go platinum included “This is my Night” and the ballad “Through the Fire“, the latter which was also very successful on the adult contemporary charts. Khan was featured in Steve Winwood‘s 1986 number one hit, “Higher Love“. That same year, a duet was planned with Robert Palmer for his album Riptide, on the song “Addicted To Love“. However, her manager declined to allow the duet to be released, citing the desire to not have too much “product” from her in the marketplace at one time; she was still credited for the vocal arrangements in the album’s liner notes, and the song became an international hit. Khan followed up her successful I Feel For You album with 1986’s Destiny and 1988’s CK. Khan found more success in the late 1980s with a remix album, Life is a Dance – The Remix Project, which reached the top ten on the UK albums chart. As a result Khand performed regularly in the United Kingdom, where she maintained a strong fan base.
In 1990, she was a featured performer on another major hit when she collaborated with Ray Charles and Quincy Jones on a new jack swing cover of The Brothers Johnson‘s “I’ll Be Good to You“, which was featured on Jones’ Back on the Block. The song reached number-eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-one on the Hot R&B chart, later winning Charles and Khan a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By a Duo or Group. Khan returned with her first studio album in four years in 1992 with the release of The Woman I Am, which went gold thanks to the R&B success of the songs “Love You All My Lifetime” and “You Can Make the Story Right”. Khan also contributed to soundtracks and worked on a follow-up to The Woman I Am which she titled Dare You to Love Me, which was eventually shelved. In 1995, she and rapper Guru had a hit with the duet “Watch What You Say”, in the UK. That same year, she provided a contemporary R&B cover of the classic standard, “My Funny Valentine“, for the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. In 1996, following the release of her greatest-hits album, Epiphany: The Best of Chaka Khan, Vol. 1, Khan abruptly left Warner Bros. after stating the label had neglected her and failed to release Dare You to Love Me.
Later career and current work: 1998–present
In 1998, Khan signed a contract with Prince’s NPG Records label and issued Come 2 My House, followed by the single “Don’t Talk 2 Strangers“, a cover of a 1996 Prince song. Khan later went on a tour with Prince as a co-headlining act. In 2000, Khan departed from NPG and in 2004 released her first jazz covers album in twenty-two years with 2004’s ClassiKhan. She also covered “Little Wing” with Kenny Olson on the album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Three years later, after signing with Burgundy Records, Khan released what many critics called a “comeback album” with Funk This, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
The album featured the hit, “Angel”, and the Mary J. Blige duet, “Disrespectful”. The latter track went to number one on the U.S. dance singles chart, winning the singers a Grammy Award, while Funk This also won a Grammy for Best R&B Album. The album was notable for Khan’s covers of Dee Dee Warwick‘s “Foolish Fool” and Prince‘s “Sign o’ the Times“. In 2008, Khan participated in the Broadway adaptation of The Color Purple playing Ms. Sofia to Fantasia Barrino‘s Celie.
In a 2008 interview Khan said that she, unlike other artists, felt very optimistic about the current changes in the recording industry, including music downloading. “I’m glad things are shifting and artists – not labels – are having more control over their art. My previous big record company (Warner Music) has vaults of my recordings that haven’t seen the light of day that people need to hear. This includes Robert Palmer‘s original recording of “Addicted to Love” – which they took my vocals off of! We are working on getting it (and other tracks) all back now.”
In 2009, Khan hit the road with singers Anastacia and Lulu for Here Come the Girls. In 2010, Khan contributed to vocals for Beverley Knight‘s “Soul Survivor“, collaborated with Clay Aiken on a song for the kids show Phineas and Ferb, and performed two songs with Japanese singer Ai on Ai’s latest album The Last Ai. Khan continues to perform to packed audiences both in her native United States and overseas.
On May 19, 2011, Khan was given the 2,440th Hollywood Walk of Fame star plaque on a section of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Her family was present when the singer accepted the honor, as was Stevie Wonder, who had written her breakout hit “Tell Me Something Good“.
On September 27, 2011, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame committee announced that Khan and her former band Rufus were jointly nominated for induction to the hall. It was the collective’s first nomination 13 years after they were first eligible. The group were nominated partly due to Khan’s own storied reputation, including her own solo career in conjunction with her years with Rufus.
Khan has been married twice and is the mother of two children, daughter Milini, 36, and son Damien Holland, 22. Khan’s first marriage was to Hassan Khan, in 1970, when she was 17. They divorced a short time later. Milini’s birth was the result of a relationship between Khan and Rahsaan Morris. Khan married her second husband, Richard Holland, in 1976. The marriage reportedly caused a rift between Khan and several members of Rufus, in particular, Andre Fischer. Khan dated a Chicago-area schoolteacher in the mid-1980s in the middle of her solo stardom. Following their separation, Khan moved to Europe, first settling in London, later buying a residence in Germany.
In the past, Khan struggled with drug abuse and alcoholism. Her drug use, which at times included cocaine and heroin, ended sometime in the early 1990s. Khan would have an on-again, off-again struggle with alcoholism until 2005 declaring herself sober. In 2006, her son Damien Holland was accused of murder after 17-year-old Christopher Bailey was shot to death. Khan testified on her son’s behalf defending her son’s innocence. Holland claimed the shooting was an accident and was found not guilty. Though she sang at both the 2000 Democratic and Republican conventions, Khan says that she is more of a “Democratic-minded person”.
Recently Khan won temporary custody of her granddaughter after reporting that her granddaughter’s mother, girlfriend of Khan’s son Damien Holland, was unwilling to raise her due to her drug addiction. It was reported that Khan’s son was also addicted to drugs
Dionne Warwick (born Marie Dionne Warrick; December 12, 1940) is an American singer, actress and TV show host, who became a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and a United States Ambassador of Health.
Having been in a partnership with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Warwick ranks among the 40 biggest hit makers of the entire rock era (1955–1999), based on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Charts. Warwick ranks second only to Aretha Franklin as the most-charted female vocalist with 56 singles making the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998. She is also the cousin of the popular singer Whitney Houston.
Early life and career
Warwick was born in East Orange, New Jersey, to Mancel Warwick (1911–1977), who began his career as a Pullman porter and subsequently became a chef, a gospel record promoter for Chess Records and later a Certified Public Accountant; and Lee Drinkard Warwick (1920–2005), manager of The Drinkard Singers (see below). Warwick had a sister Delia “Dee Dee” and a brother, Mancel Jr., who was killed in an accident in 1968 at the age of 21.. She has African American, Native American, Brazilian and Dutch ancestry.
Dionne’s career as a singer was almost inevitable considering her family background. Dionne’s mother, aunts and uncles were members of the Drinkard Singers, the renowned family gospel group and RCA recording artists that frequently performed throughout the New York metropolitan area. The Drinkard family originated in Blakley, Georgia and migrated to Newark, New Jersey in the late 20’s. The family was composed of Nitcholas “Nitch” Drinkard, and Delia Drinkard, Warwick’s grandparents, and their children: William, Lee (Warwick’s mother), Marie “Rebbie” (Warwick’s namesake), Hansom, Anne, Larry, Nicky, and Emily “Cissy” (who is the mother of Warwick’s late cousin, Whitney Houston). Dionne’s paternal grandfather Elzae Warrick was the preacher at St. Luke’s AME, the church attended by the Drinkard family. Lee Drinkard and the preacher’s son, Mancel, were later married, and Dionne became the Drinkard family’s first grandchild on December 12, 1940. The original Drinkard Singers (known as the Drinkard Jubilairs) consisted of Cissy, Anne, Larry, and Nicky. Marie instructed the group and they were managed by Lee. As they became more successful, Lee and Marie also began performing with the group, and they were augmented by Judy Guoins, later known as pop/R&B singer Judy Clay, whom Lee had unofficially adopted. Elvis Presley eventually expressed an interest in having them join his touring entourage. Dionne began singing gospel as a child at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. She performed her first gospel solo at the age of six and frequently joined The Drinkard Singers. Her first televised performances were in the mid-and late 1950s with the Drinkard Singers on local television stations in New Jersey and New York City. Warwick grew up in a racially mixed middle-class neighborhood. She stated in an interview on The Biography Channel in 2002 that the neighborhood in East Orange “was literally the United Nations of neighborhoods. We had every nationality, every creed, every religion right there on our street.” Warwick was untouched by the harsher aspects of racial intolerance and discrimination until her early professional career, when she began touring nationally.
Warwick graduated from East Orange High School in 1958 and was awarded a Scholarship in Music Education to the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut (a school from which she earned her Doctorate of Music Education in 1973).
Also, in 1958, Warwick, Myrna Utley, Carol Slade, and Warwick’s sister Delia, who by this time had begun to be known professionally as Dee Dee Warwick, formed their own group, which they called called “The Gospelaires.” Their first performance together was at the Apollo Theater, where they won the weekly amateur contest. Various other singers joined The Gospelaires from time to time, including Judy Clay, Cissy Houston, and Doris Troy, whose chart selection “Just One Look,” when she recorded it in 1963, featured backing vocals from the Gospelaires. After various personnel changes (Dionne and Doris left the group after achieving solo success) The Gospelaires eventually became the recording group the Sweet Inspirations, which had minor chart success but were much sought-after as studio background singers. The Gospelaires and later the Sweet Inspirations performed on dozens and dozens of records cut in New York City for artist such as Garnet Mims, the Drifters, Jerry Butler, and later Dionne’s recordings, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley.
Warwick recalled, in her 2002 A&E Biography, that “a man came running frantically backstage at The Apollo and said he needed background singers for a session for Sam ‘The Man’ Taylor and old big-mouth here spoke up and said ‘We’ll do it!’ and we left and did the session. I wish I remembered the gentleman’s name because he was responsible for the beginning of my professional career.”
The backstage encounter led to the group being asked to sing background sessions at recording studios in New York. Soon, the group was in demand in New York music circles for their background work for such artists as The Drifters, Ben E. King, Chuck Jackson, Dinah Washington, Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, and Solomon Burke among many others.
Warwick remembered, in her A&E Biography, that after school, they would catch a bus from East Orange to the Port Authority Terminal, and then subway to recording studios in Manhattan, perform their background gigs and be back at home in East Orange in time to do their school homework. The background vocal work would continue while Warwick pursued her studies at Hartt.
While she was performing background on The Drifters’s recording of “Mexican Divorce,” Warwick’s voice and star presence were noticed by the song’s composer, Burt Bacharach, a Brill Building songwriter who was writing songs with many other songwriters, including lyricist Hal David. According to a July 14, 1967, article on Warwick from Time, Bacharach stated, “She has a tremendous strong side and a delicacy when singing softly—like miniature ships in bottles.” Musically, she was “no play-safe girl. What emotion I could get away with!” And what complexity, compared with the usual run of pop songs.
During the session, Bacharach asked Warwick if she would be interested in recording demonstration recordings of his compositions to be used to pitch the tunes to record labels. One such demo, “It’s Love That Really Counts”–destined to be recorded by Scepter-signed act The Shirelles–caught the attention of Scepter Records President Florence Greenberg. Greenberg, according to Current Biography 1969 Yearbook, told Bacharach, “Forget the song, get the girl!”
Warwick was signed to Bacharach’s and David’s production company, according to Warwick, which in turn was signed to Scepter Records in 1962 by Greenberg. The partnership would provide Bacharach with the freedom to produce Warwick without the control of recording company executives and company A&R men. Warwick’s musical ability and education would also allow Bacharach to compose more challenging tunes. The demo version of “It’s Love That Really Counts,” along with her original demo of “Make It Easy on Yourself,” would surface on Dionne’s debut Scepter album, titled Presenting Dionne Warwick, which was released early in 1963.
Walk on By became Warwick’s second international million-seller in April 1964.
Her first solo single for Scepter Records was released in November, 1962. The song was titled “Don’t Make Me Over“, the title (according to the A&E Biography of Dionne Warwick) supplied by Warwick herself when she snapped the phrase at producers Burt Bacharach and Hal David in anger. Warwick found “Make It Easy on Yourself“—-a song on which she had recorded the original demo and had wanted to be her first single release—-had been given to another artist, Jerry Butler. From the phrase, Bacharach and David created their first top 40 pop hit (#21) and a top 5 US R&B hit. Warrick’s name was misspelled on the single’s label, and she began using the new spelling (i.e., “Warwick“) both professionally and personally. According to the July 14, 1967 Time magazine article, after “Don’t Make Me Over” hit in 1962, she answered the call of her manager (“C’mon, baby, you gotta go”), left school and went on a tour of France, where critics crowned her “Paris’ Black Pearl,” having been introduced on stage at Paris Olympia that year by Marlene Dietrich. Rhapsodized Jean Monteaux in Arts: “The play of this voice makes you think sometimes of an eel, of a storm, of a cradle, a knot of seaweed, a dagger. It is not a voice so much as an organ. You could write fugues for Warwick’s voice.”
