Inside Whitney Houston's Troubled Final Weekend, A Decade Later

Inside Whitney Houston's Troubled Final Weekend, A Decade Later

Two days before her death on Feb. 11, 2012, Whitney Houston showed up to rehearsals for mentor Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala.

Whitney Houston would have turned 59 today but her battle with substance abuse and a turbulent relationship with her husband overshadowed her. 

Credits: GettyImages | Picture by Kevork Djansezian
Credits: GettyImages | Picture by Kevork Djansezian


On the eve of what was to be Houston's big comeback with a powerhouse performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards, the iconic singer tragically died, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest vocalists ever to grace the stage. Two days before her death on Feb. 11, 2012, Houston showed up to rehearsals for mentor Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala. Houston’s longtime musical director Rickey Minor was putting the band through its paces for the event, and he noticed immediately that something was different about the woman who was like his "little sister."



“She pops into rehearsal, and we hadn’t even started, and it’s 10:30 in the morning,” Minor told New York Post. “Like, she doesn’t get up till the crack of 3, you know? She’s not a morning person. She loves her sleep, and she’s a night owl, so I never get to see her at 10:30. And she was kind of wet, like dripping. And I said, ‘Where are you coming from?’ She says, ‘I’ve been swimming. I’m getting my lungs back. I’m getting back in shape.’”



According to a local newspaper, Houston was seen skipping around a ballroom and doing handstands near the hotel pool. Later that night, however, she would duet with singer Kelly Price on stage at her pre-Grammy Award party, which would turn out to be her final ever performance. Clearly enamored by Houston joining her, Price gushed: "You are a class act, you are an icon."



Houston claimed that she had been clean for a while after years of drug abuse and smoking had taken their toll on her once-pristine pipes. Two days later on Feb. 11, she was found unconscious in her bathtub in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, just a few floors above where the Clive Davis' pre-Grammy bash was going to take place. Medics were called; the singer was still unresponsive when they arrived. Houston was pronounced dead shortly afterward.



No foul play was suspected in Houston’s passing, as her final cause of death was accidental drowning, with the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use contributing to it, according to a statement from the coroner. “Chances are, had she not had the pre-existing heart disease and cocaine use, she may not have drowned,” Los Angeles County Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey explained in the statement, as per ABC7News. Harvey said there was evidence of chronic cocaine use and he suspected the singer had ingested the drug before she collapsed in the bathtub.



As the music world collectively mourned the loss of one of their greatest artists, there was talk of canceling the Grammy Awards. “But that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do,” longtime Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich told The Post. “Your almost natural instinct right at the beginning was to throw the [originally planned] show out and make the show a tribute to Whitney Houston,” Ehrlich added. “But that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. So it was trying to find the blend between honoring her memory and then doing a Grammy show right.” He managed to get Jennifer Hudson to perform a musical tribute to the late legend.



On the morning of the Grammys—with stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Adele, Taylor Swift, and Paul McCartney set to perform later in the day—Hudson arrived before everyone else to rehearse in private. “Before anybody came in, it would be a little bit less pressure on Jennifer,” said Ehrlich. “And it’s probably a good thing that I did it that way ’cause she couldn’t get through it. She broke down at least twice while we were rehearsing.”

In the wake of Houston’s death, the Grammy after-parties were decidedly somber affairs. “That’s when it really set in,” said Ehrlich, “and it really hit us how impactful she had been—and how tough it was.”

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