Earlier this evening, the Associated Press confirmed that Whitney Houston died at age 48.
Whitney’s death is no more or less tragic than that of any one person’s struggle with addiction, but the fact that she was and forever will be a musical icon made her own inner demons as universally known as her music. As with Amy Winehouse‘s untimely death last year, Whitney’s passing is a tragic reminder that addiction is a disease and that no one–not even a legend–can survive chronic self-destructive behavior without help.
Ultimately however, Whitney’s legacy will extend far beyond the tragedy of her demise.
By numbers alone she reigns supreme, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. She shattered records constantly, from becoming the first female in history to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, to becoming the only artist to notch seven consecutive #1 singles. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, she’s the most heavily awarded musical artist in history, including 6 Grammys, 22 American Music Awards and 30 Billboard Awards.
She touched millions across the world with her music, which has only continued to impact pop culture: Britney, Lady Gaga, Beyonce–all of our favorite contemporary pop stars credit Whitney as one of the key inspirations for their own careers.
The songs she sang–“I Will Always Love You,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Greatest Love Of All”–aren’t just memorable pop songs, but classic anthems that will go down in history as the most defining records of all time. How often do we watch as an Idol or X Factor contestant gets brutally dismissed after failing to pull off a Whitney song? It’s because no one does or will do it better than Whitney.
It was her voice–that voice–which made Whitney Houston truly larger than life, whether found in the joyful revelry of her uptempo dance tracks or the devastating, crushing depth displayed on her power ballads. She was, quite simply, the best.
Rest in peace, Whitney.