Whitney Houston, the superstar vocalist whose hit tunes helped bridge the gap between pop and soul music, was born 50 years ago Friday, on Aug. 9, 1963, in Newark, N.J.
The birthday, of course, is one she didn’t live to see: Houston died last year in Beverly Hills at the age of 48, plunging the music industry into turmoil the night before the Grammy Awards, which she so often dominated over the course of her nearly three-decade career.
Yet Houston’s music lives on in recorded form -- Sirius XM is in the midst of a day-long tribute to the singer’s work -- and in renditions by younger artists, including Beyoncé, whose Mrs. Carter Show tour has her tackling “I Will Always Love You,” the Dolly Parton song Houston all but made her own.
Listen to that classic -- along with four of Houston’s other finest moments -- below.
“I Will Always Love You”
Recorded for the soundtrack to “The Bodyguard” (in which she starred opposite Kevin Costner), Houston’s take on what started out as a country tune helped redefine soul singing in the 1990s as a showcase for skyscraping vocal technique.
“How Will I Know” (a cappella)
You’ll find no more powerful demonstration of that technique than this vocals-only version of the bubbly dance tune from her self-titled 1985 debut. Jaw-dropping.
A highlight from Houston’s hip-hop-inspired “My Love Is Your Love,” “Heartbreak Hotel” teamed the singer with Faith Evans and Kelly Price for a slow-burn kiss-off.
“Million Dollar Bill”
Houston’s final studio album, 2009’s “I Look to You,” didn’t reignite her career the way she and her longtime mentor, Clive Davis, had planned. But this lush retro-disco number, co-written and produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, showed she could still target a pleasure center like few others.
“I’m Every Woman”
Oh, and speaking of disco...