Today (Aug. 9) would have been Whitney Houston‘s 53rd birthday and her loss is still felt in the more than four years since she passed.
Houston is still known as one of the most powerful singers to ever succeed within the pop music sphere. While her competitors Janet Jackson and Madonna topped Houston in terms of songwriting and subversiveness, she was peerless when it came to her vocal chops. It was in its full, incandescent power right from her first self-titled album, released in 1985. Houston’s performance was on-point on all fronts, from the saccharine pop jams (“Saving All My Love for You” and “How Will I Know,” both No. 1 songs) to the ballads (“Greatest Love of All,” another No. 1 jam).
The hits continued to fall through the ’80s and ’90s, and Houston eventually became one of the highest-selling solo artists of all-time. There was “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay,” in addition to the multiple in between. However, Houston reached her peak in 1992 with “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard soundtrack. The song earned Houston Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance trophies at the 1994 Grammy Awards.
Sadly, Houston’s success was followed by the shadows of drug addiction and her tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown (they divorced in 2007). Her troubles manifested themselves with her death on Feb. 11, 2012, when she was found in a hotel bathtub. The doctors said drowning and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use” were the causes of death.
The circumstances surrounding Houston’s passing are regrettably dark, but her legacy is in the countless Africa-American artists she inspired.