Most know Cissy Houston as the mother of the late Whitney Houston. But Cissy’s career and influence in the American music scene began long before her daughter’s rise to stardom. A two-time Grammy Award winner, she has worked with some of the famous names in the industry, including Elvis Presley.
Her Early Life
Born Emily ‘Cissy’ Drinkard on September 30, 1933, Cissy’s career began as a background singer for various artists, including Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin. She then went on to launch a solo career that yielded her two Grammy Awards. Her first Grammy came in 1996 for the album ‘Face to Face’ in the category of Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. She won again in the same category in 1998 for her album ‘He Leadeth Me.’
Cissy’s Family, Marriages, and Children
Apart from being the mother of Whitney Houston, Cissy is also the aunt of singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and a cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price. Her family also includes her only grandchild, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who was Whitney’s only child.
Cissy’s first marriage was to Freddie Garland in 1955, and they had a son, Gary Garland, born on October 12, 1957. Gary later became an NBA basketball player and was inducted into DePaul University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Houston’s second marriage was to John Russell Houston Jr., with whom she had two more children: Michael, born on August 14, 1961, and Whitney, born on August 9, 1963.
John was initially a taxi and truck driver, but he later ventured into the entertainment industry by managing his nieces-in-law’s vocal group, Drinkard Sisters, in 1959. He later managed The Sweet Inspirations, a group his wife was a part of until she left the group in 1969 to focus on her solo career.
The Impact of Whitney Houston’s Death on Cissy
Whitney faced struggles with drug addiction. Cissy intervened on multiple occasions to help her daughter enter rehabilitation programs. She even obtained a court order and the assistance of law enforcement to ensure Whitney received treatment.
In the wake of Whitney’s death on February 11, 2012, Cissy expressed dissatisfaction with the media’s coverage. Speaking to WWOR news anchor Brenda Blackmon, she said:
“The media are awful. People have come from here and there, and they don’t know what they’re talking about. People I haven’t seen in 20 years… Here they come; they think they know everything, but that’s not true. But God has his way of taking care of all of it, and I’m glad I know that. They really chopped on her, chopped on her … kept, kept, kept.”
She also clarified that she did not blame herself for the way Whitney’s life unfolded, stating that she knew she did her best for her children.
Cissy authored a book in 2013 titled ‘Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped,‘ where she details her late daughter’s ascent to fame and the battles she faced with substance abuse.
Health Concerns and Late Life
Reportedly, Cissy Houston is in the early stages of dementia, a condition that affects over 47.5 million people globally. Despite her health challenges, she remains involved in family affairs and even released an official statement concerning claims of alleged abuse within the family.
Born in 1933, Cissy will celebrate her 89th birthday on September 30 this year.