Cissy Houston in 1975
|Birth name||Emily Drinkard|
September 30, 1933 |
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
|Genres||Soul, gospel, disco|
|Labels||RCA, Commonwealth United, Private Stock, Motown, Janus, Major Minor, Columbia, A&M, Delta Music, Harlem Records|
|Associated acts||Whitney Houston, Sweet Inspirations, The Drinkard Singers, Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, Herbie Mann, Luther Vandross|
Emily "Cissy" Houston (née Drinkard; born September 30, 1933) is an American soul, gospel singer. After a successful career singing backup for such artists as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin she embarked on a solo career, winning two Grammy Awards for her work. She is the mother of Whitney Houston, aunt of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and a cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price.
- 1 Family and childhood
- 2 Career
- 3 Discography
- 4 Filmography
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Family and childhood
Born Emily Drinkard in Newark, New Jersey to Nitcholas and Delia Mae Drinkard (née McCaskill), she was the eighth child; older siblings were her brothers William, Hansom, Nicky, and Larry, and sisters Lee, Marie and Anne. Houston's father Nitcholas Drinkard was born to Susan Bell (called Delia) Drinkard (née Fuller), of Dutch and African-American descent. His father John Drinkard, Jr., was of Native American and African descent. The Drinkards had owned a substantial amount of farmland in Blakely, Georgia, during a time when it was unusual for blacks to own large portions of land. The asset was gradually depleted as they sold small portions of the land over time, to resolve the continued legal troubles of a close relative.
After Houston's three oldest siblings were born, the family relocated to New Jersey during the Second Great Migration. Her parents emphasized the children getting educated and being involved in the church, and her father encouraged Houston and her siblings to sing. In 1938 when Houston was five years old, her mother, Delia, suffered a stroke and died of cerebral hemorrhage three years later.
Her father died of stomach cancer in 1951 when Houston was 18. Cissy and her siblings went to live with her older sister Lee and her husband Mancel Warwick. The Warwicks had three children: a son, Mancel Warwick Jr. and two daughters Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick. Renowned soprano Leontyne Price is a Drinkard cousin.
Marriage and children
In 1959, she married John Russell Houston, Jr., a Newark City Administrator and entertainment executive. The couple had a son Michael Houston, who became a songwriter, and a daughter, Whitney Houston, who became an R&B/pop singer . Aretha Franklin was an honorary aunt of Houston's daughter.
In the 1990s, Houston's daughter Whitney began to struggle with drug addiction. Houston staged several interventions to get her daughter into rehabilitation and recovery programs. On one occasion she obtained a court order and the assistance of two sheriffs to intervene, convincing her daughter to undertake treatment at Hope For Women Residential & Therapeutic Services in Atlanta, Georgia. Her daughter cycled through recovery, relapse and rehabilitation programs. On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston, died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. After her daughter's death, in an interview with the New Jersey TV station WWOR, Houston expressed her distaste of the media's coverage of related events: "The media are awful. People have come from here and there, [and they] don't know what they're talking about," she said. "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."  Houston has six grandchildren.
The Drinkard Singers
Houston's singing career began in 1938 when she joined her sister Anne and brothers Larry and Nicky in the gospel singing group the Drinkard Four. Lee (who would later become the mother of singers Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick), later joined the group along with Ann Moss and Marie Epps, and the group was renamed The Drinkard Singers. Houston and the Drinkard Singers regularly performed at New Hope Baptist Church and later recorded a live album for RCA called A Joyful Noise.
In 1963, then about to give birth to daughter Whitney Houston, she formed the Sweet Inspirations with Doris Troy and niece Dee Dee Warwick. Later, under contract to Atlantic Records, Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith form the line-up.
During the mid-1960s, the Sweet Inspirations provided backup vocals for a variety of artists, including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, The Drifters, Dusty Springfield and Houston's niece Dionne Warwick. They appeared on Van Morrison's single Brown Eyed Girl. Houston performed the operatic soprano melody on the Aretha Franklin hit, Ain't No Way.
In 1969, they were hired to sing backing vocals for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas on his return to live performances during July and August 1969. Presley often introduced them at shows by saying, "They really live up to their name ladies & gentleman, The Sweet Inspirations!"  Many of these performances can be heard on the All Shook Up and Live In Las Vegas live records.
Performing with Elvis Presley was Houston's final gig with The Sweet Inspirations. As her children were growing bigger, she decided to stop touring and focus on her career as a recording artist.
In 1969, Houston signed a recording contract with Commonwealth United Records and recorded her solo debut Presenting Cissy Houston which was released in 1970. It contained several well received singles, including covers of "I'll Be There" and "Be My Baby", both of which made the R&B charts.
Following the release of her debut album, Houston's contract was sold to Janus Records in 1970. She recorded another album and several more singles in the early 1970s, which included the original recording of Jim Weatherly's "Midnight Train to Georgia" in 1972, later a number one hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips. She continued to record with Janus Records until 1975.
