New Jersey native, Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark in 1963. It’s no wonder she chose music as a career, since her mother is singer Cissy Houston, her cousins are Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother is Aretha Franklin.
Whitney first started singing in church where she also learned to play the piano. She also traveled with her mother on her tours when Whitney was in her early teens. On occasion, she would join her mother on stage.
In addition to singing backup on Chaka Khan’s hit single, “I’m Every Woman” when she was just fifteen, and which Whitney would also make a hit, she also appeared doing background work on albums by Jermaine Jackson and Lou Rawls.
Before Whitney’s singing career took off, she was a familiar face as a model on the cover of many magazines, including Seventeen, Glamour and Cosmopolitan.
In 1983, Whitney was signed to Clive Davis’ Arista Records where she recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass, which went Top 5 on Billboard’s R&B Charts. Her first solo album, “Whitney Houston”, had problems getting off the ground with two unsuccessful singles. However, her third single, “You Give Good Love” went to #3 on Billboard’s Top 40 Weekly Charts.
On the charts, Whitney made it to the Top 40 thirty times, with eleven of those singles going to number one. Here’s a look at Whitney Houston’s twenty biggest hits, according to Billboard’s Weekly Top 40 charts.
1. I Will Always Love You – 1992 – Written by Dolly Parton in 1973 and recorded by Dolly in 1974, Whitney’s biggest single came from her “The Bodyguard” soundtrack and the single spent an astounding fourteen weeks at number one.
2. Greatest Love Of All – 1986 – Written for George Benson in 1977 for the Muhammad Ali film “The Greatest” and going top 40 with it, Whitney’s version went to #1.
3. How Will I Know – 1985 – When Janet Jackson passed on this song, Whitney recorded it for her first album.
4. All The Man I Need – 1990 – Originally recorded by Linda Clifford in 1982, another version was released by Sister Sledge before Whitney went to number one.
5. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) – 1987 – Whitney won an American Music Award and a Grammy Award for this single.
6. Didn’t We Almost Have It All – 1987 – This was Whitney’s fifth consecutive number one single and it was nominated as the Grammy Song of the Year.
7. Where Do Broken Hearts Go? – 1988 – Her fourth number one single from her “Whitney” album, a feat accomplished by only three other female singers.
8. Exhale (Shoop Shoop) – 1995 – Whitney’s eleventh #1 single debuted at #1 in its first week, which is only the third single to ever do this. Actor Forest Whitaker directed the music video.
9. Saving All My Love For You – 1985 – Originally released by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. in 1978, this was Whitney’s first #1 single.
10. So Emotional – 1988 – This was Whitney’s sixth consecutive #1 single, which put her in a three way tie with The Beatles and The Bee Gees for this feat.
11. I’m Your Baby Tonight – 1990 – Title cut from the album of the same name.
12. Heartbreak Hotel – 1999 – Not to be confused with the Elvis Presley hit of the same name, Whitney’s song included help from R&B singers Faith Evans and Kelly Price.
13. You Give Good Love – 1985 – Whitney’s first Top 10 single was originally offered to Roberta Flack.
14. I’m Every Woman – 1993 – Originally a hit for Chaka Khan in 1978, going to #21 on the weekly charts and with Whitney doing backing vocals, Whitney recorded the same song going to #4.
15. I Have Nothing – 1993 – The third Top 10 single from her “The Bodyguard Soundtrack” album.
16. I Believe In You And Me – 1996 – Originally recorded by The Four Tops in 1983, Whitney released the song on her “The Preacher’s Wife” soundtrack.
17. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – 1999 – Whitney received the 2000 Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Vocalist Performance for this song.
18. My Love Is Your Love – 1999 – The third Top 10 single from the album of the same name.
19. One Moment In Time – 1988 – A song used by NBC-TV for the 1988 Olympics.
20. The Star Spangled Banner – 2001 – Recorded at Super Bowl XXV in 1991, with all proceeds going to the fighting men and women in the Persian Gulf and going to #20 on the weekly charts, it was rereleased following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, going to #6 on the weekly charts and again all proceeds went to charity; this time to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.
As an actress, Whitney starred with Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard.” She also appeared in “Waiting To Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” On TV, she appeared, in her early years, on episodes of “Gimme A Break” and “Silver Spoons.” She was the fairy godmother in the 1997 version of “Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”
By the late 1990’s, Whitney became a more difficult performer and appeared late for interviews, rehearsals and photo shoots. She even cancelled some concerts. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, she admitted to drug abuse and problems with her husband, singer Bobby Brown, whom Whitney divorced in 2007.
According to the Guinness World Records, Whitney has received two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. She has also received the first BET Lifetime Achievement Award.
In an effort to redeem herself, Whitney released her most recent album, “I Look To You” in 2009 and after being absent from the world tour circuit for over ten years, she launched her Nothing But Love World Tour in 2010, which has been hailed as a triumphant comeback.
SOURCE: Joel Whitburn – The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits – Billboard Publications