Whitney Houston remembered at Grammys; autopsy details held by detectives

Whitney Houston’s death, which rocked the music community and the world over the weekend, forced some last minute changes to the usually festive Grammy Awards Sunday night. As Chris Richards reported:

Whitney Houston’s unexpected death on the eve of Sunday’s 54th Annual Grammy Awards turned the music industry’s biggest night into a tone-dizzy exercise in grief, joy and show-must-go-on gusto.

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Even as the show was rolling on, details of Houston’s death were emerging — how she was found in the hotel room bathtub, how friends had tried to revive her before paramedics arrived. Grim video footage of the singer’s body being removed on a stretcher played on the local news.

As in Grammys past, this year’s ceremony put an emphasis on the performance over the awards. Bruce Springsteen kicked off the show his new up-by-the-bootstraps single “We Take Care of Our Own” — and, given Houston’s death, an ill-considered opening line: “America, are you alive out there?”

The show’s host, rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J, aimed to put joy over solemnity immediately after Springsteen’s show-starting number, leading a group prayer in honor of Houston and encouraging the audience to enjoy the evening. “This night is about something much bigger than any one of us,” he said. “This night is about music!”

Houston was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon in her room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, on the eve of a pre-Grammy gala organized by Clive Davis. As Emily Langer explained :

Whitney Houston, the gospel-inspired pop singer who sold more than 140 million albums with her emotive renditions of such hits as “Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” and who struggled with drug abuse and a troubled marriage, died Feb. 11 in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 48.

A police official told the Associated Press that Ms. Houston was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel and that no signs of “criminal intent” had been found. The Los Angeles Times reported that an investigation into the cause of death is pending.

Ms. Houston was scheduled to attend a gala at the hotel on the eve of Sunday’s Grammy Awards program. The party had been organized by Clive Davis, the record executive who discovered her in the mid-1980s.

With a choir-trained voice of vast power and brilliant tone, Ms. Houston, the winner of six Grammys, was widely recognized as one of the greatest pop vocalists. She was cited as a major influence on such top-selling artists as Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men and Beyonce, as well as the many “American Idol” contestants who tried to mimic her seemingly infinite vocal range.

Ms. Houston was 22 when her debut album, “Whitney Houston,” was released in 1985. By 1986, it had sold more than 5 million copies, topping sales records set by Tina Turner and Donna Summer.

With her “fire-and-steel voice,” Ms. Houston made “commercial ballads . . . transcend romantic cliches to become hymns of faith in a love that goes beyond the secular,” New York Times music critic Stephen Holden wrote of the album.

Coroner’s officials have said they will not release any information on the autopsy at the request of police detectives. As AP reported:

Whitney Houston was under water and apparently unconscious when she was found in a hotel bathtub, Beverly Hills police said Monday.

The singer was found Saturday by a member of her personal staff at approximately 3:30 p.m. She was pulled from the tub by members of her staff, and hotel security was promptly notified, Lt. Mark Rosen said.

Further details of Houston’s death are not being released to preserve the integrity of the investigation, he said.

“As of right now, it’s not a criminal investigation,” Rosen told a news conference. “We have concluded our portion of the investigation at the hotel.”

Rosen said it was a coroner’s case and police were awaiting the determination of the cause of death. The coroner’s office says toxicology testing is continuing.

There were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston’s body, but officials were not ruling out any causes of death until they have toxicology results, which will likely take weeks to obtain.

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