Houston's incredible talent was recognized at an early age. Her mother, Cissy, is a respected singer herself.
Family friend Patti Austin was front and center for Houston's first showcase for producer Clive Davis.
"We knew from the first note that came out of her mouth," Austin said. "Not only the sound, the timber of her voice and her maturity when she sang, but she had a great presence on stage."
Houston was signed by Arista Records in 1983. Her first album, released in 1985, launched her career into the stratosphere.
Movies followed, most notably, "The Bodyguard" co-starring Kevin Costner in 1992.
That same year, she married R&B singer Bobby Brown. A year later, Houston gave birth to their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Houston released a comeback album in 2009. She also starred in a movie set for release this summer.
The darker side of fame also shadowed Houston's life. Battles with substance abuse led her to several stints in rehab before her sudden death Saturday. She was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills.
Huston was remembered by her peers Sunday night at the Grammy Awards ceremony, including a moving tribute from Jennifer Hudson, who sang Houston's signature song, "I Will Always Love You."
"All of the divas of today are basically emulating her," said singer Eric Benet.
Houston's music skyrocketed to the top of the charts in the wake of her death. On iTunes, "I Will Always Love You," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "Greatest Love of All," clocked in first, second and third place.