The two immediate follow-ups to “Don’t Make Me Over”—-“This Empty Place” (with “B” Side “Wishin’ and Hopin’” later covered by Dusty Springfield) and “Make The Music Play”-—charted briefly in the top 100. Her fourth single, “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” released in December 1963, was Warwick’s first top 10 pop hit (#8) in the U.S. and also an international hit. This was followed by “Walk On By” in April 1964, a major international hit and million seller that solidified her career. For the rest of the 1960s, Warwick was a fixture on the US and Canadian charts, and much of Warwick’s output from 1962 to 1971 was written and produced by the Bacharach/David team.
Warwick weathered the British Invasion better than most American artists. Her UK hits were most notably “Walk On By” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” In the UK, a number of Bacharach-David-Warwick songs were covered by UK singers Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Dusty Springfield, most notably Black’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” which went to #1 in the UK. This upset Warwick and she has described feeling insulted when told that in the UK, record company executives wanted her songs recorded by someone else. Warwick even met Cilla Black while on tour in the UK. She recalled what she said to her: “I told her that “You’re My World” would be my next single in the States. I honestly believe that if I’d sneezed on my next record, then Cilla would have sneezed on hers too. There was no imagination in her recording.”   “You’re My World”–recorded in no time by Black—was not released as a single by Warwick, but it did appear on a later album, Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls, released in 1968.
Warwick was named the Bestselling Female Vocalist in the Cash Box Magazine Poll in 1964, with six chart hits in that year. Cash Box also named her the Top Female Vocalist in 1969, 1970 and 1971. In the 1967 Cash Box Poll, she was second to Petula Clark, and in 1968’s poll second to Aretha Franklin. Playboy‘s influential Music Poll of 1970 named her the Top Female Vocalist. In 1969, Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Society named her Woman of the Year.
In a May 21, 1965 Time Magazine cover article entitled “The Sound of the Sixties,” Dionne Warwick’s sound was described as follows:
“Swinging World. Scholarly articles probe the relationship between the Beatles and the nouvelle vague films of Jean-Luc Godard, discuss ‘the brio and elegance’ of Dionne Warwick’s singing style as a ‘pleasurable but complex’ event to be ‘experienced without condescension.’ In chic circles, anyone damning rock ‘n’ roll is labeled not only square but uncultured. For inspirational purposes, such hip artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers and Andy Warhol occasionally paint while listening to rock ‘n’ roll music. Explains Warhol: ‘It makes me mindless, and I paint better.’ After gallery openings in Manhattan, the black-tie gatherings often adjourn to a discotheque.”
Mid-1960s to early 1970s
“I Say a Little Prayer” became an RIAA Certified USA Million Seller for Dionne in 1967
The mid 1960s to early 1970s became an even more successful time period for Warwick, who saw a string of Gold selling albums and Top 20 and Top 10 hit singles. “Message to Michael“, a Bacharach-David composition that the duo was certain was a “man’s song”, became a top 10 hit for Warwick in May 1966. The January 1967 LP Here Where There Is Love was her first RIAA certified Gold Album and featured “Alfie“, and two 1966 hits “Trains and Boats and Planes“, and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself“. “Alfie” had become a radio hit when disc jockeys across the nation began to play the album cut early in 1967. “Alfie” was released as the “B” side of a Bacharach/David ballad, “The Beginning of Loneliness” in which charted in the Hot 100. Disc jockeys flipped the single and made it a double-sided hit. Bacharach had been contracted to produce “Alfie” for the Michael Caine film of the same name and wanted Dionne Warwick to sing the tune but the British producers wanted a British subject to cut the tune. Cilla Black was selected to record the song, and her version peaked at #95 upon its release in the USA. A cover version by Cher used in the USA prints of the film peaked at #33. In the UK and Australia, Black’s version was a Top 10 hit. In a 1983 concert appearance televised on PBS, Warwick states she was the 43rd person to record “Alfie”, at Bacharach’s insistence, who felt Dionne could make it a big hit. Warwick, at first, balked at recording the tune and asked Bacharach “How many more versions of Alfie do you need?” to which Bacharach replied “Just one more, yours.” Bacharach took Warwick into the studio with his new arrangement and cut the tune the way he wanted it to be, which she nailed in one take. Warwick’s version peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on both the R&B Chart and the AC Charts. Warwick performed the song at the Academy Awards in 1967. Today, “Alfie” is considered a signature song for Warwick.
Later that same year, Warwick earned her first RIAA Gold Single for US sales of over one million units for the single “I Say a Little Prayer” (from her album The Windows of the World). When disc jockeys across the nation began to play the track from the album in the fall of 1967 and demanded its release as a single, Florence Greenberg, President of Scepter Records, complied and “I Say a Little Prayer” became Warwick’s biggest US hit to that point, reaching #4 on the US and Canadian Charts and # 8 on the R & B Charts. Aretha Franklin would cover the tune a year later hitting #10 on the hot 100,#3 on the R&B charts as well a turning the song into a million seller as well. The tune was also the first RIAA certified USA million seller for Bacharach-David.
Her follow-up to “I Say a Little Prayer”,”(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls“, was unusual in several respects. It was not written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was the “B” side of her “I Say a Little Prayer” single, and it was a song that she almost didn’t record. While the film version of Valley of the Dolls was being made, actress Barbara Parkins suggested that Warwick be considered to sing the film’s theme song, written by songwriting team Andre and Dory Previn. The song was to be recorded by Judy Garland, who was fired from the film. Warwick performed the song, and when the film became a success in the early weeks of 1968, disc jockeys flipped the single and made the single one of the biggest double-sided hits of the rock era and another million seller. At the time, RIAA rules allowed only one side of a double-sided hit single to be certified as Gold, but Scepter awarded Warwick an “in-house award” to recognize “(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls” as a million selling tune.
Warwick had re-recorded a Pat Williams-arranged version of the theme at A&R Studios in New York because contractual restrictions would not allow the Warwick version from the film to be included in the 20th Century Fox soundtrack LP. The LP Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls, released in early 1968 and containing the re-recorded version of the movie theme (#2–4 weeks), “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and several new Bacharach-David compositions, hit the #6 position on the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart and would remain on the chart for over a year. The film soundtrack LP, without Warwick vocals, failed to impress the public, while Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls earned an RIAA Gold certification.
The single “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”, an international million seller and a Top 10 hit in several countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Mexico, was also a double sided hit with the “B” side “Let Me Be Lonely” charting at #79.
More hits followed into 1971 including “Promises, Promises” (#19, 1968); “Who Is Gonna Love Me” (#32, 1968) with “B” side, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” becoming another double-sided hit; “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” (#6, 1969); “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (#15, 1969); “This Girl’s in Love with You” (#7, 1969); “Make It Easy on Yourself” (#37, 1970); “Who Is Gonna Love Me” (#33, 1968); “The April Fools” (#37, 1969); “Let Me Go To Him” (#32, 1970); and “Paper Mache” (#43, 1970). Warwick’s final Bacharach/David penned single was March 1971’s “Who Gets the Guy” and her final “official” Scepter single release was “He’s Moving On” backed with “Amanda” both from the soundtrack of the motion picture adaptation of Jacqueline Susann‘s The Love Machine.
Warwick had become the priority act of Scepter Records, according to the website “The Scepter Records Story” and producer/A&R chief, Luther Dixon in a 2002 A&E Biography of Burt Bacharach, with the release of “Anyone Who Had a Heart” in 1963. Other Scepter LPs certified RIAA Gold include Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits Part 1 released in 1967 and The Dionne Warwicke Story: A Decade of Gold released in 1971. By the end of 1971, Dionne Warwick had sold an estimated thirty-five million singles and albums internationally in less than nine years and more than 16 million singles in the USA alone. Exact figures of Warwick’s sales are unknown and probably underestimated, due to Scepter Records apparently lax accounting policies and the company policy of not submitting recordings for RIAA audit. Dionne Warwick became the first Scepter artist to request RIAA audits of her recordings in 1967 with the release of “I Say A Little Prayer.”
Warwick won her second Grammy Award for the 1970 album “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”
On Wednesday, September 17, 1969, CBS Television aired Dionne Warwick’s first television special entitled “The Dionne Warwick Chevy Special.” Dionne’s guests were Burt Bacharach, George Kirby, Glen Campbell, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In 1971, Dionne Warwick left the family atmosphere of Scepter Records for Warner Bros. Records, for a $5 million contract, the most lucrative recording contract ever given to a female vocalist up to that time, according to Variety. Warwick’s last LP for Scepter was the aforementioned soundtrack for the motion picture The Love Machine (in which she appeared in an uncredited cameo), released in July 1971. In 1975, Bacharach and David sued Scepter Records for an accurate accounting of royalties due the team from their recordings with Warwick and labelmate B. J. Thomas. They were awarded almost $600,000 and the rights to all Bacharach/David recordings on the Scepter label. The label, with the defection of Warwick to Warner Bros. Records, filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and was sold to Springboard International Records in 1976.
Following her signing with Warners, with Bacharach and David as writers and producers, Dionne returned to New York City’s A&R Studios in late 1971 to begin recording her first album for the new label, the self-titled album Dionne (not to be confused with her later Arista debut album) in January 1972. The album peaked at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart. In 1972, Burt Bacharach and Hal David scored and wrote the tunes for the motion picture Lost Horizon. But the film was panned by the critics, and in the fallout from the film, the songwriting duo decided to terminate their working relationship. The break-up left Dionne devoid of their services as her producers and songwriters. Dionne was contractually obligated to fulfill her contract with Warners without Bacharach and David and she would team with a variety of producers during her tenure with the label.
Faced with the prospect of being sued by Warner Bros. Records due to the breakup of Bacharach/David and their failure to honor their contract with Dionne, she filed a $5.5 million lawsuit against her former partners for breach of contract. The suit was settled out of court in 1979 for $5 million including the rights to all Warwick recordings produced by Bacharach and David.
Warwick, for years an aficionado of psychic phenomena, was advised by astrologer Linda Goodman in 1971 to add a small “e” to her last name, making Warwick “WARWICKe” for good luck and to recognize her married name and her spouse, actor and drummer William “Bill” Elliott. Goodman convinced Warwick that the extra small “e” would add a vibration needed to balance her last name and bring her even more good fortune in her marriage and her professional life. Unfortunately, Goodman proved to be mistaken about this. The extra “e,” according to Dionne, “was the worst thing I could have done in retrospect, and in 1975 I finally got rid of that damn ‘e’ and became ‘Dionne Warwick’ again.” She is a great admirer of Brazilian music, and in addition to a summer house in Bahia and another in the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro Dionne performs on a somewhat regular basis alongside renowned artists such as Ivan Lins, Simone, Jorge Ben Jor, among others.
Warner era (1972–1978)
Without the guidance and songwriting that Bacharach/David had provided, Warwick’s career stalled in the 1970s. There were no big hits during the decade aside from 1974’s “Then Came You“, recorded as a duet with the Spinners and produced by Thom Bell. Bell later noted, “Dionne made a (strange) face when we finished [the song]. She didn’t like it much, but I knew we had something. So we ripped a dollar in two, signed each half and exchanged them. I told her, ‘If it doesn’t go number one, I’ll send you my half.’ When it took off, Dionne sent hers back. There was an apology on it.” It was her first US #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Other than this success, Warwick’s five years on Warner Bros. Records produced no other major hits. Two notable songs recorded during this period were “His House and Me” and “Once You Hit The Road” (#79 pop, #5 R&B, #22 Adult Contemporary) — both of which were produced in 1975 by Thom Bell.
Warwick recorded five unsuccessful albums with Warners: Dionne, produced by Bacharach and David; Just Being Myself, produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland; Then Came You, produced by Jerry Ragovoy; Track of the Cat, produced by Thom Bell; and Love at First Sight, produced by Steve Barri and Michael Omartian. The singer’s five-year contract with Warners expired in 1977, and with that, Warwick ended her stay at the label.
The 80s: Move to Arista
With the move to Arista Records and the release of her RIAA certified million seller “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” in 1979, Dionne was again enjoying top success on the charts. The song was produced by Barry Manilow. The accompanying album Dionne was certified Platinum in the United States for sales exceeding one million units. The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard Album Chart and made the Top 10 of the Billboard R & B Albums Chart. Warwick had been personally signed and guided by the label’s founder Clive Davis, who stated to Dionne “You may be ready to give the business up, but the business is not ready to give you up.” Dionne’s next single release was another major hit for her. “Deja Vu” was co-written by Isaac Hayes and hit #1 Adult Contemporary as well as #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100. In 1980, Dionne was nominated for the NARAS Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Déjà Vu”. Dionne became the first female artist in the history of the awards to win in both categories the same year. Her second Arista album, 1980’s No Night So Long sold 500,000 US copies and featured the title track which became a major success – hitting #1 Adult Contemporary and #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100 – and the album peaked at #23 on the Billboard Albums Chart.
