Whitney Houston (photo, from aljazeera.com) has died on Saturday in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, where she had been staying as a guest.
She reigned as pop music’s queen until drug use and her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown overshadowed her career.
“At 3:55 pm, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead at the Beverly Hilton hotel,” Mark Rosen, a police spokesman, said.
He said police received an emergency call at 15:43 local time (23:43 GMT) and found her on the floor of her room where paramedics were attempting to resuscitate her, without success. She was pronounced dead at 15:55.
Much of the fourth floor of the hotel was occupied by the singer’s entourage, including family members, friends and co-workers, said Mr Rosen.
He added that her next of kin have been informed of her death.
Before Ms Houston’s body was moved from the hotel to the coroner’s office police investigators inspected the scene.
While the cause of death is unclear, Mr Rosen said that “there were no obvious signs of criminal intent at this time, and it is being investigated by the Beverly Hills police department”.
Although an autopsy is likely to be held within the next two days, if drugs or alcohol are involved it will take six to eight weeks for toxicology tests to be completed.
‘Stunning and unbelievable’
Ms Houston died on the eve of music’s biggest night, the Grammy Awards, a ceremony to which she was strongly linked because she had won six awards herself over the years. Organisers said she would be remembered in a special tribute by singer Jennifer Hudson.
On Saturday evening she had been due to attend a pre-award party organised by her long-time mentor and record industry executive Clive Davis.
The party took place, but Mr Davis held a minute of silence and told the audience that he was “personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years”.
Also attending the event, Jazz legend Herbie Hancock said: “It’s difficult not to be sad about it because it’s a great loss. Her soul, her spirit, lives within all of us.”
Whitney Houston grew up in New Jersey and began singing in a church before performing in the night clubs of New York and being a model. Then she was signed by Arista Records.
In the 1980s and 90s she was at the height of her career. She won awards and enjoyed several number one singles and albums.
She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin to singer Dionne Warwick and goddaughter to Aretha Franklin.
In a short statement Ms Franklin said she couldn’t talk about it. “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.”
Several artists paid tribute to the star, including Mariah Carey who said she was “heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend”.
“My heartfelt condolences to Whitney’s family and to all her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth.”
On the morning of the Grammys “the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird”, said Civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.
In a statement, Country singer Dolly Parton – who wrote one of Houston’s most memorable hits, I Will Always Love You – said : “Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston.”
“I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song, and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, ‘Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed’.”
Whitney Houston was also an actress in blockbuster films such as The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.
On Sunday Sony Pictures announced that the star’s final film, Sparkle, would be released in August. It is loosely based on the story of The Supremes.
“Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened,” said spokesman Steve Elzer said on behalf of the studio. “The world has lost an incomparable talent.”
But in recent years Ms Houston’s voice – once acknowledged as one of the finest in pop music – was badly damaged due to drug use.
“She did have it all, but the record is there of the decline into drug use and the damage done from drug use,” music critic Paul Gambaccini told the BBC.
Her marriage to Mr Brown was tumultuous, with allegations of domestic abuse and drug addiction, and ended in 2007. They’ve had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
During an interview in 2002, Ms Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer : “The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”