Whitney Houston didn't fall far from the musical tree. Her mother, Cissy Houston, is a Grammy Award-winning American soul and gospel singer. Before beginning her solo career, the elder Houston previously sang backup for Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin.
Cissy Houston was born in Newark, N.J., and as a child had a life full of music. In 1938 she joined her siblings in the Drinkard Four and later the Drinkard Singers, a gospel singing group that regularly performed at the city's New Hope Baptist Church. The group and Houston also went on to record a live album for RCA called A Joyful Noise.
Cissy Houston married Freddie Garland, her first husband, in 1954. Two years later the two divorced, and Houston had her first son, Gary Garland. In 1959 Cissy Houston married John Russell Houston Jr., an Army serviceman. Houston gave birth to Whitney Houston in 1963, the same year she formed the Sweet Inspirations, which featured Doris Troy and Houston's niece, Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne Warwick's sister). It was this group, along with a few other members, that performed backup vocals for Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, among others.
It was after performing backup that Cissy Houston began to pursue her solo career. She recorded several albums throughout the years, but also worked as choirmaster at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. In the 1990s she returned to her gospel roots, and won a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Face to Face. Cissy Houston won another Best Traditional Soup Gospel Album Grammy in 1998 for He Leadeth Me.
Cissy recorded many songs with her daughter Whitney Houston, including the 1987 duet cover, I Know Him So Well, and 2006's Family First, which also features Cissy's niece Dionne Warwick.
In an interview with Steve North, now of the Daily Beast, more than 20 years ago, Cissy reminisced of a quote from Whitney, 'Mommy, I'm going to be a star. I'm going to take care of you, and you're never going to have to work again!'
I'm actually amazed sometimes, Sissy said in the interview about Whitney, She just goes, she soars. And hearing her sometimes just gives me chills.
Cissy Houston, 78, is said to have talked to her daughter Whitney Houston a half hour before her death on Saturday. According to TMZ, Cissy Houston is reported to be hysterical over her daughter's premature death.