“Heartbreaker” an Arista album from 1982, earned Warwick another RIAA certified Gold Album and the title tune became an international smash hit.
In January 1980, while under contract to Arista Records, Dionne Warwick hosted a two-hour TV special called Solid Gold ’79. This was adapted into the weekly one-hour show Solid Gold, which she hosted throughout 1980 and 1981 and again in 1985-86. Major highlights of each show were the duets she performed with her co-hosts, which often included some of Dionne’s hits and her co-hosts’ hits intermingled and arranged by Solid Gold musical director, Michael Miller. Another highlight in each show was Dionne’s vocal rendition of the Solid Gold Theme, composed by Michael Miller (with lyrics by Dean Pitchford).
After a brief appearance in the Top Forty in early 1982 with Johnny Mathis on “Friends In Love” – from the album of the same name – Warwick’s next hit later that same year was her full-length collaboration with Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees for the album Heartbreaker. The song “Heartbreaker” became one of Dionne’s biggest international hits, returning her to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 – for the first time since 1979 – as well as #1 Adult Contemporary and #2 in the UK. Internationally, the tune was also a Top 10 hit throughout continental Europe, Australia (#1), Japan, South Africa, Canada, and Asia. The title track was taken from the album of the same name which sold over 3 million copies internationally and earned Dionne an RIAA USA Gold record award for the album. The album peaked at #25 on the Billboard Album Chart, #13 on the R&B Albums Chart and #3 in the UK. Dionne stated to Wesley Hyatt in his The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits that she was not fond of “Heartbreaker” but recorded the tune because she trusted The Bee Gees’ judgment that it would be a hit. The project came about when Clive Davis was attending his aunt’s wedding in Orlando, Florida in early 1982 and spoke with Barry Gibb. Barry mentioned that he had always been a fan of Dionne’s and Clive arranged for Dionne and The Bee Gees to discuss a project. Dionne and the brothers Gibb hit it off and the album and the title single were released in October 1982.
In 1983, Dionne released How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye produced by Luther Vandross. The album’s most successful single was the title track, “How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye“, a Warwick/Vandross duet, which peaked at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became a Top 10 hit on the Adult Contemporary and R&B charts. The album peaked at #57 on the Billboard album chart. Of note was a reunion with the original Shirelles on Warwick’s cover of “Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow?” The album Finder Of Lost Loves followed in 1985 and reunited her with both Barry Manilow and Burt Bacharach, who was writing with his then current lyricist partner and wife, Carole Bayer Sager.
In 1985, Warwick contributed her voice to the multi-Grammy Award winning charity song We Are the World, along with vocalists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Ray Charles. The song spent four consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. It was the year’s biggest hit – certified four times Platinum in the United States alone.
Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer-Sager, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, “That’s What Friends Are For”, 1985
In 1985, Warwick recorded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) benefit single “That’s What Friends Are For” alongside Gladys Knight, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. The single, credited to “Dionne and Friends” was released in October and eventually raised over three million dollars for that cause. The tune was a triple #1 – R&B, Adult Contemporary, and four weeks at the summit on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986 – selling close to two million 45s in the United States alone. In 1988, the Washington Post wrote: So working against AIDS, especially after years of raising money for work on many blood-related diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, seemed the right thing to do. “You have to be granite not to want to help people with AIDS, because the devastation that it causes is so painful to see. I was so hurt to see my friend die with such agony,” Warwick remembers. “I am tired of hurting and it does hurt.” The single won the performers the NARAS Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, as well as Song of the Year for its writers, Bacharach and Bayer Sager. It also was ranked by Billboard magazine as the most popular song of 1986. With this single Warwick also released her most successful album of the 1980s, titled Friends, which reached #12 on Billboard’s album chart.
In 1987 Dionne scored another hit with “Love Power“. Her eighth career #1 Adult Contemporary hit, it also reached #5 in R&B and #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100. A duet with Jeffrey Osborne, it was also written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, and it was featured in Warwick’s album Reservations for Two. The album’s title song, a duet with Kashif, was also a chart hit. Other artists featured on the album included Smokey Robinson and June Pointer.
1990s to present
During the 1990s, Warwick hosted infomercials for the Psychic Friends Network which featured psychic Linda Georgian. The 900 number psychic service was active from 1991 to 1998. According to press statements throughout the 1990s, the program was the most successful infomercial for several years and Warwick earned in excess of three million dollars per year as spokesperson for the network. In 1998, Inphomation, the corporation owning the network, filed for bankruptcy and Warwick ended her association with the organization. Warwick’s longtime friend and tour manager Henry Carr acknowledged in a 2002 Biography Channel interview that “when Dionne was going through an airport and a child recognized her as ‘that psychic lady on TV’ Dionne was crushed and said she had worked too hard as an entertainer to become known as ‘the psychic lady’.”
Dionne Warwick’s “Friends Can Be Lovers” album was released in 1993
Warwick’s most publicized album during this period was 1993’s “Friends Can Be Lovers“, which was produced in part by Ian Devaney and Lisa Stansfield. Featured on the album was “Sunny Weather Lover“, which was the first song that Burt Bacharach and Hal David had written together for Warwick since 1972. It was Warwick’s lead single in the United States, and was heavily promoted by Arista, but failed to chart. A follow-up “Where My Lips Have Been” peaked at #95 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. 1994 marked the end of Warwick’s contract with Arista Records.
In 1990 Dionne recorded a song “It’s All Over” with former member of Modern Talking Dieter Bohlen (Blue System). The single peaked at #60 (#33 airplay) on the german pop charts and it appears on Blue System’s album “Deja Vu“.
In 1993, Forrest Sawyer, host of the ABC News/Entertainment program “Day One”, alleged financial improprieties by the Warwick Foundation, founded in 1989 to benefit AIDS patients, particularly Dionne Warwick’s charity concert performances organized to benefit the organization. ABC alleged the Foundation was operating at a near 90% administrative cost. ABC also alleged that Warwick flew first class and was accommodated at first class hotels for charity concerts and events in which she participated for the Foundation. Warwick, who had no executive, administrative or management role in the organization, challenged ABC to investigate the foundation further and alleged that the ABC report was racially motivated. An Internal Revenue Service investigation of the Warwick Foundation found no wrongdoing or criminal activity on the part of the Board of Directors or Warwick and its status as a non-profit charity was upheld. ABC maintained the report to be factually correct but the item has not been repeated since the original air date. The Foundation was later dissolved.
On October 16, 2002, Dionne Warwick was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In 2004, Dionne Warwick’s first Christmas album was released. The CD, entitled “My Favorite Time of the Year” featured jazzy interpretations of many holiday classics. In 2007, Rhino Records re-released the CD with new cover art.
In 2005, Dionne Warwick was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball.
Warwick appeared on the May 24, 2006, fifth-season finale of American Idol. Millions of U.S. viewers watched Warwick sing a medley of “Walk On By” and “That’s What Friends Are For“, with longtime collaborator Burt Bacharach accompanying her on the piano.
In 2006, Warwick signed with Concord Records after a fifteen-year tenure at Arista which had ended in 1994. Her first and only release for the label was My Friends and Me, a duets album containing reworkings of her old hits, very similar in fashion to her 1998 CD “Dionne Sings Dionne” . Among her singing partners were Gloria Estefan, Olivia Newton-John, Wynonna Judd and Reba McEntire. The album peaked at #66 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album was produced by her son, Damon Elliott. A followup album featuring Warwick’s old hits as duets with male vocalists was planned but the project was cancelled. The relationship with Concord concluded with the release of My Friends and Me.
A compilation CD of her greatest hits and love songs “The Love Collection” entered the UK pop charts at number 27 on February 16, 2008.
Dionne Warwick’s second gospel album, “Why We Sing”, was released on February 26, 2008 in the UK and on April 1, 2008 in the USA. The album features guest spots by her sister Dee Dee Warwick and BeBe Winans.
On October 18, 2008, Warwick’s sister Dee Dee Warwick died in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey. She had been in failing health for several months which lead up to her death. Warwick was with her sister Dee Dee when she died.
On November 24, 2008 Dionne was the star performer on “Divas II” a UK ITV1 special. The show also featured Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Sugababes, Pink, Gabriella Climi and Anastacia.
In 2008 Dionne began recording an album of songs from the Sammy Cahn and Jack Wolf songbooks. The finished recording, entitled “Only Trust Your Heart,” will be released in the US by MPCA Records distributed by SonyRed, on March 15, 2011.
On October 20, 2009, Starlight Children’s Foundation and New Gold Music Ltd. released a song that Dionne recorded about 10 years prior called “Starlight.” The lyrics had been written by Dean Pitchford, prolific writer of Fame, screenwriter of–and sole or joint lyricist of every song in the soundtrack of–the original 1984 film Footloose, and lyricist of the Solid Gold theme, and the music had been composed by Bill Goldstein, whose versatile career included the original music for NBC’s Fame TV series. Dionne, Dean and Bill announced that they were donating 100% of their royalties to Starlight Children’s Foundation as a way to raise money to support Starlight’s mission to help seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities.
“When Bill and Dean brought this song to me, I instantly felt connected to its message of shining a little light into the lives of people who need it most,” said Warwick. “I admire the work of Starlight Children’s Foundation and know that if the song brings hope to even just one sick child, we have succeeded.”
In March 2011, Warwick appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice 4. Dionne’s charity was The Hunger Project. She was dismissed from her “apprenticeship” to Donald John Trump during the fourth task of the season.
Dionne Warwick married actor and drummer William Elliott (CBS’s Bridget Loves Bernie-1972–73) in 1966; they divorced in May 1967. They reconciled and were remarried in Milan, Italy, in August 1967, according to Time. Warwick has stated in many interviews that “It was a case of can’t do with, can’t do without, so I married him again.” On January 18, 1969, while living in East Orange, New Jersey, Warwick gave birth to her first son, David Elliott. In 1973, her second son Damon Elliott was born. On May 30, 1975, the couple separated and Warwick was granted a divorce in December 1975 in Los Angeles. The court denied Elliott’s request for $2000 a month in support pending a community property trial and for $5000, when Elliott insisted he was making $500 a month in comparison to Warwick making $100,000 a month. Dionne stated in “Don’t Make Me Over: Dionne Warwick”, a 2002 Biography Channel interview, “I was the breadwinner. The male ego is a fragile thing. It’s hard when the woman is the breadwinner. All my life, the only man who ever took care of me financially was my father. I have always taken care of myself.”
Warwick has been connected romantically with Philadelphia Eagles great Timmy Brown, French singer-songwriter Sacha Distel, actor Philip Michael Thomas (Miami Vice), Seagram heir and CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr., and Las Vegas restaurateur and actor Gianni Russo (The Godfather).
Warwick made the Top 250 Delinquent Taxpayers List published in October 2007. California Revenue & Taxation Code Section 19195 directs the Franchise Tax Board to publish an annual list of the top 250 taxpayers with liened state income tax delinquencies greater than $100,000 in an effort to collect money from those taxpayers, some of whom have been delinquent since 1987. Dionne Warwick was listed with a tax delinquency of $2,665,305.83 in personal income tax and a tax lien was filed July 24, 1997. As of 2010, Warwick was still listed as a delinquent, although by then, she owed $2,185,901.08 in back taxes. Her publicist stated that she was actively paying off the debt.
On May 8, 2010, she received an honorary Doctor of Arts from Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.
Warwick lived in Brazil, a country she first visited in the early 1960s until 2005, according to an interview with JazzWax when she moved back to the United States when her mother and sister became ill. She became so entranced by Brazil that she studied Portuguese and commenced to divide her time between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In April 2010, in an interview on talk-show Programa do Jô, she said Brazil was the place where she intended to spend the rest of her life after she had retired.
In 1993, her older son David, a former Los Angeles police officer, co-wrote with Terry Steele the Warwick – Whitney Houston duet “Love Will Find a Way”, featured on her album, Friends Can Be Lovers. Since 2002, he has toured with and performed duets with his mother periodically, and had his acting debut in the film “Ali” as the singer Sam Cooke. David became a singer-songwriter, with Luther Vandross‘ “Here and Now” among others to his credit.
Her second son, Damon Elliott, is also a noted music producer who has worked with Mýa, Pink, and Keyshia Cole. He arranged and produced his mother’s 2006 Concord release My Friends and Me.
Barry White, born Barry Eugene Carter (was an American composer and singer-songwriter.
A two-time Grammy Award-winner known for his distinctive bass voice and romantic image, White’s greatest success came in the 1970s as a solo singer and with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, crafting many enduring soul, funk, and disco songs such as his two biggest hits, “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” and “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.”
