Om Whitney Houston
Although she came to mostly make news for the drama in her private life, Whitney Houston was the first of the modern R&B divas, one of the most successful singers in the history of popular music. Houston got her start singing gospel with her mother, Cissy, while her pop chops were influenced by cousin Dionne Warwick. Whitney began her professional music career with the experimental jazz ensemble Material. When Clive Davis offered her a contract in 1983, the woman who would become the first artist to have seven consecutive No. 1 singles finally launched her pop career. By 1987's Whitney, Houston was a full-fledged star. After 1990's I'm Your Baby Tonight, she virtually abandoned an album career in favor of phenomenally successful singles, some (like the Dolly Parton cover "I Will Always Love You") attached to films in which Houston starred, and some the kind of stuff only she could pull off (who else could make "The Star-Spangled Banner" a hit single?). By the end of the '90s, Houston had gotten together with (and split from) husband Bobby Brown several times, stopped showing up for gigs and spent time in rehab. Fans still hoped for a comeback, even after 2009's "comeback" album I Look to You flopped. But sadly, Houston passed away on February 11, 2012, just a day before the Grammy Awards, which she was scheduled to attend.