Five years ago today, we lost one of the most unique voices of the music world. On February 11, 2012, the iconic Whitney Houston was found unconscious in Suite 434 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, submerged in the bathtub. Beverly Hills paramedics arrived at approximately 3:30 p.m. and found the singer unresponsive and performed CPR. Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. PST. It was just the eve of the Grammy Awards where Houston has had been at the show countless times. To her fans, it was the day music died.
In 2009, Guinness World Records cited Houston as the most awarded female act of all time. Houston is one of pop music's best-selling music artists of all-time, with an estimated 170-200 million records sold worldwide. She released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. And she is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits, including her signature classic "I Will Always Love You."
But Whitney Houston has also left an everlasting impact on Gospel music. Countless churches today still sing "I Go to the Rock" the way Whitney Houston sang it in "The Preacher's Wife." And many of today's best Gospel singers still cite Houston as their inspiration and the reason why they sing.
In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy "The Preacher's Wife," with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a pastor (Courtney B. Vance). It was largely an updated remake of the film "The Bishop's Wife" (1948), which starred Loretta Young, David Niven and Cary Grant. Houston earned $10 million for the role, making her one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood at the time and the highest earning African-American actress in Hollywood.
The movie allowed Houston to indulge in her first love -- singing the songs she grew up with in church. "The Preacher's Wife" soundtrack finds Houston singing the Lord's praise with Gospel songs such as "Joy," "Hold On, Hep is on the Way," and the aforementioned "I Go to the Rock." For the soundtrack, Houston teamed with the Georgia Mass Choir where they recorded the songs at the Great Star Rising Baptist Church in Atlanta. Houston also duetted with gospel legend Shirley Caesar for the project.
The album took a life of its own on the Gospel chart. It debuted straight at number one on the chart and spent 26 consecutive weeks at the top from December 14, 1996 to June 7, 1997. It remained on the chart for 117 weeks. Eventually the album became number one gospel album on the 1997 Billboard Top Gospel Albums year-end chart and also "Best-selling gospel recording" by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) in 1996-1997.
According to the Nielsen SoundScan, as of 2012, the gospel album has sold 2,627,000 copies in the United States alone. It has sold over 8 million copies Worldwide to date. The Times said, "To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass Choir struggling to keep up is to realise what her phenomenal voice was made for"