The beloved, long-suffering singer died Saturday inside a Beverly Hills hotel room, hours before she was expected to attend a pre-Grammy Awards party thrown by her longtime mentor Clive Davis .
And while the official cause of death is yet unknown — what’s been speculated so far is that Houston may have drowned in the bathtub after taking prescription drugs, including Xanax — given her very public struggle with substance abuse, depression and anxiety over the past decade, it’s hard not to conclude that some drug- or alcohol-related accident may have been to blame.
It’s much like, most recently, British singer Amy Winehouse and the late, great Michael Jackson before her, who died after taking a fatal cocktail of propofol and two other drugs. Also like Jackson, Houston’s sudden death — at the age of 48 — has stopped the world in its tracks, an enormous, one-of-a-kind musical flame forever extinguished.
Even Jackson’s brother, Jermaine — who was first introduced to Houston years ago by Clive Davis at the same Beverly Hills Hilton where the singer passed away — could not help but draw the comparison. In an interview with CNN overnight, he paid tribute to the two fallen musical giants. “They shared a lot of success in the late ’80s and they were great friends,” he said. “I’m happy and honored to have been a part of their lives.”
And oh, what lives they led: Like Jackson — who died at just 50 years old, after years of struggling with personal demons — Houston, too, had an intensely profound and everlasting impact on the world of entertainment.
Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and countless other chart-topping entertainers have all name-checked her as their musical mentor, icon and inspiration: To date, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time, with more than 170 million albums, songs and videos sold.
In her lifetime, Houston achieved what precious few of them have or ever will — stacking an astonishing 415 awards, including six Grammys, two Emmys, 22 American Music Awards, 30 Billboard Awards.
Her voice, in its prime, was a national treasure.
“X Factor” mastermind Simon Cowell may have summed it up the best: On “Piers Morgan Tonight,” he said, “She was one of the greatest voices in our lifetime. Whitney was the number one singer that other singers want to emulate. People like that can’t be manufactured. They’ve either got, it or they don’t.”
He added, “You will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.”
Like Michael before her, gone too soon.
MTV News’ Sway and James Montgomery will be live from the Grammys red carpet tonight starting at 5 p.m. ET to get reactions from music’s biggest stars on the death of Whitney Houston. Watch reactions and remembrances at MTV.com.
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