Byline: ELLEN BRANAGH
THE world of music is in mourning after the sudden death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48.
Tributes poured in from the biggest names in music yesterday - including Sir Elton John, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton and Smokey Robinson - after Houston was pronounced dead on Saturday afternoon in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton hotel.
She was staying there ahead of last night's Grammy Awards.
Early on Sunday her body was taken to a mortuary in Los Angeles for a post-mortem examination.
Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown and Beverly Hills police Lieutenant Mark Rosen said: "There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent."
Rosen said police received an emergency call from hotel security about Houston at 3.43pm.
Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party were not able to resuscitate her, he said.
Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night - the Grammy Awards, a showcase where she once reigned, and where she was remembered in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson.
Her long-time mentor Clive Davis went ahead with his annual concert at the same hotel where her body was found. He dedicated the evening to her and asked for a moment of silence as a photo of the singer, hands wide open, looking to the sky, appeared on the screen.
Houston had been at rehearsals for the show on Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica. She apparently looked dishevelled, was sweating profusely and smelled of alcohol and cigarettes.
Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price. Singer Kenny Lattimore hosted the event, and said Houston sang the gospel classic Jesus Loves Me with Price, her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.
Lattimore said Houston was gregarious and was in a good mood, surrounded by friends and family, including daughter Bobbi Kristina.
"She just seemed like she was having a great night that night," said Lattimore, who said he was in shock over her death.
Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.
"I just can't talk about it now," Franklin said in a short statement.
"It's so stunning and unbelievable.
I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen."
In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston "was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades".
At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry.
From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists.
Her success carried her beyond music to films, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanour and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once-pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
"The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Bobby Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.
She seemed to be born into greatness. In addition to being Franklin's goddaughter, she was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick. …