Worldwide, White had many gold and platinum albums and singles, with combined sales of over 100 million, according to critics Ed Hogan and Wade Kergan. His influences include southern soul artists like Isaac Hayes, Clarence Carter, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin plus Motown artists The Supremes, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. Along with Isaac Hayes, White is considered by Allmusic.com as the first singer who played disco music before the actual period of the late 1970s.
Barry White was born Barry Eugene Carter in Galveston, Texas, and grew up in the high-crime areas of South Central Los Angeles. White was the elder of two brothers; his brother Darryl is 13 months younger. He grew up listening to his mother’s classical music collection, and first took to the piano emulating what he heard on the records. His introduction to music later led to him playing piano on Jesse Belvin‘s hit single, “Goodnight My Love.”
White recalled that, “[As a child] I had a normal squeaky kid voice. Then as a teenager, that completely changed. My mother cried because she knew her baby boy had become a man.”
Gang life and jail sentence
During his teenage years, White and his brother got involved with crime and gang activity. At age 17, he was jailed for four months for stealing $30,000 worth of Cadillac tires.
While in jail, White listened to Elvis Presley singing “It’s Now or Never” on the radio, an experience he later credited with changing the course of his life.
After his release from jail, he left gang life and began a musical career at the dawn of the 1960s in singing groups before going out on his own in the middle of the decade.
The marginal success he had to that point was as a songwriter. His songs were recorded by rock singer Bobby Fuller and TV bubblegum act The Banana Splits. He was also responsible in 1963 for arranging “Harlem Shuffle” for Bob & Earl, which became a hit in the UK in 1969. He discovered disco artists, Viola Wills and Felice Taylor in 1965 and signed them to Mustang/Bronco Records, for which he was working as A&R manager for Bob Keane.
The 1970s as producer
In 1972, he got his big break producing a girl group he had discovered called Love Unlimited. Formed in imitative style of the Motown girl group The Supremes, the group members had gradually honed their talents with White for two years previously until they signed contracts with Uni Records. His best friend, music industry businessman Larry Nunes, helped to finance their album. After it was recorded, Nunes took the recording to Russ Regan, who was the head of the Uni label owned by MCA. The album, 1972’s From A Girl’s Point of View We Give to You… Love Unlimited became a million album seller.
White produced, wrote and arranged their classic soul ballad, “Walking In The Rain With The One I Love“, which climbed to #14 in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop chart and #6 on the Billboard R&B chart in late 1972. This single also reached #12 in the UK chart. White’s voice can clearly be heard debuting in this piece as he plays the lover who answers the phone call of the female lead.
Soon after, Regan left Uni for 20th Century Records. Without Regan, White’s relationship with Uni soured. With his relationship with Uni over and Love Unlimited contract-bound with the label, White was able to switch both his production deal and the group to 20th Century Records. (They recorded several other hits throughout the 1970s, including “I Belong To You,” which spent over five months on the Billboard R&B chart in 1974 including a week at #1. White also married the lead singer of the group, Glodean James, on July 4, 1974.)
The 1970s as solo artist
White wanted to work with another act but decided to work with a solo male artist. While working on a few demos for a male singer, he made three song demos of himself singing and playing, but Nunes heard them and insisted that he re-record and release them himself as a solo recording artist. After arguing for days about it, White was finally persuaded to release the songs himself although he was initially reluctant to step out in front of the microphone.
He then wrote several other songs and recorded them for what eventually became an entire album of music. He was going to use the name “White Heat,” but decided on using his given name instead. White was still hesitating up to the time the label copy was made. It eventually became the first solo White album, 1973’s “I’ve Got So Much to Give“. It included the title track and his first solo chart hit, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby“, which also rose to #1 on the Billboard R&B charts as well as #3 on the Billboard Pop charts in 1973 and stayed in the top 40 for many weeks.
Other chart hits by White included “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” (#2 R&B, #7 Pop in 1973), “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” (# 1 Pop and R&B in 1974), “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop in 1974), “What Am I Gonna Do with You” (#1 R&B, #8 Pop in 1975), “Let the Music Play” (#4 R&B in 1976), “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop in 1977) and “Your Sweetness is My Weakness” (#2 R&B in 1978). White also had a strong following in the United Kingdom where he scored five Top 10 hits and one number 1 for “You’re The First.” His popularity as a singer of love songs, coupled with his large size, led to him acquiring the affectionate nickname “The Walrus of Love”.
The Love Unlimited Orchestra
In 1972 White created The Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece orchestral group to be used originally as a backing band for the girl-group Love Unlimited. However, White had other plans, and in 1974 he released an album of their music titled Rhapsody in White, yielding the composition “Love’s Theme“, reaching #1 on the Billboard Pop charts. It was one of only a handful of instrumental recordings ever to do so.
White is sometimes credited with ushering in the “disco” sound, seamlessly combining R&B music with classical music. Some also regard “Love’s Theme” as the first hit in the actual “disco era“, but Nino Tempo and 5th Ave. Sax‘s song “Sister James” had already reached the Billboard Hot 100 a few months before and had a disco sound in its own right.
He would continue to make albums with the Orchestra, but never achieved the same kind of success with his debut album. The Orchestra ceased to make albums in 1983, but continued to support White as a backing band.
After six years White left 20th Century in 1979 to launch his own label, Unlimited Gold, with CBS/Columbia Records. Although White’s success on the pop charts slowed down as the disco era came to an end, he maintained a loyal following throughout his career. Despite several albums over the next three years he failed to repeat his earlier successes, with no singles managing to reach the Billboard Hot 100 except for 1982’s “Change,” climbing into the Billboard R&B Top 20 (#12). His label venture was exacting a heavy financial cost on White, so he concentrated on mostly touring and finally folded his label in 1983.
After four years he signed with A&M Records, and with the release of 1987’s The Right Night & Barry White, the single titled “Sho’ You Right” made it to the Billboard R&B charts, peaking at #17.
In 1989 he released The Man Is Back! and with it had three top 40 singles on the Billboard R&B charts: “Super Lover“, which made it to #34, “I Wanna Do It Good to Ya“, which made it to #26, and “When Will I See You Again“, which made it to #32.
A 1970s nostalgia fad allowed Barry White to enjoy a renewed wave of popularity in the 1990s. After White took part in a Quincy Jones record titled Back on the Block, on the song titled “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)”, which topped the R&B chart in 1990, he mounted an effective comeback with several albums, each one more successful than the last. He returned to the top of the charts in 1991 with the album Put Me in Your Mix, which reached #8 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and the song by the same name reached #2 on the Billboard R&B singles chart.
In 1994 he released the album The Icon Is Love which went to #1 on the Billboard R&B album charts, and the single “Practice What You Preach” gave him his first #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in almost 20 years, and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Album category (it lost to TLC’s CrazySexyCool).
In 1996, White recorded the duet “In Your Wildest Dreams” with Tina Turner. 1996 also saw the release of Space Jam and its soundtrack, on which White had a duet with Chris Rock, called “Basketball Jones,” a remake of Cheech & Chong‘s “Basketball Jones” from 1974.
His final album, 1999’s Staying Power, resulted in his last hit song “Staying Power,” which placed #45 on the Billboard R&B charts. The single won him his only two Grammy Awards in the categories Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.
Over the course of his career, White sometimes did voice-over work for TV and movies. He voiced the character Bear in the 1975 film Coonskin and also played the character Sampson in the movie’s live-action segments.
He appeared as himself in a couple episodes of The Simpsons, and most importantly the episode “Whacking Day” in which Bart and Lisa used his famously deep bass singing voice, played through loudspeakers placed on the ground, to lull and attract snakes. White was a fan of the show, and had reportedly contacted the staff about wanting to make a guest appearance.
He played the role of a bus driver for a Prodigy commercial in 1995, and he also portrayed the voice of a rabbit in a Good Seasons salad dressing mix commercial, singing a song called “You Can’t Bottle Love.”
In addition, he did some work for car commercials, most famously for Oldsmobile, and later on, Jeep.
He also provided voice over for Arby’s Restaurant commercials on TV and Radio to promote their ‘Market Fresh’ menu.
Also his voice can be heard in Apple’s first iBook commercial.
He made two guest appearances on the comedy-drama TV series Ally McBeal, as his music was often featured on the show in dream sequences.
Illness and death
White, who had been clinically obese for much of his adult life, suffered kidney failure in the fall of 2002 as a result of chronic high blood pressure. He suffered a stroke in May 2003, after which he was forced to retire from public life. On July 4, 2003, he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering from total renal failure. His remains were cremated, and the ashes were scattered by his family off the California coast. His last words were,”Leave me alone, I’m fine”.
On September 20, 2004, he was posthumously inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in New York.
Ethel Waters (October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977) was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues.
Her best-known recordings includes, “Dinah“, “Stormy Weather“, “Taking a Chance on Love“, “Heat Wave“, “Supper Time“, “Am I Blue?“, and “Cabin in the Sky“, as well as her version of the spiritual “His Eye Is on the Sparrow“. Waters was the second African American, after Hattie McDaniel, to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Ethel Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1896, as a result of the rape of her teenaged mother, Louise Anderson (believed to have been thirteen years old at the time, although some sources indicate she may have been slightly older) by John Waters, a pianist and family acquaintance from a mixed-race middle-class background, who played no role in raising Ethel. Ethel Waters was raised in poverty and never lived in the same place for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, “I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” Waters grew tall, standing 5’9½” in her teens. According to women-in-jazz historian and archivist Rosetta Reitz, Waters’ birth in the North and her peripatetic life exposed her to many cultures.
Waters married at the age of 13, but soon left her abusive husband and became a maid in a Philadelphia hotel working for US $4.75 per week. On her 17th birthday, she attended a costume party at a nightclub on Juniper Street. She was persuaded to sing two songs, and impressed the audience so much that she was offered professional work at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. She later recalled that she earned the rich sum of ten dollars a week, but her managers cheated her out of the tips her admirers threw on the stage.
After her start in Baltimore, Waters toured on the black vaudeville circuit. As she described it later, “I used to work from nine until unconscious.” Despite her early success, she fell on hard times and joined a carnival, traveling in freight cars along the carnival circuit, eventually reaching Chicago. Waters enjoyed her time with the carnival and recalled, “the roustabouts and the concessionaires were the kind of people I’d grown up with, rough, tough, full of larceny towards strangers, but sentimental and loyal to their friends and co-workers.” She did not last long with them, though, and soon headed south to Atlanta, where she worked in the same club with Bessie Smith, who demanded that Waters not compete in singing blues opposite her. Waters conceded and sang ballads and popular songs. Perhaps today best known for her blues voice, Waters then was to sing, dance, play and star in musicals, plays and movies, and later in TV; but, she returned to singing blues whenever opportunity presented. Around 1919, Waters moved to Harlem and there became a celebrity performer in the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s.
Waters obtained her first Harlem job at Edmond’s Cellar, a club that had a black patronage. She specialized in popular ballads and became an actress in a blackface comedy called Hello 1919. Jazz historian Rosetta Reitz points out that by the time Waters returned to Harlem in 1921, women blues singers were among the most powerful entertainers in the country. In 1921, Waters became the fifth black woman to make a record, on the tiny Cardinal Records label. She later joined Black Swan Records, where Fletcher Henderson was her accompanist. Waters later commented that Henderson tended to perform in a more classical style than she would prefer, often lacking “the damn-it-to-hell bass.”
She recorded with Black Swan from 1921 through 1923. In early 1924, Paramount bought the Black Swan label, and she stayed with Paramount through 1924. Waters then first recorded for Columbia Records in 1925, achieving a hit with her voicing of “Dinah”—which was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998. Soon after, she started working with Pearl Wright, and together they toured in the South. In 1924, Waters played at the Plantation Club on Broadway. She also toured with the Black Swan Dance Masters. With Earl Dancer, she joined what was called the “white time” Keith Vaudeville Circuit, a traditional white-audience based vaudeville circuit combined with screenings of silent movies. They received rave reviews in Chicago and earned the unheard of salary of US$1,250 in 1928. In 1929, Harry Akst helped Wright and Waters compose a version of “Am I Blue?,” her signature tune.
Although she was considered a blues singer during the pre-1925 period, Waters belonged to the Vaudeville-style style similar to Mamie Smith, Viola McCoy, and Lucille Hegamin. While with Columbia, she introduced many popular standards including “Dinah”, “Heebie Jeebies”, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Someday, Sweetheart”, “Am I Blue?” and “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue” on the popular series, while she continued to sing blues (like “West End Blues”, “Organ Grinder Blues”, etc.) on Columbia’s 14000 race series.. During the 1920s, Waters performed and was recorded with the ensembles of Will Marion Cook and Lovie Austin. As her career continued, she evolved toward being a blues and Broadway singer, performing with artists such as Duke Ellington. She remained with Columbia through 1931. She then signed with Brunswick in 1932 and remained until 1933 when she went back to Columbia. She signed with Decca in late 1934 for only two sessions, as well as a single session in early 1938. She recorded for the specialty label “Liberty Music Shops” in 1935 and again in 1940. Between 1938 and 1939, she recorded for Bluebird.
