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Tribute to Whitney Houston, 1963 – 2012

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Mariam Zaidi
WVoN co-editor

Whitney Houston will be laid to rest on Saturday at the old church where she sang as a child.

A service will be held for the late singer at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.

On Saturday the world was shocked by the news that Houston had been found dead in the tub of her Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday. Despite efforts to revive her she was pronounced dead on the scene.  She was 48.

A coroner has ruled that there was no foul play in her death.

A post mortem examination carried out on the late singer’s body showed no obvious signs of trauma but it may take weeks before the actual cause of death is known.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Deputy LA coroner Ed Winter said it was too early to tell what might have killed Houston. There has been much speculation that she may have died from a drug overdose or drowned in her bath tub, but Winter refused to comment.  It could take up to eight weeks for the results of a toxicology report.

Adding to the tragedy of her death is the news that Houston’s teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina was rushed to hospital following her mother’s death to be treated for anxiety.  Although she has now been discharged, sources say family and friends are desperately worried about the 18 year old’s health and state of mind.

Houston had been due to appear at an annual pre-Grammy party hosted by her long-time mentor, record producer Clive Davis, at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Saturday evening.

According to TMZ, the singer was last seen in public on the night before her death, drinking at the hotel bar with friends.   The day before, she even gave an impromptu performance on stage at a pre Grammy party at the Tru Hollywood nightclub.  Sadly this was to be the troubled singer’s final performance.

Gifted with a pitch perfect voice and undeniable beauty, Whitney Elizabeth Houston was discovered by Clive Davis barely out of her teens.  But Houston was no ordinary young girl.  Her mother was singer Cissy Houston, her cousins were Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother was Aretha Franklin.

Houston’s 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release, followed by seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums.  She is also credited as the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits.

At the height of her fame in the 1990s she starred in the 1992 movie “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner, featuring what was possibly her greatest hit of all, the Dolly Parton written classic “I Will Always Love You.”

But sadly for Houston, her life spiralled out of control as she became increasingly dependent on drink and drugs.  Many close to her blamed her former husband and 80s pop star Bobby Brown for introducing the once squeaky clean gospel singer to drugs.

But even years after she divorced him in 2007, it seems she was never fully able to overcome her addiction and reclaim her success at the top of the charts.

She did make a celebrated comeback in 1998 with her fourth studio album “My Love Is Your Love,” which spawned a Grammy.  But this would be the last album she released that received any real critical acclaim and commercial success.

The death of Whitney Houston draws an eerie comparison to that of UK singer Amy Winehouse in July 2011.  Another tragic heroine of the music industry famed for her soulful voice but dead long before her time.  Another victim of continued substance abuse.

At the 54th Grammy Awards which took place on Sunday night in the US both Winehouse and Houston were honoured.  The ceremony opened with a prayer for Houston by host LL. Cool J and Jennifer Hudson gave a gut wrenching rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

Winehouse’s father came on stage to collect a posthumous award on behalf of his daughter.  He summed up the music industry’s loss as he said: “Long live Whitney Houston, long live Amy Winehouse, long live Etta James. There’s a beautiful girl band up in heaven.”

Houston, Winehouse and even the undisputed King of Pop Michael Jackson are just some of the incredible talents the music industry and the world as a whole has lost, tragically too soon to drugs.

Following Houston’s death, fresh calls have been made for more to be done to tackle drug addiction and more specifically, addiction to prescription drugs.

Speaking on twitter, celebrity Sharon Osborne said that instead of mocking addicts, more should be done to help them before it’s too late.

Singer Tony Bennett who himself has battled drug addiction in the past has called for better regulation of drugs.

Hopefully more can be done.  Hopefully educating people about the dangers of substance abuse will save lives.  Hopefully this will be the last time, well at least for a very long time the entertainment industry and the world will mourn the loss of such a great, great talent.  Hopefully……

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