Whitney Houston, music superstar, dies

Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

Publicist Kristen Foster said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause was unknown.

A Beverly Hills police officer told reporters at a briefing that emergency assistance received a call from the Beverly Hilton at around 3:20 p.m. PST, and the singer was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m.

"She has been positively identified by friends and family that were with her at the hotel, and next of kin have already been notified," Lieutenant Mark Rosen told reporters.

No other details were immediately available.

Houston was in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards, the music industry's biggest honors program that will take place on Sunday night. She died hours before she was expected to perform at record producer Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammy party on Saturday, which is held at the Beverly Hilton

Immediately, reactions came pouring in from fans and friends in the music industry.

"I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney's passing," legendary music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. "… I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly."

Pop star Rihanna posted on Twitter "No words, just tears," and rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted "Jesus Christ, not Whitney Houston. Greatest of all time."

At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale."

She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

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 demeanor 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 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. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Davis first heard Houston perform.

"The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact," Davis told "Good Morning America."

"To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine," he added.