In 1977, Houston was signed by Private Stock Records, working with arranger/producer Michael Zager on three albums. The second included her big disco hit "Think It Over", which climbed to #32 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1979. She represented USA at the World Popular Song Festival in 1979 with a track called "You're the Fire", landing second place and winning the "Most Outstanding Performance Award". This also appeared on her 1980 disco-flavored album, Step Aside for a Lady, again produced by Zager, but released on Columbia Records (on EMI in the United Kingdom).
Houston's cross-genre singing style has kept her highly in demand as a session musician with some of the world's most successful recording artists.
She sang back-up on Bette Midler's 1972 debut album, The Divine Miss M. In 1974, Houston sang back-up on Linda Ronstadt's Heart Like A Wheel, an album that topped Billboard′s Pop and Country Album Charts in early 1975.
In 1971, Houston was featured on three tracks of Burt Bacharach's self-titled solo album: "Mexican Divorce", "All Kinds of People" and "One Less Bell to Answer".
During 1975 and 1976, she worked with jazz flautist Herbie Mann on two Atlantic albums, Waterbed and Surprises, featuring on three tracks, "Violet Don't Be Blue", JJ Cale's "Cajun Moon" and "Easter Rising".
In addition to her work as choirmaster at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, Cissy performed frequently at clubs in NYC including Mikell's, Sweetwaters, Seventh Avenue South, and Fat Tuesday from the late 1970s through the 1980s.
Whitney Houston, her daughter and backup singer, increasingly sang solos with Cissy's band, including the Barbra Streisand hit "Evergreen". They would collaborate on Ain't No Way (originally a Cissy Houston and Aretha Franklin vehicle), on which Cissy sang "Cissy" and Whitney "Aretha".
Whitney's "coming-out" performance took place at Sweetwaters, whereupon she was signed by Clive Davis for Arista Records.
In 1985, the small UK independent label Glitter released a single, "With You I Could Have It All" and "Whatcha Gonna Do About Our Love". The 12-inch single featured both a ballad and a dance version of the song.
Gospel soloist and duets
The same year she contributed one song to the gospel soundtrack album for the film The Preacher's Wife, which starred her daughter Whitney Houston.
In 1998, she won her second Grammy for her album He Leadeth Me.
She has also continued to record infrequent secular material and in 1987, Houston and her daughter Whitney recorded a duet titled "I Know Him So Well", a cover of the original by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige from the Broadway show, Chess. This song also became a single in early 1989 as the 6th and last single release (in selected European countries) from Whitney's album Whitney. In 1992 she teamed up with Chuck Jackson for an album of solo and duet recordings entitled I'll Take Care of You.
In 2010, Cissy attended the third annual BET Honors with her daughter Whitney, who received the entertainment award.
In 2012, Cissy performed "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the tribute for her daughter at the BET Music Awards.
New Hope Baptist Church Youth Inspirational Choir
With the Drinkard Singers
|1958||A Joyful Noise||RCA Records/Victor|
With the Sweet Inspirations
|1970||Presenting Cissy Houston||Major Minor Records|
|1977||Cissy Houston||Private Stock Records|
|1978||Think It Over||Private Stock Records|
|1980||Step Aside For A Lady||Columbia Records|
|1992||I'll Take Care of You||Shanachie Records|
|1996||Face To Face||House of Blues|
|1997||He Leadeth Me||A&M Records|
|2001||Love Is Holding You||Neon|
|2012||Walk on By Faith||Harlem Records|
|1995||Midnight Train to Georgia: Janus Years||Ichiban Records|
|1999||Cissy Houston & Whitney Houston||Delta Music|
|2000||The Definitive Collection||Connoisseur Records|
|2005||Cissy Houston Collection||Intersound|
|1975||Waterbed||Herbie Mann, featuring Houston|
|1976||Surprises||Herbie Mann, featuring Houston|
|1992||I'll Take Care of You||Chuck Jackson & Cissy Houston|
|1996||A Time to Kill||"Take My Hand, Precious Lord"|
|1996||The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album||"The Lord Is My Shepherd"|
|1998||Late Show with David Letterman, December 23 episode||"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"|
|2007||Daddy's Little Girls Original Movie Soundtrack||"Family First"|
|1996||"The Lord Is My Shepherd"||The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album|
|1997||"Count Your Blessings"|
|1996||"Deep River/Campground"||Donny Harper|
|1976||"Endless Waters"||David Forman|
- 1978: The Wiz (uncredited voice) – The Wiz Singers Adult Choir
- 1984: Taking My Turn (TV)
- 1994: The Vernon Johns Story (TV) as Rose
- aka Freedom Road: The Vernon Johns Story (UK)
- aka The Road to Freedom: The Vernon Johns Story (USA: alternative title)
- 1996: The Preacher's Wife as Mrs. Havergal
- 1970: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (3 episodes)
- 1979: Gangsters (herself)
- aka Hoodlums (USA: video title)
- 1985: Late Night with David Letterman; August 28 episode
- 1986: Ebony/Jet Showcase; October 10 episode
- 1987: The 1st Annual Soul Train Music Awards
- 1988: The 15th Annual American Music Awards
- 1998: Late Show with David Letterman December 23 episode
- 2004: Intimate Portrait Dionne Warwick episode
- 2008: This Time (herself)
- "Geni.com: Emily Houston (Drinkard)". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- Houston, Cissy (September 2, 2009). "Visionary Project Video - Cissy Houston: My Family". Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- "Geni.com: Delia Drinkard (McCaskill)". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- "Geni.com: Nitcholas Drinkard". April 13, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- Warwick, Dionne (2010). My Life, as I See It. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020: Atria Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4391-7134-9.
