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How Did Whitney Houston Die? The Tragic Story

June 16, 2023
how did whitney houston die

Whitney Houston passed away on February 11, 2012, a day before the Grammy Awards, causing a profound impact on the music community and global audience.

The singer accidentally drowned in a hotel room, leaving behind her 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown.

Whitney Houston’s extraordinary talent and career made a lasting imprint on the music industry, abruptly and sorrowfully ending.

Recognized as “The Voice,” she possessed an unmatched vocal prowess that garnered numerous accolades throughout her life and even posthumously.

However, her substance abuse cases and turbulent personal life outside the public eye became equally as notorious as her music.

How Did Whitney Houston Rise to Fame?

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 9, 1963.

Her father, John, served in the Army and worked for the city, while her mother, Emily Drinkard, was a gospel singer.

Drinkard had the opportunity to sing backup vocals for Aretha Franklin, an encounter that brought joy to young Houston.

From an early age, Houston showcased a remarkable talent that seemed heaven-sent, and she enthusiastically sang in church with the dedication of a seasoned professional.

Her vocal abilities grew so powerful during her teenage years that Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan enlisted her as their backup singer.

It wasn’t long before record producers recognized her potential and sought her out.

In 1982, Clive Davis, who had already transformed artists like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel into superstars, offered Houston a record contract with Arista Records.

At just 21 years old, Houston released her self-titled debut album in 1985, skyrocketing to success with iconic hits such as “How Will I Know” and “The Greatest Love of All.”

Demonstrating unmatched passion and a voice akin to an angel, Whitney achieved remarkable success with her second album, Whitney, which earned her a Grammy Award for the electrifying track “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

Within a mere decade, she transformed into a revered musical icon.

However, this period coincided with a prevalent culture of recreational cocaine use within the industry, and as her fame skyrocketed, so did her perilous addictions.

Following her marriage to singer Bobby Brown in 1992, her substance abuse spiraled out of control.

How Did Whitney Houston Die?

On February 11, 2012, Houston was preparing to attend the annual pre-Grammy party hosted by her longtime friend and mentor, Clive Davis.

During the day, Houston appeared to be her usual self, engaging in phone conversations with her cousin Dionne Warwick and her mother, who noted that everything seemed normal.

However, just 30 minutes after her call with her mother, the singer was discovered by her personal assistant, Mary Jones, in an unresponsive state in a bathtub.

Mary Jones said she briefly left the hotel room for approximately 20 minutes to collect the singer’s dress for the evening party.

Upon her return, she discovered Houston lying face-down in the bathtub, with blood emanating from her nose and appearing unconscious.

Upon discovering Houston’s condition, she immediately called emergency services.

Given that police were already present at the location in anticipation of the day’s activities, they responded swiftly within two minutes.

Paramedics arrived shortly after that and tried to revive the singer for 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, despite their diligent attempts, they could not succeed, and at 3:55 p.m., Houston was officially pronounced deceased.

The Days Before Houston’s Death 

The news of Houston’s drug use at the time of her passing shook her friends and family.

Despite her previous struggles with addiction during her marriage to Bobby Brown throughout the 1990s and 2000s, she had undergone treatment and achieved sobriety by at least 2007.

In 2011, Houston voluntarily entered a rehabilitation facility for a brief period, and her public relations team communicated that she was actively participating in an outpatient program as part of her ongoing recovery.

However, the week before her death, Houston’s friends and family started noticing an unusual behavior, as she appeared agitated and disoriented.

After Houston’s final performance alongside Kelly Price on February 9, the media noted her perspiration, distress, and visible cuts on her hand and leg.

Reports surfaced regarding an altercation at the club where Houston had attended a pre-Grammy party.

However, Price staunchly defended the singer, asserting that their evening together was completely normal and that the disheveled appearance of attendees was due to vigorous dancing in the hot venue.

