Let’s first remember the good times.
Let’s picture Whitney Houston singing the 1985 chart-topper “Saving All My Love For You,” soaring through the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, starring in the 1992 hit film “The Bodyguard” and winning three big trophies at the 1994 Grammy Awards.
Take a moment to focus on those accomplishments – or any of the dozens of other equally worthy feats – before turning attention to the darker days that dominated the singer’s later years. Houston, no doubt, did nearly as much to sabotage her career as she did to build it. Drug use, erratic behavior, legal problems, relationship woes, embarrassing TV interviews and disappointing live shows were all part of her story.
And now that story has come to a close. Houston’s wild roller-coaster ride of a career came to an abrupt halt on Saturday, when the 48-year-old singer was pronounced dead at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel. The cause of death was unknown, according to Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster.
It’s a sad ending, especially since Houston never truly realized her comeback dreams in the way millions of fans believed was possible. Her most recent world tour was plagued with problems, which only served to further tarnish her once-blinding star.
None of that, however, should ultimately impact Houston’s overall legacy. Despite her tumultuous life and career, she will likely be remembered as one of the greatest vocalists in history. And some say she deserves an even higher ranking.
“Whitney Houston was the best singer of all time,” says local radio personality Nikki Thomas, of KBLX 102.9 FM. “There was never anyone who had that kind of voice. She was just perfect. There is nobody on the scene today that comes anywhere close.”
Certainly the numbers strengthen the argument in Houston’s favor. Her stats are simply mind-blowing.
Most notable, Houston is the most highly awarded female artist in history, according to the Guinness World Records folks. In her prime, she dominated many of the big award shows, including the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards, on her way to winning more than 400 awards in her amazing career.
“Six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston was one of the world’s greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades,” said Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy and Grammy Awards, in a statement.
Houston’s track record on the charts is almost as impressive as her trophy case. She ranks as one of the world’s best-selling musicians, having sold more than 170 units during her nearly 30 years in the business.
Yet, it wasn’t just quantity – it was quality. Houston possessed one of those rare voices – so big, so clear, so undeniable – that millions of fans were permanently hooked after just their first exposure. Count Thomas among that number. The DJ says she’ll never forget the first time she heard Houston sing.
“I know what year it was,” she says. “I know what grade I was in. I remember how I felt.”
Houston’s talent was undeniable from the start _ and it was as impressive to fans as it was to professional musicians. Pete Escovedo, the Latin jazz legend in San Jose, Calif., over the weekend to perform at Yoshi’s San Francisco, remembers sharing a local bill with Houston early on in the singer’s career.
“We were very fortunate that we were on the same bill together at the Concord Pavilion,” he says. “We were just amazed at her talent and how great she was. She was definitely one of the great singers of R&B music.
“She was so talented. There are a lot of singers and a lot of performers, but she stood out as one of the great ones at a really early age.”
And that’s how she’ll always be remembered – as one of the great ones.