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Cissy Houston

Cissy Houston in 1975
Background information
Birth name Emily Drinkard
Born September 30, 1933 (1933-09-30) (age 76)
Origin Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Soul
Occupations Singer
Instruments Vocals Soprano
Years active 1969 - present
Labels RCA, Commonwealth United, Private Stock
Associated acts Whitney Houston
Doris Troy
Elvis Presley
Mahalia Jackson
Aretha Franklin
Luther Vandross
Dee Dee Warwick

Emily Cissy Drinkard Houston (born September 30, 1933), better known as Cissy Houston, is a Grammy Award winning American soul and gospel singer. She led a very successful career as a backup singer for such artists as Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin, and is now primarily a solo artist. She is the mother of singer and actress Whitney Houston and aunt of Dionne Warwick and the late Dee Dee Warwick.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Houston was the youngest of eight children of parents Nicholas (aka Nitch) and Delia Drinkard. In 1938 when Houston was 5 years old her mother, Delia, suffered a stroke and died of cerebral hemorrhage three years later. Her father later died of stomach cancer in 1951 when Houston was 18.[citation needed]

As a child, Houston joined her sister Anne and brothers Larry and Nicky in the gospel singing group the Drinkard Four in 1938. Houston's sister, Lee (who would later become the mother of singers Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick), later joined the group along with Ann Moss and Marie Epps, and the group was renamed The Drinkard Singers. Houston and the Drinkard Singers regularly performed at New Hope Baptist Church and later recorded a live album for RCA called A Joyful Noise.

Shortly after her father's death, Houston married her first husband in 1954 at the age of 21. The two were divorced two years later while Houston was pregnant with her first son, Gary.[citation needed] Still pregnant, Houston met Army serviceman John Houston, and the two were married in 1959.[citation needed]

In 1963, then about to give birth to daughter Whitney Houston, she formed the Sweet Inspirations with Doris Troy and niece Dee Dee Warwick. Later members (and the ones she recorded with on the Atlantic label) were Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith. Throughout the mid-1960s, the group provided backup vocals for several artists, including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, The Drifters, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Morrison (for "Brown Eyed Girl"). Houston is the operatic soprano in the background on Franklin's hit, "Ain't No Way". The group also sang backup for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas on his return to live performances during July and August 1969, and for Cissy's niece Dionne Warwick.

Houston left the Sweet Inspirations in 1969 to pursue a solo career, although she continued to be in demand as a session singer. She was signed by Commonwealth United and in 1970 released a well-received album that contained several near-hit singles, including covers of "I'll Be There" and "Be My Baby". After her contract was sold to Janus Records, Houston recorded several more singles in the early 1970s and another album, which included the original recording of Jim Weatherly's "Midnight Train To Georgia", later a number one hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips. Houston later blamed poor promotion for the failure of her earlier version.

In 1977, Houston was signed by Private Stock, working with arranger/producer Michael Zager on three albums. The second included her big disco hit "Think It Over", which climbed to #32 on the Billboard R&B chart and just missed the Hot 100 in 1979. She represented USA at the World Popular Song Festival in 1979 with a track called "You're The Fire", landing second place and winning the "Most Outstanding Performance Award". This also appeared on her 1980 disco-flavored album, "Step Aside For A Lady", again produced by Michael Zager, but released on Columbia (on EMI in the UK).

She has remained in demand as singer and has the ability to sing in several genres. She is featured on three tracks "Mexican Divorce", "All Kinds of People" & "One Less Bell to Answer" on Burt Bacharach's 1971 solo album. She worked with jazz flute-player Herbie Mann on two Atlantic albums Waterbed & Surprise (1975-76) featuring on three tracks "Violet Don't Be Blue", JJ Cale's "Cajun Moon" and "Easter Rising".

In addition to her work as choirmaster at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, Cissy performed frequently at clubs in NYC including Mikell's, Sweetwaters, Seventh Avenue South, and Fat Tuesday from the late 1970s through the 1980s.

