10 Videos Spanning the Career of Whitney Houston

Vocal legend Whitney Houston died yesterday at the Beverly Hilton. She was 48. Here are ten videos that encompass her life.

© SVEN SIMON/dpa/Corbis

Whitney was born music royalty. Her mother, Cissy, is a Grammy winner in her own right and sang backup for Elvis Presley. Her cousins included Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick and her godmother was Aretha Franklin. So it should be no surprise that Whitney was offered a recording contract at just 14, but her mother wanted her to grow up a little first. So she went into modeling, becoming the first African-American to grace to cover of Seventeen Magazine. She also pursued acting.

First TV Appearance

Whitney starred in a few commercials, but her first real role was in the TV series Gimme a Break in 1984, playing a girl named Rita who is hoping to set up a business with one of the main characters.


First Single

While her first solo single from her debut album peaked at number three, it was the start of an astonishingly successful career. Her next seven singles would chart at #1, a record that not even The Beatles, Mariah Carey, or Michael Jackson matched, and one that has stood for 24 years and counting.


Nelson Mandela Freedom Concert Performance

Whitney was a vocal supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. Even as a teen model she had refused to work with any agency that supported the practice by doing business with South Africa. In 1988 she performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday charity concert in London. Whitney’s star power helped bring attention to his plight and that of all South African blacks. After apartheid ended two years later and Mandela was released, Whitney would travel to Johannesburg and meet him, as well as perform for him at a White House banquet in 1994.

Note: Whitney duets with her mom in this video, and it shows you where she got her talent from.


Star Spangled Banner

Whitney was at the top of her game in 1991 when she performed the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. America was embroiled in the first Gulf War, and her note-perfect rendition (okay, she was lip-synching, but who cares) was a fitting and memorable tribute to the men and women in uniform.


Whitney said of her performance: "If you were there, you could feel the intensity. You know, we were in the Gulf War at the time. It was an intense time for a country. A lot of our daughters and sons were overseas fighting. I could see, in the stadium, I could see the fear, the hope, the intensity, the prayers going up, you know, and I just felt like this is the moment. And it was hope, we needed hope, you know, to bring our babies home and that's what it was about for me, that what I felt when I sang that song, and the overwhelming love coming out of the stands was incredible."

"I Will Always Love You"

Well, you knew this would be on here, didn’t you? One of Whitney’s many talents was to take lesser known songs by other artists and make huge hits out of them. Dolly Parton’s "I Will Always Love You" was not only the best example of this, but the defining song of an amazing career. It won every single major award it was nominated for including two Grammys, and was the first record ever to sell one million copies in the first week of its release, and set a (since broken) record of 14 weeks at #1.


Waiting to Exhale Trailer

While Whitney basically played a version of herself in The Bodyguard, three years later she took on a more difficult role, and stood her ground among acting talent like Angela Bassett and Gregory Hines, in 1995’s Waiting to Exhale. She was nominated for an Image Award for her performance, and her theme song "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" was nominated for four Grammys.


Crack is Whack

While Whitney continued to put out successful albums, her behavior became more erratic and worrying. By the time she sat down for an interview with Diane Sawyer in 2002, rumors were swirling about her drug and alcohol use. She tried to reassure the public that there was no truth to the accusations, but her pronouncement that “crack is whack” just served to highlight her problems.

Sparkle Interview

Whitney did eventually enter rehab and embarked on the ups and unfortunately the downs that are so often a part of recovery. Recently though, it did appear that maybe her life was turning back around for the better. In this Entertainment Tonight interview from just three months ago, she seems happy and healthy while discussing her return to the big screen in a remake of Sparkle. Despite its camp-sounding title, the movie addresses young stars struggling with addiction. Reports indicate the movie will be released later this year as originally planned.


Last Performance

Just two nights before she died Whitney attended a pre-Grammy party where she took the stage for an impromptu performance. She was obviously not well, but the vocal talent that defined her still shone through.


"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"

Hopefully Whitney will be remembered for her voice and her string of record breaking hits rather than her tumultuous life. Smack dab in the middle of her run of seven consecutive number ones was an upbeat dance song that proved she could do more than ballads. Let’s remember her like this, with her crazy 80s hair, high energy, and, as always, her amazing voice.


These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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