TRIBUTES have been pouring in for American singer and actress Whitney Houston, who has died at the age of 48.
The death of the Grammy award-winning star, who was one of the world’s best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, was confirmed by her publicist, leaving the entertainment industry and fans around the world in shock.
Los Angeles police said the troubled singer, who had battled with drug addiction, was found in her hotel room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton late yesterday.
Following the news, which came on the eve of this year’s Grammys ceremony, fellow celebrities and contemporaries lined up to pay their respects.
Music mogul Simon Cowell described Houston as “one of the greatest singers of all time”.
He wrote on Twitter: “I am so sad to hear about Whitney. We have lost one of the greatest singers of all time.”
Mitch Winehouse, the father of late British singer Amy Winehouse who died last year, also paid tribute to Houston and the recently deceased Etta James on the social networking site, writing: “Amy, Etta, Whitney. Their music will NEVER die. What a great girl group in heaven. Mitch”.
Winehouse, who was in Los Angeles when he heard the news, also said he was “absolutely devastated”.
The cause of Houston’s death is unclear, but detectives have launched an investigation.
The I Will Always Love You and Saving All My Love singer won multiple Grammys including album and record of the year, selling millions of albums and singles worldwide.
She also carried her success into the film industry, appearing in hit movies including The Bodyguard.
However, her career began to unravel as she battled with drug addiction, spending various spells in rehab. Her powerful voice began to suffer because of her demons prompting record sales to nosedive and in 2007 she split from husband Bobby Brown after 15 years of marriage.
Showbiz journalist Dan Wootton told broadcasters: “She will be remembered as one of the voices of the 1980s and 1990s. She as a powerhouse, but unfortunately for the last 10 years we have witnessed her slow decline.
“It’s something that no one would have expected. There are parallels to the shocking death of Amy Winehouse six months ago. You have to wonder what attracts these incredible voices on a path of self destruction that so often involved drug abuse.”
England footballer Rio Ferdinand was also among those to pay his respects, tweeting: “RIP Whitney Houston...what a singer.” British pop star Cheryl Cole also wrote: “So sad :-(“
Last week Houston was pictured looking dishevelled and disorientated as she left a Hollywood nightclub with her daughter Bobbi Kristina after performing at a pre-Grammy party.
Recent reports suggested that the soul star was on the brink of bankruptcy, while others said she was being lined-up by Cowell as a judge on the American equivalent of the X Factor.
Houston had made a comeback in 2009 releasing a new album after seven years off the scene. She revealed that her life began to spiral out of control after her 1992 success in The Bodyguard.
“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney’s passing,” legendary music producer Quincy Jones said in a written statement.
“I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly.”
Detectives said paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, who was pronounced dead at 3.55pm local time.
Houston was due to appear at the LA gala of music’s biggest occasion - the Grammy Awards - later tonight (early Monday UK time) and had also been at rehearsals for the show, coaching singers Brandy and Monica.
Aspiring singer Joelle Moses, an contestant on the 2008 X Factor, said Houston was her main inspiration and influence, describing her as her “musical mother”.
“I’m just in shock - I can’t believe it,” she told BBC 5Live.
Moses, from London, added: “She was an incredible musician. I feel a lot of people wrote her off and thought she was washed out but personally I never felt that. Her voice was so incredible and so powerful and when you watched her you were so mesmerised by her performance because she sang from her heart.”
Police later said there were no “obvious signs” of any criminal intent in relation to her death.
Meanwhile, former husband Brown, also a singer, was due to perform in Mississippi, as news spread about Houston’s death.
He told the sell-out crowd: “First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage.”
Cowell said he expected tonight’s Grammys to become a tribute to the singer, describing her as a “trailblazer and “legend”.
He told Heart FM: “I’m sure they (the organisers) are going to move quickly and I understand and I expect this is to become, as it should be, a tribute to her because you have to remember a lot of the people who are going to be getting awards at the Grammys, they owe an awful lot of their success, I believe, to Whitney, because Whitney was a trailblazer. It’s a night she deserves to be remembered fondly.”
Houston appeared on the X Factor in Britain in 2009 following an invite from Cowell.
The music mogul added: “It is just really, really, really horrible. We all knew that she had issues and I last met her when she came on X Factor in England when she was doing her comeback album and you could sense at the time there were a still few problems, but she was a delight to work with on the day, she was very professional, she was kind to everyone around her, she probably wasn’t altogether there, but it was still Whitney Houston and you know that you are in a presence of a legend and I will never forget that day.”
He continued: “There are so few people like her in the world. They are a rarefied breed, these are true superstar, legendary divas and I say divas in the nicest possible way. She had one of the greatest voices I have ever heard in my life, ever.”
Speaking to CNN, Cowell said Houston was the benchmark contestants on his reality shows had always tried to reach.
He also revealed he was going to discuss the possibility of the late singer potentially joining the judging panel of the American X Factor with producers next week.
“Whitney - ever since I’ve been doing this job, particularly doing talent shows over the last 10 years, the number one singer anyone ever wanted to emulate, if they really wanted to be a superstar, it was always Whitney,” he said.
Police in Los Angeles said that Houston and her entourage, which included friends, family and co-workers, had taken up a “fair portion” of the hotel’s fourth floor.
“She was pronounced dead at the hotel and a number of people were able to identify her,” Lieutenant Mark Rosen from Beverly Hills Police told the BBC.
“We still have detectives and crime scene investigators at the hotel, we are looking into the matter as a death investigation its not a crime scene at this time,” he added.
Mr Rosen said Houston’s family had been informed and the matter would be passed to the coroner following the police probe.
It is believed the singer had been due to perform at the annual pre-Grammy party of her long-time mentor, record producer Clive Davis, at the Beverly Hilton, but was found hours before it began.
The party went ahead despite her death.
English record producer Peter Waterman paid tribute to the singer, describing her an an “icon”.
“She dominated the 80s,” he told the BBC.
“She had one of the greatest voices of all time. There isn’t any better.
The Stock Aitken Waterman songwriter said her drug problems were “the tragedy of success.”
“There is a point where an artist just becomes so powerful that you just can’t tell them what to do and if you’re vulnerable it can be a nasty world,” he added.
Houston appeared on the X Factor in 2009 performing her single Million Dollar Bill.
During the performance, which marked her first UK TV appearance in 12 years, she suffered an wardrobe malfunction when a strap at the back of her dress snapped open.
She then embarked on her Nothing But Love World Tour tour in 2010, but the UK leg was beset by cancellations.
She was forced to reschedule the first three dates in Manchester and Glasgow after picking up a respiratory infection. She finally played her first UK gig in 11 years at the Birmingham LG Arena.
Organisers of the Grammy Awards said Houston will be remembered at the awards tonight in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson.
Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb added his condolences, saying: “In my estimation we have lost one of the greatest voices in popular music today...but as we always learn too late....we never cherish it until it’s gone. My thoughts are with her family”