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Whitney Houston performing in Germany in 2009. Houston died in Los Angeles yesterday, aged 48. JOHANNES EISELE/AP

Whitney Houston found dead in Los Angeles hotel room

Pop music’s erratic queen – best remembered for her acting role in The Bodyguard, and its accompanying soundtrack – was 48.

SINGER AND ACTRESS Whitney Houston has been found dead in a hotel room in Los Angeles. She was 48.

Houston was pronounced dead in a room at the Beverly Hilton hotel shortly before midnight Irish time. Her body remained at the scene last night.

Houston had ruled as the queen of pop music, until her voice was ravaged by drug problems, and her public persona tainted by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen said there had been “no obvious signs of any criminal intent.” Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.

Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43pm local time. Paramedics – who were already at the hotel because of a pre-Grammy Awards party – were not able to resuscitate her.

Organisers of the Grammys, which are to go ahead this evening, said singer and actress Jennifer Hudson would lead a tribute to Houston at tonight’s awards.

Her longtime mentor Clive Davis went ahead with his annual concert at the same hotel where her body was found. He dedicated the evening to her and asked for a moment of silence as a photo of the singer, hands wide open, looking to the sky, appeared on the screen.

Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press in advance that she would perhaps perform: “It’s her favourite night of the year … [so] who knows by the end of the evening,” he said.

Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica. The person said Houston looked dishevelled, was sweating profusely, and alcohol and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.

Two days ago she had performed at a pre-Grammy party singing the gospel classic “Jesus Loves Me” – her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.

Aretha Franklin, her godmother, said she was stunned. “I just can’t talk about it now,” Franklin said in a short statement. “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

“The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,” Sharpton said in a statement.

Golden girl

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful and peerless vocals 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 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.

A 2009-2010 European tour had confirmed her descent – a performance on The X Factor to promote her tour was better remembered for Houston’s lackadaisical performance, while fans openly booed at concerts in frustration at her poor showings.

Additional reporting by Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press

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