LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen told reporters outside the Beverly Hilton that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the hotel. Her body remained there and Beverly Hills detectives were investigating.

“There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent at this time,” Rosen said.

Photo Gallery: Whitney Houston

Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the cause of her death was unknown.

Reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9 Los Angeles, Edward Lawrence said she was found on the 4th floor of the Beverly Hilton. He said paramedics tried to revive her but she was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reports

Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony.

Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.

Photo Gallery: Notable Deaths In ’12

“I just can’t talk about it now. It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen. My heart goes out to Cissy, her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby,” Aretha Franklin said Saturday.

“I am stunned at the passing of Whitney Houston whom I have known since the late 1980’s. I have known her mother, the great gospel singer Cissy, and her aunt Dionne Warwick, down through the years, and the world is saddened by this great loss. Tomorrow Morning at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles I will call for a national prayer for her family and the memory of Whitney Houston. The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,” said Rev. Al Sharpton.

Celebrities react to Whitney Houston’s passing on Twitter

Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press that she would perhaps perform: “It’s her favorite night of the year … (so) who knows by the end of the evening,” he said.

Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.

Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.

Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday, and paramedics were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party. Paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, the lieutenant said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

“The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,” Sharpton said in a written statement.

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

She had the perfect voice and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good Morning America.”

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.

Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation’s most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.”

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989.

“Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?” she told Katie Couric in 1996. “You’re not black enough for them. I don’t know. You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.”

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop’s pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. (The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.

“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that’s their image. It’s part of them, it’s not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody’s angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”

It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America’s sweetheart.

In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with “The Bodyguard.” Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the “Bodyguard” soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, “My Love Is Your Love,” in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”

But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time “The Preacher’s Wife” was released, “(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. … I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. … I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown’s reality show, “Being Bobby Brown,” was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album “I Look To You.” The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on “Good Morning America” went awry as Houston’s voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

What do you remember about Whitney Houston? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (51)
  1. julia j jones says:

    whinty hoiuston i just want the world to know i’ll always love you fom julia jones from columbus ohio

  2. John Kerry says:

    Crack ho. Perfect example of what the maggot in DC is turning this country into: tolerance for ‘those po’ peoples in the streets’.

    1. julia j jones says:

      to all those that spoke badly of whinty houston she dead she cant defend her self so im speaking in her behalf do judge a book by its cover and go f….

  3. Mariah Catherine says:

    Whitney Houston was my favorite singer when I was in grammar and high school. Her voice uplifted and gifted my heart. “Step by Step” kept me motivated to keep on living at a time when I was suicidal and emotionally run-down. Whitney had free will just like everyone else does. She did some good things w/it & some sinful. We’ve all inherited sin from Adam & Eve & non of us knows Whitney’s final conversations w/God. I appreciate the times when Whitney was at her heathiest & her voice was at its holiest.

  4. KOOKOO says:

    Lol sick but funny.

    1. Jduzit Tha Artist says:

      Add quite ignorant…both of you!

      1. Prince is the Artist says:

        It still was funny

  5. Republican National Commitee says:

    Everybody is completely ignoring the REAL tragedy here…

    Whitney died IN VAIN because there is no way to blame her death on Barack Obama.

    1. julia j jones says:

      thank you mr president i thank you the greastest yhank you for beibg here for the peopleyou bhave my vote god bless you and your family

  6. Cesar P. says:

    forgive me for not being something in your life, I am nobody but surely would have loved you like no other, and yesterday I would have gone with you …

    1. U need help says:

      Wow you need mental help Sir.Your 1 can short of six pack.Maybe your panties are to tight no circulation to your brain.She was a drug abuser not a Saint.We mourn heros not zeros.Thats why kids have false idols nowadays.

  7. Bullett says:

    Waste of Talent

  8. seth says:

    Elvis. Janis, Hendrix,Jacxkson, Whitney Just to name a few.Drugssssss. Eat you up!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. whocares says:

    The daughter Bobbie is already a crackhead

  10. nycsucks says:

    Who died?

