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Cissy Houston: A mother's love, a musician's heart

  • Whitney Houston's mother Cissy was a star in her own right
  • Cissy Houston has two Grammys, successful recording career
Cissy Houston: A mother's love, a musician's heart

Whitney and Cissy Houston in 1987


Cissy, left, with members of the Sweet Inspirations in 1968

For Cissy and Whitney Houston, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“It’s uncanny … even scary,” Cissy said in a 1992 interview with journalist Steve North. “Whitney’s so much like me when I was younger.”

And with the elder Houston’s impressive recording career, there was a lot to live up to. Born in the same New Jersey town -- Newark -- as her daughter, Cissy found success as a session singer, backing up such greats as Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix with her all-girl group the Sweet Inspirations.

On her own, Cissy has recorded both secular and gospel music. She won Grammys for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album in 1996 and 1998. To this day, she still leads the Youth Inspirational Choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where her daughter is being memorialized.

During Whitney’s childhood, Cissy always encouraged a strong appreciation for music. Whitney got her start singing in church with her mother, and the two sang together in countless live performances. In 1983, music mogul Clive Davis discovered Whitney while she was singing backup for her mother.

READ MORE: Whitney & Clive, the perfect music marriage

However, worldwide fame didn't stop Whitney and Cissy from making music together. They recorded a cover of the Broadway song “I Know Him So Well,” and in 2006 the mother/daughter duo teamed up with Whitney’s cousin Dionne Warwick to record “Family First.” 

It was the strong bond between mother and daughter that Whitney said helped lift her out of her dark days of drug abuse. In a 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney claimed it was her mother who fought to save her from her addiction.

“One day my mother came to my house,” Whitney said. “It was kind of funny, but now that I look at it I see the kind of love and passion that my mother has for me.”

Whitney recalled her mother’s plea, the voice of a woman overwhelmed with love for her daughter. “I’m not losing you to the world,” Cissy had said. “I’m not losing you to Satan. I’m not doing this. I want my daughter back. I want you back.”

Cissy was reportedly hysterical following her daughter’s death. Reports say she will take care of Houston’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Cissy is also the one responsible for choosing to hold Whitney’s funeral at the same church where she got her start.

After a life extinguished far too soon, Cissy has made sure her daughter will finally be coming home.


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