- Warwick, Dionne (2010). My Life, as I See It. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020: Atria Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4391-7134-9.
- Warwick, Dionne (2012). My Life, as I See It. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY, 10020, USA: Atria Books. ISBN 978-1-4391-7134-9.
- "Artistopia.com". Dionne Warwick. iCubator Labs LLC. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
- "Gary Garland Houston Is Whitney Houston Brother". Celebrity Justice. Ghana Politics. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- "Cissy Houston: National Visionary". Oral History Videos. http://www.visionaryproject.org. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- "Gary Garland: NBA & ABA Stats". Basketball Reference. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
- Walters, Judy (February 12, 2012). "Whitney Houston News: Life and Times of the American Singing Snesation Who Died at 48". Belle News. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- Skittles, D. "Michael Houston". Celebrity Siblings. Celebrity Siblings Blog. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
- Silverman, Stephen M. "Whitney Houston's Brother Arrested". www.people.com. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- Merriman, Rebecca. "Michael Houston 'Devastated' At Death of Sister". New. www.entertainmentwise.com. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- Whitall, Susan. "Aretha Franklin recalls meeting a young Whitney Houston". The Detroit News. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- Winfrey, Oprah (September 2009). "Remembering Whitney: The Oprah Winfrey Interview" (video). Oprah Winfrey Network. p. 40:02 minutes. Retrieved April 21, 2010. "I see the love and the passion that my mother had for me and she walks in with these sheriffs and she says 'I have a court junction here. Either you do it my way or we're just not going to do this at all. We're going to go on TV and you're going to retire and say you're going to give this up. Because this is not worth it. It's not worth it. And if you move Bobby (Brown), they're going to take you down. Don't you make one move. Let's go. Let's do this. I'm not losing you to the world. I'm not losing you to Satan. I want my daughter back. I'm not doing this. I want my daughter back. I want you back. I want to see that glow in your eyes, that light in your eyes. I want to see the child I raised. You weren't raised like this. And I'm not having it.'"
- Winfrey, Oprah (September 2009). "Remembering Whitney: The Oprah Winfrey Interview" (video). Oprah Winfrey Network. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
- Moody, Nekesa Mumbi. "Whitney Houston, superstar of records, films, dies". Associated Press. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
- Williams, Brennan (April 3, 2012). "Whitney Houston Death: Cissy Houston Breaks Her Silence". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- McCall, Tris. "The Star Ledger". Song of the Day: Lift Him Up, The Drinkard Singers. www.nj.com. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Unterberger, Richie. "All Music Guide". The Sweet Inspirations: Biography. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Jimi Hendrix Experience, The. "Discography". Electric Ladyland. discogs.com. Retrieved Feb 21, 2012.
- Houston, Cissy. "Cissy Houston Remembers Elvis Presley". The Sweet Inspirations (Video). www.elvis.com.au. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Unterberger, Richie (2003). Bogdanov, Vladimir, ed. All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul (Revised ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 321. ISBN 9780879307448. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "Cissy Houston @ Artist Direct". Cissy Houston @ Artist Direct. www.artistdirect.com. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
- Nathan, David. "CISSY HOUSTON: PRESENTING CISSY HOUSTON EXPANDED EDITION (SMCR-5054)". soulmusic.com. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Adam White (March 9, 1985). "Talent in Action: Whitney Houston, Sweetwaters in New York". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.) 97 (10). ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
- "MUSICA DESDE LAS ANTIPODAS". The Doctor Is In...And Out. brownweb. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
- "Chaka Khan - Clouds". Clouds. JazzFunkster444. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- "Chaka Khan - Papillion (Hot Butterfly)". Papillion (Hot Butterfly). p4soul. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Cissy Houston at the Internet Movie Database
- Cissy Houston @ Artist Direct
- Cissy Houston's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- The New Hope Baptist Church
- Young Americans on YouTube Live Performance with David Bowie