  11. RL says:

    Whitney will be terribly missed. She elevated the music industry to another level and elevated her fans to heights unknown. She blessed us with her voice and even tho she’s gone, her music will continue to envelope our ears, engulf our hearts, and delight our spirits. She loved us through song and many of us loved her back, unconditionally. May she now rest in unbridled peace. She will never be forgotten.

  12. Tracey sly says:

    My condolences 2 ur luvly daughter & family.RIP

  13. Paul Ahn says:

    So well said- I agree! She was a beautiful and talented human being- and people should treat her as such-RIP Whitney

  14. MARCIA DOBY says:


    1. Just be honest says:

      It is not nice to write all in caps.So you are saying Whitney was not a junkie and it was ok for Michael to sleep with little boys.I think God will be questioning you.

    2. Richard Chris Wolters-Photography says:

      Marcia, Don’t we Judge them when we hold them up as idols? I think we are called to discernment. To call right and wrong in society is good. To make Gods call and say someone is going to Hell well now that is wrong I agree. If we Judge we have to firstly be morally correct in that area beforehand…. For instance an Adulterer could not call out someone for cheating on his wife because that person has also sinned in a similar manner and cannot speak to that issue…

  15. Gomez Bert says:

    I’m so sad after i heard that news,, rest in peace,,http://1url.com/lS2

  16. Charles A. Billy says:

    I was present at Super Bowl xxv.I loved all of her music but when Whitney sang The Star Spangled Banner She sent chills down my spine. Great talent —beautiful women. Such a shame.
    My best to her family and friends.
    New Jersey Resident

  17. James B says:

    Oh my sweet, sweet Whitney. Why honey why? I never even met you or even seen you live, but you’ve became apart of my life. I am gonna dearly miss this human being. I am so glad that I lived during a time that super stars like Whitney Houston was alive. People hundreds of years later will look back at singers of old, they will hear Whitney Houston’s voice and they will say ” Wow. Now that was a nice voice.” Please Whitney honey, R.I.P.

  18. Alexey Ryazan Russia says:

    I can’t beleive in that. It is very sad news. I beleive that her songs will live in our souls, our hearts. RIP. Alexey.

    1. Dave says:

      Didn’t she sing the Star Spangled Banner at the super Bowl at the start of Desert Storm?

  19. tc says:

    Rest In Peace__ so sad to hear her passing. Loved all her music.
    As I read this horrible nasty comments on here__ dont judge because you dont know what she was suffering from, everyone has problems in these times. It doesnt matter that she had money, even people that dont have money have problems too__drinking,drugs,ect…
    The bottom line is she died so young and that her life ended early. Dont be judgemental or cruel.
    We dont know what God has in store for all__we are all going to die and we should be kind to one another instead of all this hatred.

  20. Neer says:

    Itduzz You’re an a$$hole, and any REAL Muslims out there would agree, ya know the peacful ones who have this thing called respect unlike you you f***ing d bag!

  21. Deborah Jeffries says:

    I’m so sad for Whitney and her daughter. A talent taken way too soon like Billie Holiday and Judy Garland.

  22. Luella Garcia says:

    I am truly sadden about the news of Whitney Houston death,I was so looking forward to her come back and now I will just have too continue to keep her memories going from all of the good things that she stood for during her life.
    To the Family of Whitney stay strong and may God heal your hurt for the love one that you have just lost.My Deepest Sympathy.

  23. camellia says:

    im soo sadd that whitney hadd died r.i.p

  24. Pat Coles says:

    Rest in Peace I am sure you and Micheal are singing with the angels ahh to be in heaven hope to meet you there one day.

    1. truth says:

      Child molesters and junkies do not make it into Heaven .Do not even go there.There is hell or they be in limbo for eternity.

