Whitney Houston, who dominated pop music in the '80s and '90s with her powerful voice and high-fashion looks before a public struggle with drugs and a rocky marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died unexpectedly Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 48.
Her publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died but offered no details on the cause of death. The Beverly Hills Police Department said Houston's death in her fourth-floor room at the Beverly Hilton was under investigation.
Houston had been in Los Angeles to attend ceremonies surrounding the Grammy Awards, where she had been rewarded for her work seven times.
Houston had walked the red carpet Thursday night and performed at the "Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For The Love Of R&B Grammy Party," and, according to witnesses, had left the party upset and acting erratically. She had been expected to attend her mentor Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party Saturday night.
It was Davis who ushered Houston, a native of Newark, into the spotlight in 1985, with her debut album "Whitney Houston" that spawned six hit singles, including "Saving All My Love for You" and "The Greatest Love of All." Her mix of gospel power and pop sensibilities reflected her upbringing, as the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin and cousin of Dionne Warwick.
After a string of hit albums, Houston turned to movies, starring in blockbuster hits "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale." The success of her soundtrack to "The Bodyguard," featuring "I Will Always Love You," has been remembered in recent days, as Adele's "21" is the first album in decades to challenge the soundtrack's 20-week run at No. 1 in 1992 and 1993.
Despite Houston's struggles in her career in recent years, her influence is still seen in today's singers, from Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera to any number of "American Idol" hopefuls who try to copy her fluttering multi-note runs.
However, Houston has also become an example of the hazards of drug use. "The biggest devil is me," Houston, with then-husband Bobby Brown at her side, told ABC's Diane Sawyer in 2002. "I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy."
Her marriage to Brown was a tumultuous one until they divorced in 2007, though they were both publicly devoted to their daughter Bobbi Kristina, born in 1993.
"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."
She had admitted in interviews to using cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs but infamously drew the line at crack cocaine, saying, "Crack is wack." In addition to affecting her behavior, documented in the reality series "Being Bobby Brown," her drug use, especially the smoking, also affected her voice. In her numerous attempts at a comeback, it became clear, especially on her 2009 album "I Look to You," that she could no longer hit the notes she once did and the clarity of her voice suffered.
Houston was in the midst of another comeback, following two stints in rehab before declaring herself drug-free to Oprah Winfrey in 2010. She was set to star in the movie "Sparkle" this year and was hoping to reignite her music and touring careers as well. Unfortunately, her performance Thursday night at Kelly Price's party, called lackluster by several in attendance, would end up being her final one.