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Tributes pour in and songs download as Whitney Houston dies

By | Published on Monday 13 February 2012

Whitney Houston

As LA celebrated Grammy weekend, the American pop community went into mourning as it was confirmed Whitney Houston had died on Saturday afternoon in a Beverly Hills hotel room, she was 48. Despite being one of the US’s biggest music stars throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the latter part of her life had been dominated by personal problems, including the breakdown of her marriage to fellow 80s pop star Bobby Brown, and her battle with drug addiction.

The Assistant Chief Coroner for LA County, Ed Winter, yesterday confirmed that an autopsy had taken place, but that the findings were inconclusive pending further test results. He confirmed that the singer’s body had been found in the bath tub in the hotel room where she was staying, but refused to comment on press speculation that she had drowned after succumbing to drugs or alcohol. Winter told reporters: “I’m not going to comment on any of the meds or prescriptions that were obtained”.

On Sunday, Houston and Brown’s daughter Bobbi Kristina was also taken to hospital, seemingly suffering from anxiety following the previous day’s trauma, but it’s not thought her condition was serious. Meanwhile Brown, who was divorced from Houston in 2007, reportedly cancelled a planned concert in Nashville to return to LA to be with his daughter. He issued a short statement to the press requesting privacy for his family, saying: “I am deeply saddened at the passing of my ex-wife, Whitney Houston. At this time, we ask for privacy, especially for my daughter, Bobbi Kristina. I appreciate all of the condolences that have been directed towards my family and I at this most difficult time”.

Tributes poured in for Houston in the wake of her death, via social media and more traditional routes, though most eyes fell on the main Grammy Awards event where the great and the good of the American music industry were amassing. Host LL Cool J began the formal tributes at the Grammys by telling the awards show’s audience “we’ve had a death in our family and so at least for me … the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman we loved, for our fallen sister, Whitney Houston”. Numerous other musicians paid tribute during the evening, while Jennifer Hudson performed a musical tribute with a piano-ballad version of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

The previous night, just hours after Houston’s death, the annual pre-Grammy dinner hosted by Clive Davis, the record industry veteran who launched the singer’s career, took place in the same hotel where she had died (indeed, it’s thought Houston was scheduled to play at the event). A long time friend of the singer, Davis told his guests: “I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me. She was full of life, looking forward to tonight. She loved music and she loved this night that celebrated music. Whitney was a beautiful person and she had a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage … so many times. So, simply put: Whitney would have wanted the music to go on”.

Meanwhile Tony Bennett, while paying tribute to Houston, called on the US government to legalise drugs, so that drug addiction could be treated as an illness rather than a crime, making it easier for victims to get help. Remembering how, after first hearing Houston sing in the 1980s, he had called Davis to say “you finally found the greatest singer I’ve ever heard in my life”, he touched on the problems Whitney had faced in her later life. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Bennett concluded: “First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the magnificent Whitney Houston. I’d like every person in this room to campaign to legalise drugs. Let’s legalise drugs like they did in Amsterdam, [then] no one’s hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor”.

As is customary in the iTunes-era, news of Houston’s death had an immediate boost on her record sales, with two hits collections currently at numbers two and three in the iTunes albums chart, and a smattering of singles appearing in that countdown also. Sony Music now owns the Arista label that released Houston’s work, meaning that, two and half years after Michael Jackson’s death, the Sony record company could again be benefiting from the premature passing of a 1980s pop icon.

It is thought Sony execs will this week meet to decide if and how to capitalise on Houston’s death, with a 2010 remastered version of the singer’s debut album likely to be remarketed, though, of course, capitalising too blatantly on Whitney’s premature demise could backfire. Particularly as, unlike Jackson, Houston did not have any direct control over her recordings, meaning her estate will earn only a standard royalty from any boost in sales and Sony will benefit much more richly (and Universal, for that matter, given Reuters reports that it acquired the publishing in some of the singer’s biggest hits from songwriter Michael Masser).

Sony’s film company may also step up the marketing around ‘Sparkle’, a remake of the 1970s film of the same name in which Houston was a key player, as both a producer and co-star. Two new Houston recordings appear in the film, including a duet with the movie’s main star Jordin Sparks. Sony’s RCA will release the soundtrack to the film, which is scheduled for an August release.

Read our obituary here