[Note: Whitney Houston was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.]
If you heard that a particular singer had the best-selling debut album for a woman in history, that she was the only woman to twice have the best-selling album for the year, and was the only artist to have seven straight #1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100, one might imagine that they were in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame already, but you would be mistaken . That is the case for Whitney Houston, a singer who presents a straightforward case for induction as well as a cautionary tale in her own personal life given her marriage to Bobby Brown, subsequent drug addiction and erratic behavior, and an early death as a result . Nevertheless, there have been many drug addicts who have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so it would seem unlikely that her character would be in question. Additionally, as a major diva in a period of divas like Mariah Carey, she has had a massive influence on contemporary artists as a vocalist, including her support of the Gospel side of R & B.
The Influence Of Whitney Houston
There is no question that Whitney Houston was influenced by other artists, with a mother who was an excellent session singer in Cissy Houston and a famous aunt in Dione Warwick. Her own career as a pop singer began with backup vocals for artists like Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, and Jermaine Jackson before her own career. That said, there is no doubt that she has been a massive influence to later acts as well in a variety of ways. Her breaking of the color line in MTV (along with Janet Jackson  made it possible for acts like Anita Baker to gain great success. Artists from Rihanna to Mariah Carey have adopted vocal techniques from her, and many of the artists of her generation from Celine Dion  to Carey to Toni Braxton to Ashanti to Nelly Furtado to LeAnn Rimes to Christina Aguilera to Jessica Simpson to Kelly Clarkson to Britney Spears to Pink, among many others, have acknowledged her as an influence. When artists who are worthy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame consider another person as a major influence, and when that person has a record-setting career of critical and commercial success, there is no question such a person belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Success Of Whitney Houston
Besides the acknowledged influence of Houston on other artists, she has a rock-solid case given her own success in singles and album. Her version of the “Star Spangled Banner” is perhaps the definitive Super Bowl version (and perhaps overall version) of that song, having multiple times achieved success as a hit single. With three multi-platinum soundtrack albums (one of which sold diamond), all six of her studio albums having gone at least platinum (with one of them diamond, another one almost there, and two more at multi-platinum status), along with hit holiday and compilation albums, there is no question that Whitney Houston has sold a lot of albums in the United States and around the world. On the Hot 100, she had 11 #1 hits, 12 additional top 10 hits, and 7 additional top 40 hits besides that. Many of these songs remain on heavy rotation on adult contemporary, easy listening, and R&B stations to this day, from “When You Believe” to “My Love Is Your Love” among her more recent songs to “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “I’m Every Woman,” “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” “All The Man That I Need,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “So Emotional,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me),” “Greatest Love Of All, “ “How Will I Know,” “Saving All My Love For You,” and “You Give Good Love.” Her interpretations of songs are of lasting musical importance, and she was able to blend music along with acting in such films as The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife. In terms of cultural importance and influence, Whitney Houston ranks very high.
Why Whitney Houston Should Be Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Whitney Houston’s case for induction is simple and straightforward. As a vocalist, she helped define the style and approach for later female musicians. She was an excellent collaborator who was able to work successfully with artists as diverse as Teddy Pendegrass, Mariah Carey, her mother, Stevie Wonder, CeCe Winans, Faith Evans and Kelly Price, Enrique Iglesias, George Michael, and Deborah Cox. Her image as a diva itself was a major element in the explosion of popularity for female singers like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Shania Twain, among others during the Divas Live era during the mid to late 1990’s. Her music was able to straddle the boundary between contemporary R&B, adult contemporary, and gospel, all of which she excelled at. She made a lot of popular music, infused it with total commitment, and it has resonated with audiences at the time and now, and presumably for a long time to come. It is hard to imagine what she could have done, aside from learn how to write songs better and not only sing her heart out on them, that she did not already do.
Why Isn’t Whitney Houston Inducted: She died of a drug overdose? If that’s not rock & roll, I don’t know what is. She didn’t write her own songs? She was an excellent song stylist nonetheless  who helped define a generation of music. She deserves to be in without question, along with plenty of others.
Verdict: Put her in, perhaps along with Janet Jackson and a few others in a “Divas Year”. It would be a good year, to be sure.