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Whitney Houston Young: How the Singer Became ‘The Voice’

From the church choir to a global sensation, the singer graced the stage for years!

Commonly referred to as ‘The Voice,’ the late Whitney Houston single-handedly changed the world of pop and R&B music.

The six-time Grammy Award winning artist famously brought transformative life to “I Will Always Love You,” originally sung and written by Dolly Parton in 1973. The song was featured in Houston’s Oscar-nominated film The Bodyguard (1992) and — as most anyone can attest — at innumerable wedding receptions.

MUST-READ: The Top 15 Dolly Parton Songs, Ranked — Perfect to Listen to During Your ‘9 to 5’

The early life of Whitney Houston young

young girl posing
Whitney Houston (1980)Doug Vann / Contributor / Getty

Newark, New Jersey-born Houston comes from a musical background: Her mother is gospel star Cissy Houston and she’s the cousin of Dionne Warwick. Houston herself began singing in her local church choir — The New Hope Baptist Church — at a young age. By the time she was 15 she was singing backup vocals with her mother on Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” (1978).

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From there, Houston continued to sing backup for multiple artists, including Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson. While progressing her music career, she began to model, appearing on the cover of Seventeen magazine.

woman singing; whitney houston young
Whitney Houston (1982)Gary Gershoff / Contributor

In 1983, Houston signed with Arista Records after multiple major labels started to show interest in the young starlet. Finally, in 1985, she released her self-titled debut album. It was for the track “Saving All My Love for You” that Houston won her first Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance. The album was nominated for a Grammy as well.

I didn’t expect anything,” Houston said of her massive success. “I had no idea that it was going to be as major as it is, but I’m pleased about it. I’m sure glad it did happen.”

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Whitney Houston young releases a second hit album

Whitney Houston at the Grammy Awards (1986)Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

In 1987, Houston released her second album, Whitney. The vocalist won yet another Grammy in the category of Best Pop Vocal Performance for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” The song shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for two weeks.

Two other songs from the album, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” and “So Emotional,” landed at number one on the Hot 100 chart as well.

Houston hits the big screen

woman singing on stage; whitney houston young
Whitney Houston in ‘The Bodyguard’ (1992) Pictures

The singer with the astounding voice next turned her focus to the big screen, starring opposite Kevin Costner in 1992’s The Bodyguard, the success of which only furthered her stardom.

In addition to acting, Houston’s songs fill the first side of The Bodyguard‘s soundtrack album, which is arguably one of her best pieces of work. Among the tracks is her version of “I Will Always Love You,” a song that is iconically linked with the singer’s name.

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woman with an award
Whitney Houston at 36th Annual Grammy Awards (1994)Images Press / Contributor

Houston won three more Grammy awards that year, two specifically for “I Will Always Love You” and one for The Bodyguard soundtrack. Dolly Parton, the songwriter of the track, presented Houston with her Grammy award at the 36th annual award ceremony.

Dolly, of course, coming from you, this is truly an honor,” Houston said upon accepting her Grammy. “You wrote a beautiful song. Thank you so much for writing such beautiful songs.”

Houston’s career continues

woman and man hugging; whitney houston young
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown Robin Platzer / Contributor

In 1992, Houston married singer and rapper, Bobby Brown. The couple welcomed their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the following year. This was also around the same time the singer unfortunately began dabbling in drugs.

The star continued to appear in movies like Waiting to Exhale (1995), The Preacher’s Wife (1996), Cinderella (1997) and Sparkle, while also continuing a steady release of music, the next album being the soundtrack for The Preacher’s Wife.

Houston won her final Grammy Award in 2000, once more for Best Pop Vocal performance, for the song “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay,” off her album My Love Is Your Love (1998).

Houston’s later life

woman singing on stage
Whitney Houston (2009)Kevork Djansezian / Staff

As the years progressed, so did Houston’s rampant drug use. She went to rehab a few times to try and overcome her addiction — never quite beating it — and then she and her husband divorced in 2007. The singer finally released a comeback album — 2009’s I Look to You — after allegedly kicking her drug habit. Its success was not really a surprise to anyone.

Sadly, in 2012 Houston died from an accidental drowning resulting from the effects of cocaine and coronary artery disease. She was only 48. Even more tragic, Bobbi Kristina Brown died in a similar way just three years later at the age of 22

Whitney Houston will forever be remembered as ‘The Voice’ and one that impacted many lives. Her legacy lives on in the music industry and in the hearts of her devoted fans.

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