Among the many fine musicians who played with her (it was always clear that Cissy herself led the band) were many fantastic backup singers. One backup "constant" was her daughter, Whitney. As time went on, Cissy allowed Whitney a solo. At one point "Evergreen", the Streisand hit, was the preferred solo. To the surprise of the uninitiated, this slight, beautiful young woman would tear it up, bringing down the house: it was clear that Cissy was passing the torch. More than once they collaborated on "Ain't No Way" (originally a Cissy/Aretha masterpiece), wherein Cissy sang "Cissy" and Whitney sang "Aretha". Whitney's "coming out" performance took place at Sweetwaters[citation needed] (Amsterdam Avenue between 67th & 68th Streets - defunct as are the other cited venues), whereupon Whitney was signed by Clive Davis for Arista Records.

In 1985, the small UK independent label Glitter released a single, With You I Could Have It All and Whatcha Gonna Do About Our Love . The 12-inch single featured both a ballad and a dance version of the song.

She returned to her gospel roots in the 1990s with substantial acclaim. In 1996 she received the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Face to Face an album that contained a gospelised version of ""How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)"" and she won the award again in 1998 for her album He Leadeth Me. In 1996 she also contributed one song to the gospel soundtrack album for the film "The Preacher's Wife" which was starring her daughter Whitney Houston.

She has also continued to record infrequent secular material and in 1987, Houston and her daughter Whitney recorded a duet titled "I Know Him So Well", a cover of the original by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige from the Broadway show, Chess. This song also became a single in early 1989 as the 6th and last single release (in selected European countries) from Whitney's album "Whitney". In 1992 she teamed up with Chuck Jackson for an album of solo and duet recordings entitled I'll Take Care of You.

In 2006, she recorded the song "Family First" with niece Dionne Warwick and daughter Whitney Houston for the soundtrack to the movie Daddy's Little Girls.

Cissy Houston broke her ankle in 2009. She was seen walking with a cane on whilst she attended the pre-Grammy party to watch her daughter Whitney Houston perform.[citation needed]

In 2010 Cissy was at the third annual BET Honors for her daughter Whitney, who got the entertainment award.




"A Time to Kill" (1996) ("Take My Hand Precious Lord")

The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album (1996) (performer: "The Lord Is My Shepherd")

"Late Show with David Letterman" (1 episode, 1998) ... aka Late Show Backstage (USA: title for episodes with guest hosts) ... aka Letterman (Australia) ... aka The Late Show (USA: informal short title) - Episode dated 23 December 1998 (1998) TV episode (performer: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)")

Daddy's Little Girls (Original Movie Soundtrack) (2007) (performer: "Family First") ... aka Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls (USA: complete title)

Musical Works: "Angels" (1976) (arranger: vocals) (performer: vocals) "Dangerously in Love" (2003) (background vocals for Beyonce)



The Wiz (1978) (voice) (uncredited) .... The Wiz Singers Adult Choir

Taking My Turn (1984) (TV)

The Vernon Johns Story (1994) (TV) .... Rose ... aka Freedom Road: The Vernon Johns Story (UK) ... aka The Road to Freedom: The Vernon Johns Story (USA: alternative title)

The Preacher's Wife (1996) .... Mrs. Havergal


"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" .... Herself (3 episodes, 1970) ... aka The Best of Carson (USA: rerun title) - Episode dated 24 March 1970 (1970) TV episode .... Herself - Episode dated 20 March 1970 (1970) TV episode .... Herself - Episode dated 13 March 1970 (1970) TV episode .... Herself

Gangsters(1979) .... Herself ... aka Hoodlums (USA: video title)

"Late Night with David Letterman" .... Herself (1 episode, 1985) - Episode dated 28 August 1985 (1985) TV episode .... Herself "Ebony/Jet Showcase" .... Herself (1 episode, 1986) - Episode dated 10 October 1986 (1986) TV episode .... Herself

The 1st Annual Soul Train Music Awards (1987) (TV) .... Herself

The 15th Annual American Music Awards (1988) (TV) .... Herself/Performer

"Late Show with David Letterman" .... Herself (1 episode, 1998) ... aka Late Show Backstage (USA: title for episodes with guest hosts) ... aka Letterman (Australia) ... aka The Late Show (USA: informal short title) - Episode dated 23 December 1998 (1998) TV episode .... Herself

"Intimate Portrait" .... Herself (1 episode, 2004) - Dionne Warwick (2004) TV episode .... Herself This Time (2008) .... Herself

External links



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