Grammy Award-winning singer and philanthropist Whitney Houston has died at 48, leaving behind a rich legacy of music, philanthropy and principled stands for justice. Houston, whose cause of death is under investigation, spent some modeling years avoiding agencies that did business in apartheid South Africa. In 1988, she performed in London at Freedomfest, an event thrown in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. Here is a video of her singing, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” at that event:
The concert was watched by 600 million people and was credited with raising worldwide consciousness about the imprisoned leader, leading—many believe—to his release. In 1994, after Mandela’s election, Houston performed in a special series of South African concerts, all proceeds of which were donated by Whitney Houston and her foundation to South African children’s charities, including two children’s museums and several orphanages. Here she is singing “I Will Always Love You” at one of those concerts:
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
In 1989, Houston founded Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, which helped kids with cancer and AIDS. She was also involved with many other causes, including the United Negro College Fund, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. In 1991, she donated her royalties from her chart-busting rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to the Red Cross:
And in 1997, Houston’s “Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C.” HBO special concert reportedly raised more than $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund. Goodbye, Whitney. We will miss you dearly.–Ruth McCambridge