LOS ANGELES – Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48.
Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen told KABC-TV that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton. Her body remained in the hotel and Beverly Hills detectives were investigating.
Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the cause of her death was unknown.
Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony.
Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.
Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press that she would perhaps perform: “It’s her favorite night of the year … (so) who knows by the end of the evening,” he said.
Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.
Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.
Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday, and paramedics were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party. Paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, the lieutenant said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
“The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,” Sharpton said in a written statement.