February 12, 2012


I was very sad to wake up this morning to find out that Whitney Houston had died yesterday, in Beverly Hills. She was, undoubtedly, one of the best singers of this era. The Guinness Book of Records has said that at the time of her death, she was the most awarded female act of all time, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos, worldwide; and receiving a total of 415 career awards, as of 2010, including 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards, Her three-octave voice was extraordinary. I am listening to her music, as I write this; and I remember when she first came on the scene, I was living in Chicago, and she was playing a tiny venue. I had to go hear her sing by myself because none of my friends had yet heard of her.  The concert was electrifying and incredibly intimate. I will never forget that experience.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey in August 1963. Her father, John Houston, was an entertainment executive and her mother, Cissy, a recording gospel artist. Among her family and extended family were other incredible voices, including cousin, Dionne Warwick, and Godmother, Aretha Franklin, and the likes of Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack and Gladys Knight, who were great influences on her singing.

Whitney and Cissy Houston

Whitney and Dionne
Aretha and Whitney

At the age of 11, Whitney began performing as a soloist, in her Baptist church, and by her teens, she was touring with her mother – eventually getting on stage and singing with her. At 15, she sang backup on Chaka Khan’s 1978 hit, I’m Every Woman. By her late teens, Whitney had sung on several albums and was offered many record deals. She eventually signed with Arista Records, where she stayed for her entire career.

Clive Davis and Whitney

Arista President, Clive Davis, personally supervised all aspects of her debut and beyond, including accompanying her to her first public appearance, on The Merv Griffin Show, in 1983. Her voice was perfect, but her ‘look’ did not play well, so by the time her eponymous album debuted in 1985, at the age of 21, she had been given a complete makeover.  The album received critical acclaim, due more to the promise she showed, than the actual songs.

Debut Album

Whitney began to outsell most artists, including The Beatles, because she was a great ‘crossover’ act – appealing to all ages, races and backgrounds. She quickly became America’s highest-earning, black female entertainer.

A career highlight was in 1991, when Whitney performed The Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV . With America entangled in the Persian Gulf War, her rendition received an overwhelming response. It was quickly released as a commercial single and video, and reached the Top 20 on the US Hot 100, making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit of that magnitude. Whitney donated all her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross Gulf Crisis Fund; and as s a result, she was named to the Red Cross Board of Governors.

Singing at The Super Bowl

Although she was already ‘huge’, her career went into the stratosphere, when she appeared in the film, The Bodyguard, co-starring with Kevin Costner.  The film received mixed reviews; but the soundtrack sold 44 million albums – the highest-selling of her albums, during her career.

The Bodyguard

That same year, she married singer, Bobby Brown, whom she had been dating for the precious three years. The following year, they had their only child, Bobbi Kristina.  Their marriage was an extremely tumultuous one, and they finally divorced in 2007.

Whitney with Bobby & Bobbi Kristina

Whitney began to make more albums – working with some of the biggest producers and singers; and to appear in more films, including Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife and a soon-to-be-released remake of Sparkle – working with some of the biggest actors and actresses.


She also began to battle demons, drugs and alcohol, which may have contributed to her demise. They certainly damaged her voice and career; and she admitted that in an interview with Oprah, in 2009. 

Whitney on Oprah in 2009

But, she attempted and admirable comeback, supervised by her longtime mentor, Clive Davis, with the album, I Look to You. The album received critical acclaim, and her fans were so happy to have her back. The tour was more volatile because Whitney sadly could no longer take the demands, which a global tour brings to one’s voice, one’s body and one’s mindset.

But, her friends and fans continued to support her; and just this weekend, she received a standing ovation when she sang with other Soul Divas at a Pre-Grammys party and was due to sing at Clive Davis’s Grammy Party, last night.

This evening at The Grammy Awards, there will definitely be tears and celebrations of her life; and singer, Jennifer Hudson, will be singing a tribute to her.

Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Whitney

Rest in Peace, Whitney. We’ll always remember you and your voice.
You are gone too soon.

One of Whitney’s favorite foods was Fried Rice. I thought it would be fitting to include a recipe for it. If you make it, play one of her albums, while you’re cooking and think of her.

Fried Rice with Egg
By Wilson Eng, The New York Cabbie Cookbook

Yields 4 Servings

It's simple to change this dish by adding two cups of cooked diced shrimp or chicken instead of egg, says Wilson. If you have a Chinese grocery store where you live, you can sometimes get a nice piece of seasoned and cooked roast pork, already cut into little pieces, and then you can have "roast pork and fried rice," which he knows is a real American favorite.


·        2 cups long-grain converted white rice, rinsed
·        Salt
·        1/4 cup oyster sauce
·        2 tablespoons light Japanese soy sauce
·        3 large eggs, beaten until just blended
·        2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
·        1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
·        2 or 3 scallions, thinly sliced, including some of the green tops, 1/3 to 1/2 cup
·        2 cups diced store bought roast pork, optional
·        Sesame oil, as needed


At least 1 day before you plan to make the fried rice, place the rinsed rice in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Add 2 cups of cold water and salt, to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, and cook at a gentle boil until the water has cooked down to the level of the rice. With a spoon (not a fork), stir the rice well. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating for 24 hours.

Break up any clumps of the cold rice with your fingers and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the oyster sauce and soy sauce and set aside.
Coat a large, nonstick skillet with nonstick vegetable spray and set over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the eggs, swirling them around to make sure they coat the whole bottom of the pan. Cook, without stirring, and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the eggs are firm and cooked through but not yet starting to brown, lifting the skillet and tilting it so that the eggs cook evenly. Slide the eggs onto a plate and when they have cooled, cut into small pieces and set aside.
Return the skillet to the burner and heat the oil over high heat. When it is hot, add the peas and scallions, and cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions are limp, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice, sauce mixture, eggs and roast pork until well mixed. Continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Plate and drizzle with sesame oil, to taste.

Sources: Wikipedia, NY Times, The Guardian, Google, Bing, Food Network

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