In 1933, Waters made a satirical all-black film entitled Rufus Jones for President, which featured then-child performer Sammy Davis Jr. as Rufus Jones. She went on to star at the Cotton Club, where, according to her autobiography, she “sang ‘Stormy Weather‘ from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated.” She had a featured role in the wildly successful Irving Berlin Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer in 1933, where she was the first black woman in an otherwise white show. She had three gigs at this point; in addition to the show, she starred in a national radio program and continued to work in nightclubs. She was the highest paid performer on Broadway at that time. MGM hired Lena Horne as the ingenue in the all-Black musical Cabin in the Sky, and Waters starred as Petunia in 1942, reprising her stage role of 1940. The film, directed by Vincente Minnelli, was a success.
She began to work with Fletcher Henderson again in the late 1940s. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1949 for the film Pinky. In 1950, she won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for her performance opposite Julie Harris in the play The Member of the Wedding. Waters and Harris repeated their roles in the 1952 film version of Member of the Wedding” In 1950, Waters starred in the television series Beulah but quit after complaining that the scripts’ portrayal of blacks was “degrading.” She later guest starred in 1957 and 1959 on NBC‘s The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In the 1957 episode, she sang “Cabin in the Sky.”
Despite these successes, her brilliant career was fading. She lost tens of thousands in jewelry and cash in a robbery, and the IRS hounded her. Her health suffered, and she worked only sporadically in following years. In 1950-51 she wrote the autobiography His Eye is on the Sparrow, with Charles Samuels, which was adapted for a stage production in which she was portrayed by Ernestine Jackson, in which she wrote candidly about her life. She explains why her age has often been misstated, saying that her mother had to sign a paper saying she was four years older than she was, and that she was born in 1896. In her second autobiography, To Me, It’s Wonderful, Waters states that she was born in 1900. Rosetta Reitz called Waters “a natural … [Her] songs are enriching, nourishing. You will want to play them over and over again, idling in their warmth and swing. Though many of them are more than 50 years old, the music and the feeling are still there.”
Waters is the great-aunt of singer-songwriter Crystal Waters. Waters often toured with Billy Graham on his crusades. She died on September 1, 1977, aged 80, from uterine cancer, kidney failure, and other ailments in Chatsworth, California
Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all-time. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. She released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Houston’s crossover appeal on the popular music charts, as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for “How Will I Know“, influenced several African-American female artists to follow in her footsteps.
Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly “Top Pop Album”) on the Billboard magazine year-end charts. Houston’s 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone‘s best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Houston’s first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film’s original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single “I Will Always Love You“, became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period under Nielsen SoundScan system. The album makes her the top female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.
On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in her guest room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, of causes not immediately known. News of her death, the day before and after the 2012 Grammy Awards, featured prominently in American and international media.
Life and career
1963–1976: Early life
Whitney Houston was born in what was then a middle-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, the second child of Army serviceman and entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr. (September 13, 1920 – February 2, 2003), and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Emily Drinkard). She was of African American, Native American and Dutch descent. Her mother, along with cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, godmother Darlene Love and honorary aunt Aretha Franklin were all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, pop, and soul genres. She met her honorary aunt at age 8, or 9, when her mother took her to a recording studio. Houston was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle-class area in East Orange, New Jersey, when she was four.
At the age of 11, Houston began to follow in her mother’s footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano. Her first solo performance in the church was “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah“. When Houston was a teenager, she attended Mount Saint Dominic Academy, a Catholic girls’ high school in Caldwell, New Jersey, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she described as the “sister she never had”. While Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing. In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston was also exposed to the music of Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of whom would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.
1977–1984: Early career
Houston spent some of her teenage years touring nightclubs where her mother Cissy was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her. In 1977, at age 14, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band‘s single “Life’s a Party”. In 1978, at age 15, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan‘s hit single “I’m Every Woman“, a song she would later turn into a larger hit for herself on her monster-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson.
In the early 1980s, Houston started working as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared in Seventeen and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of the magazine. She was also featured in layouts in the pages of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Young Miss, and appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink TV commercial. Her striking looks and girl-next-door charm made her one of the most sought after teen models of that time. While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Michael Beinhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad “Memories“, a cover of a song by Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called her contribution “one of the most gorgeous ballads you’ve ever heard”. She also appeared as a lead vocalist on one track on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983.
Houston had previously been offered several recording agencies (Michael Zager in 1980, and Elektra Records in 1981), however her mother declined the offers stating her daughter must first complete high school. In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw her performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub and was impressed. He convinced Arista’s head Clive Davis to make time to see Houston perform. Davis too was impressed and offered a worldwide recording contract which Houston signed. Later that year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on The Merv Griffin Show.
Houston signed with Arista in 1983, but did not begin work on her album immediately. The label wanted to make sure no other label signed the singer away. Davis wanted to ensure he had the right material and producers for Houston’s debut album. Some producers had to pass on the project due to prior commitments. Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled “Hold Me” which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985.
1985–1986: Rise to international prominence
With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson, and Narada Michael Walden, Houston’s debut album Whitney Houston was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone magazine praised Houston, calling her “one of the most exciting new voices in years” while The New York Times called the album “an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent”. Arista Records promoted Houston’s album with three different singles from the album in the US, UK and other European countries. In the UK, the dance-funk “Someone for Me”, which failed to chart in the country, was the first single while “All at Once” was in such European countries as the Netherlands and Belgium, where the song reached the top 5 on the singles charts, respectively.
In the US, the soulful ballad “You Give Good Love” was chosen as the lead single from Houston’s debut to establish her in the black marketplace first. Outside the US, the song failed to get enough attention to become a hit, but in the US, it gave the album its first major hit as it peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 1 on the Hot R&B chart. As a result, the album began to sell strongly, and Houston continued promotion by touring nightclubs in the US. She also began performing on late-night television talk shows, which were not usually accessible to unestablished black acts. The jazzy ballad “Saving All My Love for You” was released next and it would become Houston’s first No. 1 single in both the US and the UK. She was then an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osborne on his nationwide tour. “Thinking About You” was released as the promo single only to R&B-oriented radio stations, which peaked at number ten on the US R&B Chart. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by black, Latino, and other racial minorities while favoring white acts. The third US single, “How Will I Know“, peaked at No. 1 and introduced Houston to the MTV audience thanks to its video. Houston’s subsequent singles from this, and future albums, would make her the first African-American female artist to receive consistent heavy rotation on MTV.
By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. The final single, “Greatest Love of All“, became Houston’s biggest hit at the time after peaking No. 1 and remaining there for three weeks on the Hot 100 chart, which made her debut the first album by a female artist to yield three No. 1 hits. Houston was No. 1 artist of the year and Whitney Houston was the No. 1 album of the year on the 1986 Billboard year-end charts, making her the first female artist to earn that distinction. At the time, Houston released the best-selling debut album by a solo artist. Houston then embarked on her world tour, Greatest Love Tour. The album had become an international success, and was certified 13× platinum (diamond) in the United States alone, and has sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. She was not eligible for the Best New Artist category due to her previous hit R&B duet recording with Teddy Pendergrass in 1984. She won her first Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “Saving All My Love for You”. Houston’s performance of the song during the Grammy telecast later earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
Houston won seven American Music Awards in total in 1986 and 1987, and an MTV Video Music Award. The album’s popularity would also carry over to the 1987 Grammy Awards when “Greatest Love of All” would receive a Record of the Year nomination. Houston’s debut album is listed as one of Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and on The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame‘s Definitive 200 list. Houston’s grand entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. Following Houston’s breakthrough, doors were opened for other African-American female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker to find notable success in popular music and on MTV.
1987–1991: Whitney, I’m Your Baby Tonight and “The Star Spangled Banner”
With many expectations, Houston’s second album, Whitney, was released in June 1987. The album again featured production from Masser, Kashif and Walden as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album. Rolling Stone said, “the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating”. Still, the album enjoyed commercial success. Houston became the first female artist in music history to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and the first artist to enter the albums chart at number one in both the US and UK, while also hitting number one or top ten in dozens of other countries around the world. The album’s first single, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)“, was also a massive hit worldwide, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topping the singles chart in many countries such as Australia, Germany and the UK. The next three singles, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All“, “So Emotional“, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. Houston became the first female artist to generate four number-one singles from one album. Whitney has been certified 9× Platinum in the US for shipments of over 9 million copies, and has sold a total of 20 million copies worldwide.
At the 30th Grammy Awards in 1988, Houston was nominated for three awards, including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”. Houston also won two American Music Awards in 1988 and 1989, respectively, and a Soul Train Music Award. Following the release of the album, Houston embarked on the Moment of Truth World Tour, which was one of the ten highest grossing concert tours of 1987. The success of the tours during 1986–87 and her two studio albums ranked Houston No. 8 for the highest earning entertainers list according to Forbes magazine. She was the highest earning African-American woman overall and the third highest entertainer after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.
Houston was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modeling days, the singer refused to work with any agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa. On June 11, 1988, during the European leg of her tour, Houston joined other musicians to perform a set at Wembley Stadium in London to celebrate a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. Over 72,000 people attended Wembley Stadium, and over a billion people tuned in worldwide as the rock concert raised over $1 million for charities while bringing awareness to apartheid. Houston then flew back to the US for a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City in August. The show was a benefit concert that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the United Negro College Fund. In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC‘s coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, “One Moment in Time“, which became a Top 5 hit in the US, while reaching number one in the UK and Germany. With her world tour continuing overseas, Houston was still one of the top 20 highest earning entertainers for 1987–88 according to Forbes magazine.
In 1989, Houston formed The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children, a non-profit organization that has raised funds for the needs of children around the world. The organization cares for homelessness, children with cancer or AIDS, and other issues of self-empowerment. With the success of her first two albums, Houston was undoubtedly an international crossover superstar, the most prominent since Michael Jackson, appealing to all demographics. However, some black critics believed she was “selling out“. They felt her singing on record lacked the soul that was present during her live concerts.
At the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards, when Houston’s name was called out for a nomination, a few in the audience jeered. Houston defended herself against the criticism, stating, “If you’re gonna have a long career, there’s a certain way to do it, and I did it that way. I’m not ashamed of it”. Houston took a more urban direction with her third studio album, I’m Your Baby Tonight, released in November 1990. She produced and chose producers for this album and as a result, it featured production and collaborations with L.A. Reid and Babyface, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. The album showed Houston’s versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks. Reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone felt it was her “best and most integrated album”. while Entertainment Weekly, at the time thought Houston’s shift towards an urban direction was “superficial”.
The album contained several hits: the first two singles, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “All the Man That I Need” peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; “Miracle” peaked at number nine; “My Name Is Not Susan” peaked in the top twenty; “I Belong to You” reached the top ten of the US R&B chart and garnered Houston a Grammy nomination; and the sixth single, the Stevie Wonder duet “We Didn’t Know“, reached the R&B top twenty. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified 4× platinum in the US while selling twelve million total worldwide.
Houston met with President George H. W. Bush in the Oval Office in 1990, while in Washington, D.C., to participate in the Youth Leadership Forum
In 1990, Houston was the spokesperson for a youth leadership conference hosted in Washington, D.C. She had a private audience with President George H. W. Bush in the Oval Office to discuss the associated challenges.
With America entangled in the Persian Gulf War, Houston performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991. Due to overwhelming response to her rendition, it was released as a commercial single and video of her performance, and reached the Top 20 on the US Hot 100, making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit of that magnitude (Jose Feliciano‘s version reached No. 50 in November 1968). Houston donated all her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross Gulf Crisis Fund. As a result, the singer was named to the Red Cross Board of Governors.
Her rendition was considered the benchmark for singers and critically acclaimed. Rolling Stone commented that “her singing stirs such strong patriotism. Unforgettable”, and the performance ranked No. 1 on the 25 most memorable music moments in NFL history list. VH1 listed the performance as one of the greatest moments that rocked TV. Following the attacks on 9/11, it was released again by Arista Records, all profits going towards the firefighters and victims of the attacks. This time it peaked at No. 6 in the Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Later in 1991, Houston put together her Welcome Home Heroes concert with HBO for the soldiers fighting in the Persian Gulf War and their families. The free concert took place at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia in front of 3,500 servicemen and women. HBO descrambled the concert so that it was free for everyone to watch. Houston’s concert gave HBO its highest ratings ever. She then embarked on the I’m Your Baby Tonight World Tour.
