1972 was the year two of the world’s great music legends made their first appearances on stage before a live audience.
Three year old Bobby Baresford Brown was placed onstage by his Mom to dance during an intermission of a James Brown show at Boston’s Sugar Shack. Speaking about the experience, Brown said “I just strutted around to the music, and ever since, I liked being onstage”.
On the same year, eleven year old Whitney Elizabeth Houston sang “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” at her mother’s New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. “When I finished,” she said, “everyone clapped and started crying.”
This was the beginning of a life marked by tremendous musical achievements, fame, scandal and a turbulent marriage for both of them.
Bobby Brown was born in a Boston Housing project on the 5th of February 1969, into a large family. According to him, there was a thriving drug culture in the neighborhood he grew up in, and you could not "even walk outside your door without someone being in the hallway smoking weed or drinking wine".
He had six siblings and is said to have been a very mischievous child. He was known to have routinely stolen new pairs of sneakers and on one occasion, lay still in a dumpster, getting everyone to worry about what could have happened to him. When his panicked Mother was called to the scene, Bobby got up and laughed hysterically at the practical joke he had played on the entire neighborhood.
His mother was school teacher Carole Brown and father, construction worker, Herbert ‘Pops’ Brown.
Whitney Houston was born on the 9th of August 1963 to successful R&B back-up singer, Cissy Houston, and John Houston in East Orange, New Jersey.
She was the youngest of three children and had a famous Aunt in the person of Dionne Warwick. Her mother was often on the road due to her high-flying career, and it was her father, who managed his wife’s career, that stayed home most of the time to take care of the kids. Whitney has said of her father, “He changed diapers, cooked, did my hair, and dressed me… all the while providing Mom with advice and answers.”
Whitney's Mom, Cissy Houston
By 1980, Whitney had blossomed into an exotic looking teenager who sang back-up for Lou Rawls and Chaka Kahn and worked as a highly sought after model appearing on the covers of Seventeen and Glamour. She also began to make nightclub appearances with her famous mother, in Manhattan.
In the same year, at the tender age of 11, Bobby suffered severe trauma as he watched his close friend being stabbed to death over a bicycle dispute. The experience made him resolve to get out of the projects by all means and he embraced music as a means of expression and the vehicle to a better life. He later dedicated his hit track ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ to this friend.
Young Bobby entered a talent show with three of his friends, where they captured the attention of hotshot Producer, Maurice Starr. The group of friends later became known as New Edition and so began Bobby’s rise to superstardom.
Whitney broke into the music Industry in 1985 when she signed a record contract with Arista Records and produced her self-titled album, ‘Whitney Houston’. She received her first Grammy Award for one of the number one songs on the album, "Saving All My Love for You."
Her second album, ‘Whitney’, was the first album by a female artist to enter the charts at number one. Houston has since received numerous Grammy’s, and became the first performer to have seven consecutive number one singles on the Billboard magazine pop-music charts. She has also enjoyed a successful career as an actress in lead roles for such movies as The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.
Bobby brown left New edition in 1986 to pursue a solo career, partly due to financial frustrations in being with the group. According to him, all he left the group with was $500 and a VCR.
His first album, King of the Stage, peaked at No. 88 on the Billboard 200 producing the hit “Girlfriend". Brown’s next effort—the chart-busting Don’t Be Cruel—propelled the 20 year-old into superstardom overnight. With hits like the title track and “My Prerogative”, Brown’s use of gospel sounds with hip-hop lyrics spawned a new style called New Jack Swing. Bobby won a Grammy award in 1989: Best Male R&B Vocal for 'Every Little Step'.
Brown had a couple of run-ins with the law including being arrested in Columbus Georgia, for simulating a sex act on stage. A series of drug and alcohol related offenses by Bobby soon established his image as the Bad Boy of R&B.
Meanwhile, Whitney was still breaking hearts all around the world with her heavenly notes and squeaky clean Good Girl image. She was admired by the most celebrated men at the time including, Michael Jordan, Jermaine Jackson and Eddie Murphy.
Interestingly, Osama Bin Laden was also one of her biggest admirers.
According to Kola Boof, the Sudanese poet and novelist who claims to have once been Bin Laden's sex slave, "He said that he had a paramount desire for [Houston] and although he claimed music was evil, spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting,". The writer goes on to say that Osama was willing to give Whitney one of his mansions in Khartoum and break his no black women rule, just for her.
Osama Bin Laden (I pledge to Whitney Houston)
At the Soul Train Awards on the 12th of April 1989, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown met for the first time. They began a relationship shortly after, and he soon proposed to her while they were seated in the car during a date.
Bobby produced a cheap, fake diamond ring from his pocket and asked Whitney to marry him. When she said yes, he quickly took the ring back and produced a magnificent diamond ring from his pocket, telling her “I just wanted to see if you would say yes, even if I didn’t have nothing”. (Hmmn...remember Whitney's 'I Have Nothing'??)
Bobby’s statement on why he proposed to Whitney went thus: "I couldn't find anything wrong with her that made me not want to marry her. Honestly, I couldn't. ... There's not just one thing I can point my finger at and say this is what I like about her. It's her. That's what made me love her, and that's what made me want to marry her. I'm just glad she said yes."
