Born in Newark, Whitney Houston was destined to share her remarkable vocal gift. Her mother, Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick and her godmother, Aretha Franklin, all are legendary figures in American gospel, soul, and pop music. Cissy Houston was the choir minister at New Hope Baptist Church, where Whitney started singing. At 15, Whitney and her mother were performing locally as well as recording backing vocals for other artists, as they did on Chaka Khan’s 1978 hit, “I’m Every Woman.” She also sang on Cissy’s recordings, as well as those for Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson. Houston also worked briefly as a model; in 1981, she became one of the first African-American women to appear on the cover of Seventeen. She began working as a featured vocalist for the New York-based funk band Material, when she was discovered by Arista Records president Clive Davis. Two years later, he turned her into a full-blown pop music star. Her debut album, Whitney Houston, featured two smash hits, “Saving All My Love For You” and “How Will I Know,” propelling the album — which sold 25 million copies around the world — to a 14-week stay at the top of the charts. She won her first Grammy for “Saving All My Love For You” in 1986.
A year later, Houston’s second album, Whitney, became a multi-platinum smash and cemented Houston’s standing as one of the pop music’s greatest singers. In 1992, Houston was married to R&B singer Bobby Brown and took another step in her career, starring opposite Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. The soundtrack included a cover of Dolly Parton’s 1974 hit, “I Will Always Love You,” which topped the charts and became Houston’s biggest hit. Houston won more Grammys for the soundtrack, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Later, in the 1990’s, Houston also starred in The Preacher’s Wife and Waiting to Exhale, both accompanied by hit soundtracks as well. In 1993, her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was born.
Her 1998 album, My Love Is Your Love, was a critical success. Despite a variety of personal struggles, Houston had another critical and popular success with her 2009 comeback album, I Look To You. After her death in 2012, her final film,Sparkle, was released.
Class of 2013 Inductee Dionne Warwick is Houston’s cousin. Warwick presented Houston with her first Grammy award, in 1986.