Since her tragic decline into drugs, alcohol and, well, Bobby Brown in the mid-1990s, Whitney Houston's recent career has been defined by a series of lows. But it wasn't always that way. She's the most-awarded female artist of all time, having won Emmys, GRAMMYs, American Music Awards and more, totaling 415 career awards. And, of course, she's one of the best-selling artists of all time, moving over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.
Even in a career as illustrious as Houston's, there are five definitive moments that stand out. From her powerful performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at 1991's Super Bowl to her appearance in the mega-selling movie (and soundtrack) for The Bodyguard. Here are our five favorites.
5. Houston's 1985 TV Debut on The Merv Griffin Show
Described as "elegant and sensuous" by the flattering host, the then 21-year-old singer delivered a jaw-dropping rendition of "Home," an emotional ballad from her self-titled debut LP. The album would spend 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, at the time setting the record for most weeks at the top by a female artist in the 1980s.
4. "Saving All My Love For You" GRAMMY Performance
Houston's cover of singer Marilyn McCoo's 1978 hit was the singer's second single from her eponymous debut album and earned her the first of six GRAMMY Awards (for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) and an American Music Award for Favorite R&B/Soul Video. Her performance of the ballad at the 1986 GRAMMYs—equal parts sultry chanteuse and jazzy lounge-chic—won her an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
3. The Bodyguard Makes History
It's weird to think that Houston and Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner had to fight to keep the 45-second a capella intro to "I Will Always Love You," which has become one of the song's most enduring and memorable features. The track, alongside other Houston hits like "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing," helped make The Bodyguard the most successful soundtrack in music history, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.
2. "One Moment in Time" Soundtracks 1988 Olympics
Co-written by Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.'s father, "One Moment in Time" became the temporary new National Anthem when Houston recorded it for the 1988 Summer Olympics. While it never hit number one, the song became indelibly linked to the games and remains one of Houston's most timeless recordings.
1. "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV
At the peak of her career in 1991, at just 28 years old, Whitney took center stage at the Super Bowl in Tampa and delivered a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that, in many ways, summed up her career at that point: She was America's girl; a beautiful goody-goody with pipes of gold and a smile to die for. She hit the high notes with a powerful grace in what's truly a spine-tingling moment. The New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills by one point (20-19) that year. But in our book, it was Houston that won.
Photos Timeline of Whitney's Stardom
Listen to all 40 Whitney Houston singles on our Spotify Tribute Playlist.
Read Whitney Houston's No. 1 Songs: A Primer.
Read Celebrities React to Whitney Houston's Death on Twitter.
Share Your Whitney Memories with Fuse's Esteban Serrano.