  25. Another 1 bites the dust says:

    What a waste… all that talent, all that beauty, all that money… all gone.

    Whitney said it best, crack is whack.

    1. LU says:

      and you’re an a$$

      1. Rip say no to drugs says:

        True she loved drugs more then life.She was good singer very long time ago but ended ua has been.

        1. LU says:

          @ Rip say no to drugs

          This isn’t a debate. Just an informative respond. I’m mourning someone I never knew, but wish I had.

          ADDICTION: Over the counter or under, it will swallow you up. I’ve seen it first hand at the young age of (7). I saw ADULTS high most of the time and I didn’t understand. You see, time has passed and nothing has REALLY changed.

          OMG.. You can drink and drive and get a TAP on the wrist. You can buy any type of drug on and off the market as long as you have a buck. You want to pass judgments? Why are ADULTS in the burbs sniffing glue and creating meth labs? Please….. REALLY!! LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

  26. SGB says:

    Her rendition of the natiuonal anthem before the Super Bowl in 2007 willl NEVER be surpassed. No matter how many times you hear it you get chills. What a loss.

  27. Fiona says:


    1. bitchy says:

      did u know her .

  28. jai says:

    …… Saving all my love for you…… I heard that song that voice and i was hooked, then i saw that gorgeous woman. The whole package and the most beautiful voice and tone of her generation. What a lost. What a shame. RIP

  29. Adelaide Australia says:

    Your albums were my all time favorite while I was growing up ….. All time best song …… Greatest Love of All !!!! May you rest in peace!!!!

  30. mak says:

    How very sad. I am at a loss for words. My heart goes out to her family.

    RIP, Whitney.

  31. RN Psych says:

    I wonder as so many people that excel in show business and the other
    arts that need drugs, usually have e bi-polar disease formerly called
    Manic -Depressive ,if she could not stand the off time from her own
    choice of drugs?

    1. Daphne says:

      @ ” RN “..I recommend you have your cranium examined by a physician. Whitney Houston was a musical genius who like every other blood borne human was not perfect. You may perhaps sit in front of your screen and pretend to be perfect but based on your time in-sensitive irrelevant comment, YOU ARE NOT. Whitney passed away this afternoon, if you don’t have anything respectable to say at this time…I suggest you turn off your monitor and do a bit of inner soul searching.

    2. MANHATTAN says:

      People in the arts and other venues turn to drugs/alcohol because it’s there. It’s the thing to do when you want to feel like your “fit in the in crowd”. “They dont “need it like the air you breath. It’s there. I was in the arts and drinking and getting high was the thing to do but I refused to indulge in either. I was considered an “outcast” and I didn’t care. On the subject… you know Mick Jagger? His face tells a story.

      Focus in WHY there are BARS in on every other corner and why drugs are still allowed into this country? Give that some thought and you will find your answers.

  32. Daphne says:

    Oh my Lord, my musical sister, friend in my head. For many years I have always loved Whitney, she was a wonderful, musical talented sensation. In life we are not perfect and we all have our flaws. Her voice was inspirationally amazing, I was a fan of Bodyguard and always thought she should have married Kevin..My thoughts and prayers are with Bobbi Kristina and have no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be loved and cared for by Bobby and Whitneys’ family. May she rest in peace, I love you Whitney !

  33. Tiffany says:

    what a shame she had an awesome voice back in the day..what a shame that money and drugs got the best of her…Prayers go out to her family she will be missed

    1. DOWNTOWN FAMILY... says:



      1. Mourn heros not zeros says:

        Hard to mourn a junkie.Was a great singer once but that was long time ago.Not a good role model and could not get off that crack and coke.

  34. MANHATTAN says:

    🙁 Shocking and very sad!!!! I hope your soul is now at peace. No one could hold a note to you, and you turned out the “BODY GUARD”. I will always, always love you madame.

    My condolences to your daughter, family and extended families.

    MS. L.

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