Houston appeared at numerous gatherings alongside fellow celebrities in the following days and exuded a sense of vitality.

However, she left reporters puzzled during a press junket held the day before her passing.

She exhibited profuse sweating during the event, and her behavior appeared almost erratic.

Houston would dance and skip around the room off-camera and occasionally seems disoriented as she wandered through the lobby.

Security personnel reportedly discovered her engaging in handstands by the hotel pool.

Houston planned to attend Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party on the day of her demise.

Davis, who played a pivotal role in securing Houston’s initial record deal, had maintained a friendship with her ever since.

Investigations

After Houston’s death, thorough investigations were conducted to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the 48-year-old’s death and the potential involvement of any foul play.

Official reports from the coroner’s office stated that Houston was discovered face-down in a bathtub filled with water.

However, facial abrasions indicated that she might not have been actively taking a bath but had instead fallen into the tub.

Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, shared his perspective that Houston was already in a critical condition before the fall and could not extricate herself from the bathtub.

He observed that the water in the tub was notably warm, measuring 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit, suggesting that the basin had recently been filled, but Houston had not yet entered the tub.

Wecht highlighted that water at such a temperature could potentially cause burns on the singer’s skin.

Nevertheless, Wecht also acknowledged that submersion in the water may have played a role in contributing to her demise.

Reports from the scene also revealed the discovery of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia within the bathroom.

Among the items found was a rolled-up piece of paper typically associated with inhalation.

Additionally, several prescription pill bottles were present in Houston’s hotel room.

However, toxicology reports concluded that these medications did not significantly impact her death.

Although the singer had various substances in her system, including cannabis, Flexeril, Benadryl, and Xanax, the only one found in substantial quantities was cocaine.

Furthermore, open containers of alcohol were located throughout her hotel room.

The concentration of cocaine detected in Houston’s body indicated recent usage, likely occurring within hours before her demise.

Investigators believed she was considerably intoxicated at the time of her death.

The official cause of death was due to cocaine use and underlying coronary artery disease.

Whitney Houston’s Last Words

At approximately 3:15 p.m. on February 11, Houston engaged in a phone conversation with her mother.

The call occurred 40 minutes before her unfortunate passing in her hotel room.

Her mother has not disclosed the details of their conversation, but she did mention that her daughter appeared in good spirits.

Two days before her demise, on February 9, Houston accompanied Clive Davis during their visit to singers Brandy and Monica, who were amidst rehearsals for the music executive’s party scheduled for February 11.

Subsequently, on the same day, Houston delivered her final public performance by singing “Jesus Loves Me” alongside Kelly Price at a pre-Grammys party held in Hollywood.

How Did the World React to Houston’s Death?

The investigations into Houston’s death revealed no evidence of foul play, and her passing was deemed an accidental tragedy.

Unfortunately, Houston’s assistant, Mary Jones, believed that Houston had been the victim of foul play.

Jones found it difficult to accept that Houston could quickly go from appearing normal to deceased in the bathtub.

She also found certain aspects suspicious, such as the rearrangement of Houston’s personal belongings within the room, particularly noteworthy was the absence of her driver’s license from her wallet.

Despite Jones advocating for further investigations to pursue the matter, the police failed to uncover evidence suggesting that Houston’s death involved foul play.

The sudden loss of Houston deeply shocked her friends and family, especially considering the proximity of her passing to the upcoming pre-Grammy party.

Despite the circumstances, Davis ultimately decided to proceed with the event, commencing with a tribute to Houston.

This decision drew criticism from some celebrities who deemed it inappropriate to continue the festivities in such proximity to the location where Houston had tragically passed away mere hours earlier.

During the party, several other attendees, such as Tony Bennett, took the opportunity to pay tribute to Houston before commencing their performances for the evening.

Meanwhile, Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, had a live performance scheduled in Mississippi that day, and he offered his tribute to her before his show.