1992–1994: Marriage to Bobby Brown and The Bodyguard
Throughout the 1980s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated. She then met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three-year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992. On March 4, 1993, Houston gave birth to their daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, her only child, and his fourth. Brown would go on to have several run-ins with the law, including some jail time.
With the commercial success of her albums, movie offers poured in, including offers to work with Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones, and Spike Lee; but Houston felt the time wasn’t right. Houston’s first film role was in The Bodyguard, released in 1992 and co-starring Kevin Costner. Houston played Rachel Marron, a star who is stalked by a crazed fan and hires a bodyguard to protect her. USA Today listed it as one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years in 2007. Houston’s mainstream appeal allowed people to look at the movie color-blind.
Still, controversy arose as some felt the film’s advertising intentionally hid Houston’s face to hide the film’s interracial relationship. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1993, the singer commented that “people know who Whitney Houston is – I’m black. You can’t hide that fact.” Houston received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress. The Washington Post said Houston is “doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking”, and The New York Times commented that she lacked passion with her co-star. Despite the film’s mixed reviews, it was hugely successful at the box office, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide, making it one of the top 100 grossing films in film history at its time of release, though it is no longer in the top 100 due to rising ticket prices since the time the film was released.
The film’s soundtrack also enjoyed big success. Houston executive produced and contributed six songs for the motion picture’s adjoining soundtrack album. Rolling Stone said it is “nothing more than pleasant, tasteful and urbane”. The soundtrack’s lead single was “I Will Always Love You“, written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton in 1974. Houston’s version of the song was acclaimed by many critics, regarding it as her “signature song” or “iconic performance”. Rolling Stone and USA Today called her rendition “the tour-de-force”. The single peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks, number one on the R&B chart for a then-record-breaking 11 weeks, and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts for five weeks, thus becoming the first single to top those three charts simultaneously for five weeks.
The single was certified 4× platinum by the RIAA, making Houston the first female artist with a single to reach that level in the RIAA history and becoming the best-selling single by a female artist in the US. The song also became a global success, hitting number-one in almost all countries, and one of the best-selling singles of all time with 12 million copies sold. The soundtrack topped the Billboard 200 chart and remained there for 20 non-consecutive weeks, the longest tenure by any album on the chart in the Nielsen SoundScan era, and became one of the fastest selling albums ever. During Christmas week of 1992, the soundtrack sold over a million copies within a week, becoming the first album to achieve that feat under Nielsen SoundScan system. With the follow-up singles “I’m Every Woman“, a Chaka Khan cover, and “I Have Nothing” both reaching the top five, Houston became the first female artist to ever have three singles in the Top 11 simultaneously. The album was certified 17× platinum in the US alone, with worldwide sales of 44 million, making The Bodyguard the biggest-selling album by a female act on the list of the world’s Top 10 best-selling albums, topping Shania Twain‘s 40 million sold for Come On Over.
Houston won three Grammys for the album in 1994, including two of the Academy’s highest honors, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. In addition, she won a record 8 American Music Awards at that year’s ceremony including the Award of Merit, 11 Billboard Music Awards, 3 Soul Train Music Awards in 1993–94 including Sammy Davis, Jr. Award as Entertainer of the Year, 5 NAACP Image Awards including Entertainer of the Year, a record 5 World Music Awards, and a BRIT award. Following the success of the project, Houston embarked on another expansive global tour, The Bodyguard World Tour, in 1993–94. Her concerts, movie, and recording grosses made her the third highest earning female entertainer of 1993–94, just behind Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand according to Forbes magazine. Houston placed in the top five of Entertainment Weekly‘s annual “Entertainer of the Year” ranking and was labeled by Premiere magazine as one of the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood.
In October 1994, Houston attended and performed at a state dinner in the White House honoring newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela. At the end of her world tour, Houston performed three concerts in South Africa to honor President Mandela, playing to over 200,000 people. This would make the singer the first major musician to visit the newly unified and apartheid free nation following Mandela’s winning election. The concert was broadcast live on HBO with funds of the concerts being donated to various charities in South Africa. The event was considered the nation’s “biggest media event since the inauguration of Nelson Mandela”.
1995–1997: Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife, and Cinderella
In 1995, Houston starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in her second film Waiting to Exhale, a motion picture about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Houston played the lead character Savannah Jackson, a TV producer in love with a married man. She chose the role because she saw the film as “a breakthrough for the image of black women because it presents them both as professionals and as caring mothers”. After opening at number one and grossing $67 million in the US at the box office and $81 million worldwide, it proved that a movie primarily targeting a black audience can cross over to success, while paving the way for other all-black movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Tyler Perry movies that have become popular in the 2000s. The film is also notable for its portrayal of black women as strong middle class citizens as opposed to stereotypes. The reviews were mainly positive for the ensemble cast. The New York Times said “Ms. Houston has shed the defensive hauteur that made her portrayal of a pop star in ‘The Bodyguard’ seem so distant.” Houston was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture”, but lost to her co-star Bassett.
The film’s accompanying soundtrack, Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album, was produced by Houston and Babyface. Though Babyface originally wanted Houston to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she “wanted it to be an album of women with vocal distinction”, and thus gathered several African-American female artists for the soundtrack, to go along with the film’s strong women message. As a result, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists along with Houston, such as Mary J Blige, Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, Patti Labelle, and Brandy. Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” peaked at No. 1, and then spent a record eleven weeks at the No. 2 spot and eight weeks on top of the R&B Charts. “Count On Me”, a duet with CeCe Winans, hit the US Top 10; and Houston’s third contribution, “Why Does It Hurt So Bad“, made the Top 30. The album debuted at No. 1, and was certified 7× Platinum in the United States, denoting shipments of seven million copies. The soundtrack received strong reviews as Entertainment Weekly said “the album goes down easy, just as you’d expect from a package framed by Whitney Houston tracks…. the soundtrack waits to exhale, hovering in sensuous suspense” and has since ranked it as one of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks. Later that year, Houston’s children’s charity organization was awarded a VH1 Honor for all the charitable work.
In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy The Preacher’s Wife, with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a pastor (Courtney B. Vance). It was largely an updated remake of the 1948 film “The Bishop’s Wife” which starred Loretta Young, David Niven and Cary Grant. Houston earned $10 million for the role, making her one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African American actress in Hollywood. The movie, with its all African-American cast, was a moderate success, earning approximately $50 million at the U.S. box offices. The movie gave Houston her strongest reviews so far. The San Francisco Chronicle said Houston “is rather angelic herself, displaying a divine talent for being virtuous and flirtatious at the same time” and that she “exudes gentle yet spirited warmth, especially when praising the Lord in her gorgeous singing voice”. Houston was again nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.
Houston recorded and co-produced, with Mervyn Warren, the film’s accompanying gospel soundtrack. The Preacher’s Wife: Original Soundtrack Album included six gospel songs with Georgia Mass Choir that were recorded at the Great Star Rising Baptist Church in Atlanta. Houston also duetted with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. The album sold six million copies worldwide and scored hit singles with “I Believe in You and Me” and “Step by Step“, becoming the largest selling gospel album of all time. The album received mainly positive reviews. Some critics, such as that of USA Today, noted the presence of her emotional depth, while The Times said “To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass Choir struggling to keep up is to realise what her phenomenal voice was made for”.
In 1997, Houston’s production company changed its name to BrownHouse Productions and was joined by Debra Martin Chase. Their goal was “to show aspects of the lives of African-Americans that have not been brought to the screen before” while improving how African-Americans are portrayed in film and television. Their first project was a made-for-television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein‘s Cinderella. In addition to co-producing, Houston starred in the movie as the Fairy Godmother along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters. Houston was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened. The film is notable for its multi-racial cast and nonstereotypical message. An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years. The movie received seven Emmy nominations including Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy, while winning Outstanding Art Direction in a Variety, Musical or Comedy Special.
Houston and Chase then obtained the rights to the story of Dorothy Dandridge. Houston was to play Dandridge, who was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. She wanted the story told with dignity and honor. However, Halle Berry also had rights to the project and she got her version going first. Later that year, Houston paid tribute to her idols such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Dionne Warwick by performing their hits during the three-night HBO Concert Classic Whitney, live from Washington, D.C. The special raised over $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund. Houston received The Quincy Jones Award for outstanding career achievements in the field of entertainment at the 12th Soul Train Music Awards.
1998–2000: My Love Is Your Love and Whitney: The Greatest Hits
After spending much of the early and mid 1990s working on motion pictures and their soundtrack albums, Houston’s first studio album in eight years, the critically acclaimed My Love Is Your Love, was released in November 1998. Though originally slated to be a greatest hits album with a handful of new songs, recording sessions were so fruitful that a new full-length studio album was released. Recorded and mixed in only six weeks, it featured production from Rodney Jerkins, Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliott. The album debuted at number thirteen, its peak position, on the Billboard 200 chart. It had a funkier and edgier sound than past releases and saw Houston handling urban dance, hip hop, mid-tempo R&B, reggae, torch songs, and ballads all with great dexterity.
From late 1998 to early 2000, the album spawned several hit singles: “When You Believe” (US No. 15, UK No. 4), a duet with Mariah Carey for 1998’s The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, which also became an international hit as it peaked in the Top 10 in several countries and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song; “Heartbreak Hotel” (US No. 2, UK No. 25) featured Faith Evans and Kelly Price, received a 1999 MTV VMA nomination for Best R&B Video, and number one on the US R&B chart for seven weeks; “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” (US No. 4, UK No. 3) won Houston her sixth Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; “My Love Is Your Love” (US No. 4, UK No. 2) with 3 million copies sold worldwide; and “I Learned from the Best” (US No. 27, UK No. 19). These singles became international hits as well, and all the singles, except “When You Believe”, became number one hits on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The album sold four million copies in America, making it certified 4× platinum, and a total of eleven million copies worldwide.
The album gave Houston some of her strongest reviews ever. Rolling Stone said Houston was singing “with a bite in her voice” and The Village Voice called it “Whitney’s sharpest and most satisfying so far”. In 1999, Houston participated in VH-1’s Divas Live ’99, alongside Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, and Cher. The same year, Houston hit the road with her 70 date My Love Is Your Love World Tour. The European leg of the tour was Europe’s highest grossing arena tour of the year. In November 1999, Houston was named Top-selling R&B Female Artist of the Century with certified US sales of 51 million copies at the time and The Bodyguard Soundtrack was named the Top-selling Soundtrack Album of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). She also won The Artist of the Decade, Female award for extraordinary artistic contributions during the 1990s at the 14th Soul Train Music Awards, and an MTV Europe Music Award for Best R&B.
In May 2000, Whitney: The Greatest Hits was released worldwide. The double disc set peaked at number five in the United States, reaching number one in the United Kingdom. In addition, the album reached the Top 10 in many other countries. While ballad songs were left unchanged, the album features house/club remixes of many of Houston’s up-tempo hits. Included on the album were four new songs: “Could I Have This Kiss Forever” (a duet with Enrique Iglesias), “Same Script, Different Cast” (a duet with Deborah Cox), “If I Told You That” (a duet with George Michael), and “Fine“, and three hits that had never appeared on a Houston album: “One Moment in Time”, “The Star Spangled Banner”, and “If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful”, a duet with Jermaine Jackson from his 1986 Precious Moments album. Along with the album, an accompanying VHS and DVD was released featuring the music videos to Houston’s greatest hits, as well as several hard-to-find live performances including her 1983 debut on The Merv Griffin Show, and interviews. The greatest hits album was certified 3× platinum in the US, with worldwide sales of 10 million.
2000–2005: Just Whitney, and personal struggles
Though Houston was seen as a “good girl” with a perfect image in the 1980s and early 1990s, by the late 1990s, her behavior changed. She was often hours late for interviews, photo shoots and rehearsals, and canceling concerts and talk-show appearances. With the missed performances and weight loss, rumors about Houston using drugs with her husband circulated. On January 11, 2000, airport security guards discovered marijuana in both Houston’s and husband Bobby Brown’s luggage at a Hawaii airport, but the two boarded the plane and departed before authorities could arrive. Charges were later dropped against them, but rumors of drug usage between the couple would continue to surface. Two months later, Clive Davis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Houston had been scheduled to perform at the event, but failed to show up.
Shortly thereafter, Houston was scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards but was fired from the event by musical director and long time friend Burt Bacharach. Her publicist cited throat problems as the reason for the cancellation. In his book The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards, author Steve Pond revealed that “Houston’s voice was shaky, she seemed distracted and jittery, and her attitude was casual, almost defiant”, and that while Houston was to sing “Over the Rainbow“, she would start singing a different song. Houston later admitted to having been fired. Later that year, Houston’s long-time executive assistant and friend, Robyn Crawford, resigned from Houston’s management company.
