Whitney Houston: The Voice

About Dr. Reena Gupta

Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at OHNI. Dr. Gupta has devoted her practice to the care of patients with voice problems. She is board certified in otolaryngology and laryngology and fellowship trained in laryngology, specializing in the care of the professional voice.

View All Posts


I began mourning the loss of Whitney Houston long ago.  The first time I heard how her voice had deteriorated, I began to feel the loss.  Even her melodious speaking voice was ravaged by the time she was infamously interviewed by Diane Sawyer.  While people gossiped about a bad performance, I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen.  It hurt too much knowing how far she had fallen and from what glorious heights.  For me, her final passing was merely the last step in the grieving process.  That process had begun when I realized her hard life had cost her the miraculous gift of her voice.

These articles are meant to serve as advice and guidance to professional voice users.  I could, and will, write something to help singers understand the effects of certain substances on the voice.  But today, for this artist, I am unable to write about anything except her voice.

No Auto-Tune, no lip syncing, no fancy tricks.  She was all voice.  She was called the “Queen of Pop” and, indeed, she essentially created the genre of pop music.  Although now, it’s more “pop” than “music,” with special effects and digital enhancements, when Whitney created it, it was all about voice.  In 1993, Stephen Holden from The New York Times wrote “Whitney Houston is one of the few contemporary pop stars of whom it might be said: the voice suffices. While almost every performer whose albums sell in the millions calls upon an entertainer’s bag of tricks, from telling jokes to dancing to circus pyrotechnics, Ms. Houston would rather just stand there and sing.” Houston was a stunning, lyrical, five-octave musical magician, who effortlessly glided from soaring highs to gritty, passionate lows.

I know that many tributes to Whitney Houston will follow and I’m also glad a whole new generation will be exposed to real music and a real voice.  I know that every tribute I listen to, I will not be able to stop myself from comparisons to the original.  And I know that no one will compare. Even the most gifted of today’s young singers does not have the bell-like clarity, elegant carriage, vocal fluidity, and emotional delivery that Houston does.

Whitney was the woman who showed young girls that a voice is what makes music.  She inspired a love of music in me that eventually led me to study voice and become a voice physician.  She was the only woman on the radio when I was a child but she was everywhere and from that presence, a dream could be built.  When I was a kid, you tested your vocal mettle by being able to sing along to Houston’s songs.  Countless singers today cite her example as the one they tried to follow when singing into their hairbrushes for their family.

Today, the business of performance has overtaken the joy of voice.  I hope, if nothing else, these remembrances bring us back to days of real voice and song.  I hope that young singers learn from Whitney’s mistakes, as I’m sure she would want them to, and protect their gift of voice.  She had such insight into her problems and her demons.  She had such faith and strength.  I know that the legacy that lives on will not be of her troubled life but of her soaring song.