Numerous celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Quincy Jones, and Aretha Franklin, also expressed their condolences and shared public statements in honor of Houston.

In addition to the heartfelt tributes from celebrities, television stations nationwide dedicated airtime to honor Houston, with many news channels temporarily suspending their regular programming to commemorate her remarkable legacy.

Both Saturday Night Live and MTV aired special programming as a tribute to her.

Meanwhile, the news of Houston’s passing sparked an outpouring of grief on Twitter, with an estimated average of around one thousand retweets per minute during the initial hour following the announcement of her demise.

Houston’s Troubled Relationship with Bobby Brown

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were known for having one of the most tumultuous relationships in the entertainment industry.

Their initial encounter occurred at the Soul Train Awards in 1989, and they eventually tied the knot three years later on July 18, 1992.

The couple’s volatile relationship was primarily rooted in their struggles with substance abuse.

Right from the beginning of their relationship, both accomplished stars were deeply entrenched in the world of drugs and alcohol.

Incidents of alleged domestic violence further intensified the turbulent nature of their union.

Brown faced battery charges following an assault on Houston, yet despite these challenges, the couple remained together, ultimately divorcing in 2007.

Funeral 

Houston’s burial took place in a private ceremony on February 18, 2012. 

The funeral service surpassed its two-hour scheduled duration and lasted four hours.

This extension was likely due to the significant number of individuals, many of them celebrities, who desired to honor and pay their respects to the renowned singer.

The funeral was held at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.

It featured a lineup of notable performers, including R. Kelly, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, the Rev. Kim Burrell, and CeCe Winans.

Numerous friends and family members of Houston delivered heartfelt speeches during the ceremony.

These included her cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, actor Kevin Costner, Clive Davis, and her longtime security guard Ray Watson.

Although Bobby Brown, her ex-husband, appeared at the funeral, he departed before its conclusion.

The event also featured performances by a Gospel choir and remarks from a pastor.

Houston was laid to rest the following day in Newark, where she was interred in a plot adjacent to her father, John Russell Houston.

Why Did Bobby Brown Leave Whitney Houston’s Funeral?

Tensions that had long existed between the Houston family and Bobby Brown’s family reached a critical point during Whitney Houston’s funeral.

Bobby Brown decided to leave his ex-wife’s funeral even before the service began.

Initially, the Houston family had invited Brown to attend the service.

However, upon his arrival, Brown wanted to sit with the rest of the family in the same pews designated for the Houstons.

Regrettably, he and his guests were requested to vacate those seats.

In response to the situation, Bobby Brown shared that his group, which included four other children, encountered repeated requests to relocate and were denied access to his daughter Bobbi Kristina.

Houston’s Legacy 

Houston continues to be regarded as one of the most gifted and highly praised singers in the annals of contemporary pop music.

Her exceptional vocal range surpassed many others, with some asserting that it surpassed renowned vocalists like Barbra Streisand and Mariah Carey.

Following her untimely demise, the sales of Houston’s music experienced a remarkable surge, and her iconic 1992 hit, “I Will Always Love You,” swiftly climbed back to No. 3 on the music charts.

Even in her absence, Houston continued to set records with her chart-topping hits on the Hot 100.

She has been recognized as a trailblazer of black female artistry within the music industry, setting the stage for subsequent singers like Anita Baker and Janet Jackson.

Houston posthumously received two NAACP awards for her album I Will Always Love You: The Best of Whitney Houston.

In addition to being hailed as an acclaimed vocalist, Houston has been celebrated as a pop icon alongside the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna.

What set Houston apart, according to some critics, was her emphasis on musical prowess rather than showmanship, which they believed solidified her claim to the title above certain other musicians.

Despite her life being tragically cut short, Houston’s music continues to profoundly influence modern R&B, pop, and various other genres.

She remains an iconic figure in contemporary pop, renowned for her awe-inspiring vocal range, commanding voice, and lasting impact on the music industry.

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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