In August 2001, Houston signed the biggest record deal in music history with Arista/BMG. She renewed her contract for $100 million to deliver six new albums, on which she would also earn royalties. She later made an appearance on Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. Her extremely thin frame further spurred rumors of drug use. Houston’s publicist said, “Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress she doesn’t eat.” The singer was scheduled for a second performance the following night but canceled. Within weeks, Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” would be re-released after the September 11 attacks, with the proceeds donated to the New York Firefighters 9/11 Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Fraternal Order of Police. The song peaked at No. 6 this time on the US Hot 100, topping its previous position.
In 2002, Houston became involved in a legal dispute with John Houston Enterprise. Although the company was started by her father to manage her career, it was actually run by company president Kevin Skinner. Skinner filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit and sued for $100 million (but lost), stating that Houston owed the company previously unpaid compensation for helping to negotiate her $100 million contract with Arista Records and for sorting out legal matters. Houston stated that her 81-year-old father had nothing to do with the lawsuit. Although Skinner tried to claim otherwise, John Houston never appeared in court. Houston’s father later died in February 2003. The lawsuit was dismissed on April 5, 2004, and Skinner was awarded nothing.
Also in 2002, Houston did an interview with Diane Sawyer to promote her then-upcoming album. The interview was the highest-rated television interview in history. During the prime-time special, Houston spoke on topics including rumored drug use and marriage. She was asked about the ongoing drug rumors and replied, “First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. Okay? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack.” The line was from Keith Haring’s mural which was painted in 1986 on the handball court at 128th Street and 2nd Avenue. Houston did, however, admit to using other substances at times, including cocaine.
In December 2002, Houston released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney…. The album included productions from then-husband Bobby Brown, as well as Missy Elliott and Babyface, and marked the first time that Houston did not produce with Clive Davis as Davis had been released by top management at BMG. Upon its release, Just Whitney… received mixed reviews. The album debuted at number 9 on the Billboard 200 chart and it had the highest first week sales of any album Houston had ever released. The four singles released from the album, didn’t fare well on the Billboard Hot 100, but became Hot Dance Club Play hits. Just Whitney… was certified platinum in the United States, and sold approximately three million worldwide.
On a June 2003 trip to Israel, Houston said of her visit, “I’ve never felt like this in any other country. I feel at home, I feel wonderful.”
In late 2003, Houston released her first Christmas album One Wish: The Holiday Album, with a collection of traditional holiday songs. Houston produced the album with Mervyn Warren and Gordon Chambers. A single titled “One Wish (for Christmas)” reached the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and the album was certified gold in the US. Having always been a touring artist, Houston spent most of 2004 touring and performing in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. In September 2004, she gave a surprise performance at the World Music Awards in a tribute to long time friend Clive Davis. After the show, Davis and Houston announced plans to go into studio to work on her new album.
In early 2004, husband Bobby Brown starred in his own reality TV program, Being Bobby Brown (on the Bravo network), which provided a view into the domestic goings-on in the Brown household. Though it was Brown’s vehicle, Houston was a prominent figure throughout the show, receiving as much screen time as Brown. The series aired in 2005 and featured Houston in, what some would say, not her most flattering moments. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television.” Despite the perceived train-wreck nature of the show, the series gave Bravo its highest ratings in its time slot and continued Houston’s successful forays into film and television. The show was not renewed for a second season after Houston stated that she would no longer appear in it, and Brown and Bravo could not come to an agreement for another season.
2006–2012: Return to music, I Look to You, tour and film comeback
After years of controversy and turmoil, Houston separated from Bobby Brown in September 2006, filing for divorce the following month. On February 1, 2007, Houston asked the court to fast track their divorce. The divorce was finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple’s daughter. On May 4, Houston sold the suburban Atlanta home featured in Being Bobby Brown for $1.19 million. A few days later, Brown sued Houston in Orange County, California court in an attempt to change the terms of their custody agreement. Brown also sought child and spousal support from Houston. In the lawsuit, Brown claimed that financial and emotional problems prevented him from properly responding to Houston’s divorce petition. Brown lost at his court hearing as the judge dismissed his appeal to overrule the custody terms, leaving Houston with full custody and Brown with no spousal support. In March 2007, Clive Davis of Arista Records announced that Houston would begin recording a new album. In October 2007, Arista released another compilation The Ultimate Collection outside the United States.
Houston gave her first interview in seven years in September 2009, appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere. The interview was billed as “the most anticipated music interview of the decade”. Whitney admitted on the show to using drugs with former husband Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine”. By 1996, she told Oprah, “[doing drugs] was an everyday thing… I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”
Houston released her new album, I Look to You, in August 2009. The album’s first two singles are “I Look to You” and “Million Dollar Bill”. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1, with Houston’s best opening-week sales of 305,000 copies, marking Houston’s first number one album since The Bodyguard, and Houston’s first studio album to reach number one since 1987’s Whitney. Houston also appeared on European television programs to promote the album. She performed the song “I Look to You” on the German television show Wetten, dass..?. Three days later, she performed the worldwide first single from I Look To You, Million Dollar Bill, on the French television show Le Grand Journal. Houston appeared as guest mentor on The X Factor in the United Kingdom. She performed “Million Dollar Bill” on the following day’s results show, completing the song even as a strap in the back of her dress popped open two minutes into the performance. She later commented that she “sang [herself] out of [her] clothes”.
The performance was poorly received by the British media, and was variously described as “weird” and “ungracious”, “shambolic” and a “flop”. Despite this reception, “Million Dollar Bill” jumped to its peak from 14 to number 5 (her first UK top 5 for over a decade), and three weeks after release “I Look to You” went gold. Houston appeared on the Italian version of The X Factor, performing the same song “Million Dollar Bill” to excellent reviews. She was awarded the Gold Certificate for achieving over 50,000 CD sales of “I Look To You” in Italy. In November, Houston performed “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” at the 2009 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California. Two days later, Houston performed both songs on the Dancing With The Stars season 9 finale. As of December 2009, “I Look to You” has been certified platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than one million copies in the United States. On January 26, 2010, her debut album was re-released in a special edition entitled Whitney Houston – The Deluxe Anniversary Edition.
Houston later embarked on a world tour, entitled the Nothing but Love World Tour. It was her first world tour in over ten years and was announced as a triumphant comeback. However, some poor reviews and rescheduled concerts brought some negative media attention. Houston canceled some concerts due to illness and received widespread negative reviews from fans who were disappointed in the quality of her voice and performance. Some fans reportedly walked out of her concerts.
In January 2010, Houston was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards, one for Best Female Artist and one for Best Music Video. She won the award for Best Music Video for her single “I Look to You”. On January 16, she received The BET Honors Award for Entertainer citing her lifetime achievements spanning over 25 years in the industry. The 2010 BET Honors award was held at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. and aired on February 1, 2010. Jennifer Hudson and Kim Burrell performed in honor of her, garnering positive reviews. Houston also received a nomination from the Echo Awards, Germany’s version of the Grammys, for Best International Artist. In April 2010, the UK newspaper The Mirror reported that Houston was thinking about recording her eighth studio album and wanted to collaborate with will.i.am (of The Black Eyed Peas), her first choice for a collaboration.
Houston also performed the song “I Look to You” on the 2011 BET Celebration of Gospel, with gospel–jazz singer Kim Burrell, held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles. The performance aired on January 30, 2011. Early in 2011, she gave an uneven performance in tribute to cousin Dionne Warwick at music mogul Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala. In May 2011, Houston enrolled in a rehabilitation center again, as an out-patient, citing drug and alcohol problems. A representative for Houston said that it was a part of Houston’s “longstanding recovery process”.
In September 2011, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Houston would produce and star alongside Jordin Sparks and Mike Epps in the remake of the 1976 film Sparkle. In the film, Houston portrays Sparks’ “not-so encouraging mother”. Houston will have executive producer credits on top of acting credits according to Debra Martin Chase, producer of Sparkle. She stated that Houston deserved the title considering she had been there from the beginning in 2001, when Houston obtained Sparkle production rights. R&B singer Aaliyah – originally tapped to star as Sparkle – died in a 2001 plane crash. Her death derailed production, which would have begun in 2002. Houston’s remake of Sparkle was filmed in the fall of 2011, and is set for release by TriStar Pictures in August 2012.
On February 9, 2012, Houston visited singers Brandy and Monica, together with Clive Davis, at their rehearsals for Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. That same day, she made her last public performance, when she joined Kelly Price on stage in Hollywood, CA and sang “Jesus Loves Me“.
On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in a suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, submerged in the bathtub. The cause of death was not immediately known. Beverly Hills paramedics arrived at approximately 3:30 p.m. and found the singer unresponsive and performed CPR. Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. PST. Local police said there were “no obvious signs of criminal intent.”
Houston had an invitation-only memorial on Saturday, February 18, 2012, at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. The service was scheduled for two hours, but lasted for four hours. Among those who performed at the funeral were Stevie Wonder (rewritten version of “Ribbon in the Sky,” and “Love’s in Need of Love Today“), CeCe Winans (“Don’t Cry” and “Jesus Loves Me”), Alicia Keys (“Send Me an Angel“), Kim Burrell (rewritten version of “A Change Is Gonna Come“) and R. Kelly (“I Look to You”), interspersed with hymns by the church choir and remarks by Clive Davis, Houston’s record producer; Kevin Costner; Ricky Minor her music director; her cousin Dionne Warwick and Ray Watson, her security guard for the past 11 years. Aretha Franklin was listed on the program and was expected to sing, but was unable to attend the service. Bobby Brown, Houston’s ex-husband, was also invited to the funeral but he left before the service began. Houston was buried on Sunday, February 19, 2012, in Fairview Cemetery, in Westfield, New Jersey next to her father, John Russell Houston, who died in 2003.
The Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party that Houston was expected to attend, and that featured many of the biggest names in music and movies, went on as scheduled although it was quickly turned into a tribute to Houston. Davis spoke about Houston’s death at the evening’s start: “By now you have all learned of the unspeakably tragic news of our beloved Whitney’s passing. I don’t have to mask my emotion in front of a room full of so many dear friends. I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years. Whitney was so full of life. She was so looking forward to tonight even though she wasn’t scheduled to perform. Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage with her regal presence and gave so many memorable performances here over the years. Simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on.”
Tony Bennett spoke of Houston’s death before performing at Davis’ party. He said, “First, it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the magnificent Whitney Houston”. Bennett sang “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and said of Houston, “When I first heard her, I called Clive Davis and said, ‘You finally found the greatest singer I’ve ever heard in my life.'”
Some celebrities opposed Davis’ decision to continue on the party while a police investigation was being conducted in Houston’s hotel room and her body was still in the building. Chaka Khan, in an interview with CNN‘s Piers Morgan on February 13, 2012, shared that she felt the party should have been canceled, saying “I thought that was complete insanity. And knowing Whitney I don’t believe that she would have said ‘the show must go on.’ She’s the kind of woman that would’ve said ‘Stop everything! Un-unh. I’m not going to be there.’ […] I don’t know what could motivate a person to have a party in a building where the person whose life he had influenced so enormously and whose life had been affected by hers. They were like… I don’t understand how that party went on.” Sharon Osbourne, on February 15 episode of The Talk, also condemned the Davis party, declaring “I think it was disgraceful that the party went on. I don’t want to be in a hotel room when there’s someone you admire who’s tragically lost their life four floors up. I’m not interested in being in that environment and I think when you grieve someone, you do it privately, you do it with people who understand you. I thought it was so wrong.”
Several other celebrities released statements responding to Houston’s death. Dolly Parton, whose song “I Will Always Love You” was covered by Houston, said, “I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, ‘Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed’.” Aretha Franklin said, “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.” Mariah Carey said, “Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend … She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth.” Oprah Winfrey, who did an in-depth interview with Houston in 2009, wrote on Twitter “To me Whitney was THE VOICE. We got to hear a part of God every time she sang. Heart is heavy, spirit grateful for the GIFT of her.” Quincy Jones said, “I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney’s passing. Ashford & Simpson first made me aware of Whitney when she was just sixteen, and I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”
Moments after news of her death emerged, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all broke from their regularly scheduled programming to dedicate time to non-stop coverage of Houston’s death. All three featured live interviews with people who knew Houston including those that have worked with her, interviewed her along with some of her peers in the music industry. Saturday Night Live displayed a photo of a smiling Houston, alongside Molly Shannon, from her 1996 appearance. MTV and VH-1 interrupted their regularly scheduled programming on Sunday February 12 to air many of Houston’s classic videos with MTV often airing news segments in between and featuring various reactions from fans and celebrities.
Houston’s former husband, Bobby Brown, was reported to be “in and out of crying fits” since receiving the news. He did not cancel a scheduled performance and within hours of his ex-wife’s sudden death, an audience in Mississippi observed as Brown blew kisses skyward, tearfully saying: “I love you, Whitney”.
Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the 54th Grammy Awards announced that Jennifer Hudson would perform a tribute to Houston at the February 12, 2012, awards. He said “event organizers believed Hudson – an Academy Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning artist – could perform a respectful musical tribute to Houston”. Ehrlich went on to say: “It’s too fresh in everyone’s memory to do more at this time, but we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize Whitney’s remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her Grammy wins and nominations over the years”. At the start of the awards ceremony, a footage of Houston performing “I Will Always Love You” from 1994 Grammys was shown following a prayer read by host, LL Cool J. Later in the program following a montage of photos of musicians who died in 2011 with Houston singing “Saving All My Love for You” at the 1986 Grammys, Hudson paid tribute to Houston and the other artists by performing “I Will Always Love You”.
Houston was honored in the form of various tributes at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards, held on February 17. A image montage of Houston and important black figures who died in 2011 was followed by video footage from the 1994 ceremony, which depicted her accepting two Image Awards for outstanding female artist and entertainer of the year. Following the video tribute, Yolanda Adams delivered a rendition of “I Love the Lord” from The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack. In the finale of the ceremony, Kirk Franklin and The Family started their performance with “Greatest Love of All.” 2012 BRIT Awards, took place at London’s O2 Arena on February 21, also paid tribute to Houston by playing a 30-second-video montage of her music videos with a snippet of “One Moment in Time” as the background music in the ceremony’s first segment. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that all New Jersey state flags will be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, February 21 to honor Houston.
Artistry and legacy
Houston was a mezzo-soprano, and was commonly referred to as “The Voice” in reference to her exceptional vocal talent. Her vocal range extended from G below middle C (G3) to high B-flat (B♭5); she could belt out to treble F (F5). She was third in MTV’s list of 22 Greatest Voices, and sixth on Online Magazine COVE‘s list of the 100 Best Pop Vocalists with a score of 48.5/50. In 2008, Rolling Stone listed Houston as the thirty-fourth of the 100 greatest singers of all time, stating, “Her voice is a mammoth, coruscating cry: Few vocalists could get away with opening a song with 45 unaccompanied seconds of singing, but Houston’s powerhouse version of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ is a tour de force.” Matthew Perpetua from Rolling Stone also eulogized Houston’s vocal, enumerating ten performances, including “How Will I Know” from the 1986 MTV VMAs and “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. “Whitney Houston was blessed with an astonishing vocal range and extraordinary technical skill, but what truly made her a great singer was her ability to connect with a song and drive home its drama and emotion with incredible precision,” he stated. “She was a brilliant performer, and her live shows often eclipsed her studio recordings.”
Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented, “Her voice was clean and strong, with barely any grit, well suited to the songs of love and aspiration. […] Hers was a voice of triumph and achievement, and it made for any number of stunning, time-stopping vocal performances.” Mariah Carey stated, “Whitney has a really rich, strong mid-belt that very few people have. She sounds really good, really strong.” While in her review of I Look to You, music critic Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times writes, “[Houston’s voice] stands like monuments upon the landscape of 20th century pop, defining the architecture of their times, sheltering the dreams of millions and inspiring the climbing careers of countless imitators”, adding “When she was at her best, nothing could match her huge, clean, cool mezzo-soprano”.
Lauren Everitt from BBC News Magazine commented on melisma used in Houston’s recording and its influence. “An early ‘I’ in Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ takes nearly six seconds to sing. In those seconds the former gospel singer-turned-pop star packs a series of different notes into the single syllable,” stated Everitt. “The technique is repeated throughout the song, most pronouncedly on every ‘I’ and ‘you’. The vocal technique is called melisma, and it has inspired a host of imitators. Other artists may have used it before Houston, but it was her rendition of Dolly Parton’s love song that pushed the technique into the mainstream in the 90s. […] But perhaps what Houston nailed best was moderation.” Everitt said that “[i]n a climate of reality shows ripe with ‘oversinging’, it’s easy to appreciate Houston’s ability to save melisma for just the right moment”.
Houston’s vocal stylings have had a significant impact on the music industry. She has been called the “Queen of Pop” for her influence during the 1990s, commercially rivaling Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Stephen Holden from The New York Times, in his review of Houston’s Radio City Music Hall concert on July 20, 1993, praised her attitude as a singer highly, writing, “Whitney Houston is one of the few contemporary pop stars of whom it might be said: the voice suffices. While almost every performer whose albums sell in the millions calls upon an entertainer’s bag of tricks, from telling jokes to dancing to circus pyrotechnics, Ms. Houston would rather just stand there and sing.” With regard to her singing style, he added: “Her [Houston’s] stylistic trademarks – shivery melismas that ripple up in the middle of a song, twirling embellishments at the ends of phrases that suggest an almost breathless exhilaration – infuse her interpretations with flashes of musical and emotional lightning.”
Elysa Gardner of the Los Angeles Times in her review for The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack praised Houston’s vocal ability highly, commenting, “She is first and foremost a pop diva – at that, the best one we have. No other female pop star – not Mariah Carey, not Celine Dion, not Barbra Streisand – quite rivals Houston in her exquisite vocal fluidity and purity of tone, and her ability to infuse a lyric with mesmerizing melodrama.”
During the 1980s, MTV was coming into its own and received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by black artists. With Michael Jackson breaking down the color barrier for black male artists, Houston did the same for black female artists. She became the first black female artist to receive heavy rotation on the network following the success of the “How Will I Know” video. Following Houston’s breakthrough, other African-American female artists, such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker, were successful in popular music. Baker commented that “Because of what Whitney and Sade did, there was an opening for me… For radio stations, black women singers aren’t taboo anymore.”
Allmusic noted her contribution to the success of black artists on the pop scene, commenting, “Houston was able to handle big adult contemporary ballads, effervescent, stylish dance-pop, and slick urban contemporary soul with equal dexterity” and that “the result was an across-the-board appeal that was matched by scant few artists of her era, and helped her become one of the first black artists to find success on MTV in Michael Jackson’s wake”. The New York Times stated that “Houston was a major catalyst for a movement within black music that recognized the continuity of soul, pop, jazz and gospel vocal traditions”. Richard Corliss of Time magazine commented on her initial success breaking various barriers:
Of her first album’s ten cuts, six were ballads. This chanteuse [Houston] had to fight for air play with hard rockers. The young lady had to stand uncowed in the locker room of macho rock. The soul strutter had to seduce a music audience that anointed few black artists with superstardom. […] She was a phenomenon waiting to happen, a canny tapping of the listener’s yen for a return to the musical middle. And because every new star creates her own genre, her success has helped other blacks, other women, other smooth singers find an avid reception in the pop marketplace.
Stephen Holden of The New York Times said that Houston “revitalized the tradition of strong gospel-oriented pop-soul singing”. Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times referred to the singer as a “national treasure”. Jon Caramanica, other music critic of The New York Times, called Houston “R&B’s great modernizer,” adding “slowly but surely reconciling the ambition and praise of the church with the movements and needs of the body and the glow of the mainstream”. He also drew comparisons between Houston’s influence and other big names’ on 1980s pop:
She was, alongside Michael Jackson and Madonna, one of the crucial figures to hybridize pop in the 1980s, though her strategy was far less radical than that of her peers. Jackson and Madonna were by turns lascivious and brutish and, crucially, willing to let their production speak more loudly than their voices, an option Ms. Houston never went for. Also, she was less prolific than either of them, achieving most of her renown on the strength of her first three solo albums and one soundtrack, released from 1985 to 1992. If she was less influential than they were in the years since, it was only because her gift was so rare, so impossible to mimic. Jackson and Madonna built worldviews around their voices; Ms. Houston’s voice was the worldview. She was someone more to be admired, like a museum piece, than to be emulated.
The Independant‘s music critic Andy Gill also wrote about Houston’s influence on modern R&B and singing competitions, comparing it to Michael Jackson’s. “Because Whitney, more than any other single artist ― Michael Jackson included ― effectively mapped out the course of modern R&B, setting the bar for standards of soul vocalese, and creating the original template for what we now routinely refer to as the ‘soul diva’,” stated Gill. “Jackson was a hugely talented icon, certainly, but he will be as well remembered (probably more so) for his presentational skills, his dazzling dance moves, as for his musical innovations. Whitney, on the other hand, just sang, and the ripples from her voice continue to dominate the pop landscape.” Gill said that there “are few, if any, Jackson imitators on today’s TV talent shows, but every other contestant is a Whitney wannabe, desperately attempting to emulate that wondrous combination of vocal effects – the flowing melisma, the soaring mezzo-soprano confidence, the tremulous fluttering that carried the ends of lines into realms of higher yearning”.
Houston was considered by many to be a “singer’s singer”, who had an influence on countless other vocalists, both female and male. Similarly, Steve Huey from Allmusic wrote that the shadow of Houston’s prodigious technique still looms large over nearly every pop diva and smooth urban soul singer – male or female – in her wake, and spawned a legion of imitators. Rolling Stone, on her biography, stated that Houston “redefined the image of a female soul icon and inspired singers ranging from Mariah Carey to Rihanna“. Essence ranked Houston the fifth on their list of 50 Most Influential R&B Stars of all time, calling her “the diva to end all divas”.
A number of artists have acknowledged Houston as an influence, including Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Jessica Simpson, Nelly Furtado, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Ciara, P!nk,Ashanti, Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson, Stacie Orrico, Amerie, and Destiny’s Child. Mariah Carey, who was often compared to Houston, said, “Houston has been a big influence on me.” She later told USA Today that “none of us would sound the same if Aretha Franklin hadn’t ever put out a record, or Whitney Houston hadn’t.” Celine Dion who was the third member of the troika that dominated female pop singing in the 1990s, did a telephone interview with Good Morning America on February 13, 2012, telling “Whitney’s been an amazing inspiration for me. I’ve been singing with her my whole career, actually. I wanted to have a career like hers, sing like her, look beautiful like her.” Beyoncé told the Globe and Mail that Houston “inspired [her] to get up there and do what [she] did”. She also wrote on her website on the day after Houston’s death, “I, like every singer, always wanted to be just like [Houston]. Her voice was perfect. Strong but soothing. Soulful and classic. Her vibrato, her cadence, her control. So many of my life’s memories are attached to a Whitney Houston song. She is our queen and she opened doors and provided a blueprint for all of us.”
Mary J. Blige said that Houston inviting her onstage during VH1‘s Divas Live show in 1999 “opened doors for [her] all over the world”. Brandy stated, “The first Whitney Houston CD was genius. That CD introduced the world to her angelic yet powerful voice. Without Whitney, half of this generation of singers wouldn’t be singing.” Kelly Rowland, in an Ebony‘s feature article celebrating black music in June 2006, recalled that “[I] wanted to be a singer after I saw Whitney Houston on TV singing ‘Greatest Love of All’. I wanted to sing like Whitney Houston in that red dress.” She added that “And I have never, ever forgotten that song [Greatest Love of All]. I learned it backward, forward, sideways. The video still brings chills to me. When you wish and pray for something as a kid, you never know what blessings God will give you.”
Alicia Keys, in an interview about her album The Element of Freedom with Billboard magazine, also said “Whitney is an artist who inspired me from [the time I was] a little girl”. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson cites Houston as her biggest musical influence. She told Newsday that she learned from Houston the “difference between being able to sing and knowing how to sing”. Leona Lewis, who has been called “the new Whitney Houston”, also cites her as an influence. Lewis stated that she idolized her as a little girl.
Awards and achievements
Houston was the most awarded female artist of all time, according to Guinness World Records, with two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards as of 2010. She held the all-time record for the most American Music Awards of any female solo artist and shared the record with Michael Jackson for the most AMAs ever won in a single year with eight wins in 1994. Houston won a record 11 Billboard Music Awards at its fourth ceremony in 1993. She also had the record for the most WMAs won in a single year, winning five awards at the 6th World Music Awards in 1994.
In May 2003, Houston placed at number three on VH1‘s list of “50 Greatest Women of the Video Era”, behind Madonna and Janet Jackson. She was also ranked at number 116 on their list of the “200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time”. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s 50th anniversary, ranking Houston at number nine. Similarly, she was ranked as one of the “Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by VH1 in September 2010. In November 2010, Billboard released its “Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years” list and ranked Houston at number three whom not only went on to earn eight number one singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, but also landed five number ones on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
Houston’s debut album is listed as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine and is on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s Definitive 200 list. In 2004, Billboard picked the success of her first release on the charts as one of 110 Musical Milestones in its history. Houston’s entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today in 2007. It stated that she paved the way for Mariah Carey’s chart-topping vocal gymnastics. In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange, New Jersey was renamed to The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts. In 2001, Houston was the first artist ever to be given a BET Lifetime Achievement Award.
Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide. Although she released relatively few albums, she was ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 55 million certified albums sold in the US alone