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Whitney Houston: life in photos

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She was the superstar diva whose extraordinary voice wooed tens of millions of fans across the world. With the tragic news of Whitney Houston's untimely death at the age of 48 today, we look back at one of the greatest female artists of all-time. From mother to actress and multiple Grammy-winning singer, come remember and celebrate with us, as we chart the life of a one-of-a-kind performer...

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Picture credit: Rex Features

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney Houston was born in New Jersey in 1963.

    With gospel singer Cissy Houston as her mother and Aretha Franklin as her godmother, singing was in her blood right from the outset.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney began performing as a soloist in a junior gospel choir at the age of 11, in 1974. She then developed her voice as a back-up singer for artists such as Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and Lou Rawls.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    By the time this photo was taken, in 1985, she was on the cusp of international fame with her debut album Whitney Houston.

    The collection, with hits including Saving All My Love For You and Greatest Love of All, was an overnight success, selling millions of copies and propelling Whitney to stardom.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Her incredible voice quickly won critical praise as well; at the 1986 Grammys, Whitney won best pop vocal performance for Saving All My Love for You.

    Her debut was also crowned best album of 1986 by Rolling Stone magazine.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    With international success came a series of sell-out live tours, including this performance in London, in 1986.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    In 1987 Whitney continued her reign as one of the best-selling female artists of the era with the release of "Whitney," her multi-platinum second album featuring hit tracks I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Where Do Broken Hearts Go.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    With the New York Times heralding her as "one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices," it was little wonder that Whitney attracted hordes of fans wherever she went - including here, at the San Remo pop festival in 1987.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    It was clear to all that she was a star like no other, who held audiences spellbound with her powerful vocals.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    The icing on the cake of Whitney's stardom came when she recorded the theme tune to the 1988 Olympics in South Korea, One Moment In Time.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Throughout her early career, Whitney remained close to her mother Cissy and counted her as a key influence on her work.

    Here they are pictured together at Radio City Music Hall in 1989 during The Songwriters Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    In 1991, Whitney stormed the music scene once again with a performance of The Star Spangled Banner at the US Superbowl.

    Her live rendition reminded everyone just how brilliant an artist she was - many of those present to watch it said it was unforgettable.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    The year after, in 1992, Whitney brought her singing talents to bear on the movie industry, starring opposite Kevin Costner in the now-legendary drama The Bodyguard.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    The movie was an instant hit, with the soundtrack , I Will Always Love You - an adaptation of the previously little-known song by Dolly Parton - proving to be the signature ballad of Whitney's career, winning two Grammys and staying at the top of the charts for weeks on end.

    It was the pinnacle of Whitney's extraordinary rise to fame, showcasing the amazing, far-reaching capacity of her voice.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Also in 1992, Whitney married former New Edition member, soul star Bobby Brown.

    Their ill-fated relationship was to garner many headlines over the years and was notoriously stormy, with Brown arrested several times on charges of domestic abuse.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    In 1993 their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was born.

    "Whitney loved her daughter. Bobbi Kristina was her only child and her pride and joy. Because of that, she treasured her," a journalist said today, after news of Whitney's death.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    In 1995, Whitney revived her movie career with a lead role in comedy drama Waiting To Exhale, directed by Forest Whitaker.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    The movie won several awards for Whitney's song Count On Me.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney continued to perform through the mid-1990s but her hits were less frequent as her marriage descended into chaos and she fell victim of drug abuse.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    In 1997, she starred opposite singer Brandy Norwood in the TV adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein's musical Cinderella.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Speculation over Whitney's private life continued but she shrugged off concerns, saying in a 1997 interview, "I didn't get in the business to talk about my personal life. I got in the business to sing, to try to make music and to try to make people happy ... if I can. My life doesn't go on record. My voice does."

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Despite personal difficulties, Whitney continued to perform and be honoured for her music in the late 1990s.

    Here she is pictured in 1998 with her husband and daughter at the Annual Achievement In Art awards in LA.

    The same year, Whitney released the album My Love Is Your Love, which won a best R&B vocal Grammy for the track It's Not Right But It's Okay.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Performing at the Brit Awards in London in 1999.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney is pictured with then Spice Girls Emma Bunton and Victoria Beckham - and David Beckham - following a performance at Wembley Arena.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Holding a gong for best R&B vocals at the 1999 MTV Europe Music Awards.

    The same year, Whitney and Mariah Carey's duet When You Believe for animation The Prince Of Egypt won an Oscar for best original song.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney at a pre-Grammys party in Los Angeles in 2000.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Performing at the MTV Awards in Barcelona in 2002.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Around this time, in 2002, Whitney appeared in a now-infamous interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

    "The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," she said, referring to her struggle with drug addiction.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney performing at the World Music Awards in Las Vegas 2004, the same year she spent a brief spell in rehab.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Pictured with Clive Davis, the music executive who first "discovered" Whitney and put her on a path to international stardom.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    "I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me. She was full of life, looking forward for tonight. She loved music and she loved this night that celebrated music," Clive said in a statement after news of Whitney's death broke.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Whitney at the Swarovski Fashion Rocks For The Prince's Trust in 2007, the same year she filed for divorce from Bobby after a tumultuous 15-year marriage.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Pictured at a pre-Grammy party in 2008.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    A poster promoting Whitney's 2009 comeback album I Look To You.

    It debuted at the top of the charts and went platinum, although reviews were mixed.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    On the Milan stop of a world tour in 2009 - the year Whitney declared herself drug-free in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

  • Whitney Houston: life in photos

    Pictured with her daughter Bobbi at a pre-Grammys party last year, in one of the last photos of the star at an official event. A year later, on February 11, she was found dead in a hotel room in LA, where she was staying to attend this year's pre-Grammy party.

    Music mogul Clive Davis perhaps sums it up best when he said, "Whitney was a beautiful person and she had a talent beyond compare ... simply put: Whitney would have wanted the music to go on."

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