They got married on July 18, 1992 on the grounds of Whitney’s home in Mendham, New Jersey. They had about 800 well-wishers (or olofofos) at their wedding.
Their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was born on the 4th of March, 1993. Bobby had 3 previous children from a former relationship.
The world couldn’t understand what the breathtaking Pop Princess/ Singing Sensation was doing with the scandal ridden Bad Boy of Entertainment.
The couple stood together in spite of the confusion and media frenzies about their union.
Apparently, Whitney’s elite family may have also had reservations about her choice of a life partner, as Bobby revealed the nature of his relationship with her family during an interview with NBC’s Stone Phillip’s saying, “I don't feel like they have accepted me totally. No. Well, it's just her mom. I feel like her mom doesn't really know me.”
Whitney spoke about her husband saying, "I've got a good man. He takes care of me. I don't have to be scared of anything because I know he will kick every ass… disrespect him and you've got a problem."
Almost immediately after, their marriage was rife with speculations about physical abuse, drug use and infidelity. The rumours intensified in 1997, when Whitney sported a deep cut on her cheek after a vacation on a yacht with her husband. Both denied that any violence had taken place between them.
In their time together, Whitney had made several distress calls to 911 from their home in Alpharetta, GA. According to one police report, she said Bobby threatened to “beat her ass and then struck the left side of her face with his open right hand”.
When asked during an interview about allegations of spousal abuse made against him and Whitney’s 911 calls, Bobby responded by saying, “My wife has called the police many times… You know, playing around….we play like that. We play slap box. We slap box. That's what we do. And you know, I guess one she just took it a little serious. And she'll tell you the same thing. That it was just a little something in the [lip].”
On that particular incident, the Police report cited visible injuries to Whitney’s face, a bruise on her cheek and a cut on her lip.
Bobby stated that he hadn’t hit Whitney during that incident, but was instead the victim as she had thrown objects at him. “…Did not happen. I got big hands, man. I would hurt her. You know? It would be more than just a little cut on the lip”, he said when asked if he had hurt her.
Houston did accompany Brown when he turned himself in to police four days later to face a single misdemeanor charge of battery, standing by her husband like so many times before.
Talking about their constant squabbles, Whitney said, "We are crazy for one another. I mean crazy in love, love, love, love, love. When we're fighting, it's like that's love for us. We're fighting for our love.”
In a statement she released in 2009 reaching out to songstress Rihanna about the violent incident with Chris Brown, she urged the younger woman not to take him back under any circumstances. She went ahead to plead with Rihanna: “Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Whenever you let your heart rule your head, you are bound to run into trouble”.
Whitney, who had earned a reputation as a Diva for her frequent episodes of tardiness— one one occasion, she arrived two hours late to a White House dinner honouring Nelson Mandela, at which she was the featured performer (she breezed in with the excuse, "I just got off tour," even though her final appearance had been four days previously), was also rumoured to have a substance abuse problem.
Bobby Brown has been open about his drug problems saying, “I would spend like, I'm talking, days to weeks just high. I mean, just high, I mean, just on coke. You know? Marijuana at the same time, alcohol. You know? I wasn't a type that was going to discriminate. You know?.... Because I was afraid of coming down. I was afraid of what I had to deal with the next day. You know? Whether me and my wife was going to be arguing or it was going to be loving, or what was going to happen. You know?”
When asked, Bobby was reluctant to talk about Whitney’s alleged drug problem, only revealing that “I've encouraged us to be clean and healthy. And she's encouraged us, my wife, you know. We're both on the same length as far as us getting help, but I just let other people know--you ain't got to put our business in the street."
Bobby’s career took a blatant nose-dive soon after their marriage. His irresponsible behaviour in public intensified and soon the formerly adored Running Man was seen as nothing more than a public nuisance.
He admitted that he had put aside his career after his marriage, and when asked if his career took a backseat to hers, he clarified saying, “Yeah. To my marriage, to my marriage, you know. Not to her career, but to our marriage.”
In family court in Massachusetts in 2007, Brown was charged with failing to pay child support for his two children from a previous relationship. Since May 2003, it had been a total of $63,000.
During the proceedings, his lawyer told the judge that Brown relies completely on his wife for money, that the former multi-millionaire had no income or assets of his own.
Brown spent the night in jail until friends of his loaned him the money to pay the outstanding debt. He admitted a total financial dependency on Whitney during their union.
The deterioration of the personal lives and careers of both Bobby and Whitney is often blamed on Bobby. In the eyes of the world, he went down and took Whitney with him.
In the words of Bobby Brown, "What's important is that we love each other. It doesn't matter what people say. They want to try to break us down anyway. That's not for us. We're here, and we're gonna be together for a long time, so people can expect us to stay together ... I'm with my wife for the duration – and that's life."
Bobby, Whitney and daughter, Bobbi Kristina
On the 13th of September 2006, Whitney Houston separated from her husband, Bobby Brown and shortly after began divorce proceedings, citing irreconcilable differences.
The world’s reaction to the divorce was “What took her so long?”
On the 16th of August 2009, a Massachusetts court issued an arrest warrant for Bobby Brown after he had failed to appear in court after failing to pay child support for his two teenage children with former girlfriend, Kim Ward.
He recently suffered a mild heart attack. He survived.
Whitney Houston’s 6th full length album ‘I Look to You’ was released on the 31st of August 2009.
6 years ago