Whitney Houston was an American singer and actress who lived from August 9, 1963, to February 11, 2012. She is known as “The Voice” and is one of the most successful music artists of all time, with over 200 million albums sold worldwide.
Houston is noted for her powerful, soulful vocals and vocal improvisation skills, and she has impacted many singers in popular music. From “Saving All My Love for You” in 1985 to “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” in 1988, she is the only artist to achieve seven consecutive number-one songs on the Billboard Hot 100.
Houston’s popularity grew even more as she entered the film industry. Her recordings and films have received a lot of attention and sparked a lot of debate.
She garnered numerous awards during her career and after her death, including two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 28 Guinness World Records entries, and inductions into the Grammy, Rhythm, and Blues Music, and Rock and Roll halls of fame.
Houston began singing in church as a child and progressed through high school to become a background vocalist. After starting off as a young model in 1981, she became one of the first black women to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine.
Houston signed to Arista Records at the age of 19 with the help of Clive Davis, the label’s chairman. Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987), her first two studio albums, both peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and are among the best-selling albums of all time.
I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), Houston’s third studio album, had two Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles: “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “All the Man That I Need.”
Beginnings in Life, Family, and Career
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in a middle-class neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, on August 9, 1963. She was the daughter of gospel singer Emily “Cissy” (Drinkard) Houston and ex-Army serviceman and Newark municipal administrator.
John Russell Houston Jr. Michael, her older brother, is a songwriter. Gary Garland, her older half-brother, is a former basketball player and vocalist.
Her parents were both African-American, while her ancestors were reported to be Dutch and Native American. Houston was a first cousin of singers Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick through her mother.
Darlene Love was her godmother, and Aretha Franklin was her honorary aunt, whom she met when her mother took her to a recording studio when she was eight or nine years old.
Houston grew up as a Baptist, but he was also exposed to Pentecostalism. When she was four years old, the family relocated to a middle-class neighborhood in East Orange, New Jersey, following the 1967 Newark riots. Later, her parents divorced.
Houston began performing as a soloist in the New Hope Baptist Church’s junior gospel choir at the age of eleven, where she also learned to play the piano. “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” was her first solo performance in the chapel.
Houston’s mother, Cissy, continued to teach her how to sing while she was still in school. Cissy was a member of the Sweet Inspirations, a group that opened for Elvis Presley and sang backup for him.
Houston spent some of her adolescence traveling to nightclubs to see Cissy perform, and she would occasionally join her onstage.
Houston was also exposed to Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack’s music, all of whom influenced her as a vocalist and performer. She debuted as a backing singer on the Michael Zager Band’s single “Life’s a Party” in 1977 when she was 14 years old.
Houston recorded backup vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls on their 1980 albums Naughty and Shades of Blue, respectively when she was around 16 years old.
Achievements and Awards of Whitney Houston
Houston received numerous awards, including two Emmys, six Grammys, two Grammy Hall of Fame inductions, fourteen World Music Awards, sixteen Billboard Music Awards, and twenty-two American Music Awards. With eight wins in 1994.
Houston maintains the record for the most American Music Awards won by a woman in a single year (overall tied with Michael Jackson). At the fourth Billboard Music Awards presentation in 1993, Houston set a new record by winning a total of 11 awards.
She also holds the record for winning the most World Music Awards in a single year, with five at the 1994 World Music Awards. Houston was the first musician to get a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received in 2001.
Houston was and continues to be the youngest artist to earn this distinction, having received it at the age of 37 at the time. Houston received the BET Walk of Fame for the second time five years earlier, in 1996, and was the youngest winner at 32 years old.
Houston was ranked third on VH1’s “50 Greatest Women of the Video Era” list in May 2003. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the US singles chart, Billboard magazine published a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists in 2008, with Houston ranked ninth.
Similarly, in September 2010, VH1 named her one of the “Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”
Houston was rated third on Billboard’s “Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years” list, which included not only eight number-one singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, but also five number ones on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
What Is Whitney Houston’s Net Worth?
Whitney Houston was a singer, model, and actress who died with a net worth of less than $20 million. Despite signing a $100 million contract and selling over 200 million albums during her career, Whitney Houston died destitute following years of overspending and general financial mismanagement.
When she died in February 2012, she was approximately $20 million in debt to her record label, Sony. Whitney’s estate made tens of millions of dollars through increased album sales, streaming royalties, and other licensing deals in the years after her death.
Death and Financial Difficulties
Whitney Houston died in a hotel room in Beverly Hills, California on February 11th, 2012. Whitney earned two Emmy honors, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards over her career. Her net worth had plummeted in the last few years of her life.
When she secured a $100 million recording contract with Sony/Arista in 2001, she was broke. That number is especially stunning when you consider that Whitney could earn up to $30 million per year from touring alone during the height of her fame.
When a musician lands a $100 million record deal, the money does not come in all at once. An artist is paid in installments, with each installment serving as a debt secured by the success of subsequent albums.
Whitney barely made $40 million out of her $100 million contract, and her albums did not sell well. As a result, she owes the record label about $20 million in total. Whitney’s back catalog is owned by Sony/Arista, and sales have recently soared.
Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown will not receive any money until 5 million new albums are sold and the $20 million is repaid.
Whitney filed documents in Orange County, California (where the pair was legally married) in 2007 indicating that she had $4 million in debts/obligations, a $300,000 life insurance policy, $225,000 in a stock portfolio, and just $40,000 in cash when she divorced Bobby Brown.
Whitney claimed to own two properties at the time: a $6.5 million mansion in New Jersey with a $3.3 million mortgage and a $1.2 million Atlanta townhouse with a $1.05 million mortgage. Houston also had art and jewels worth over $2 million.
In 2007, Whitney claimed to have a net worth of $6 million, with around $10 million in assets and slightly over $4 million in debts.