Emily "Cissy" Houston (née Drinkard; born September 30, 1933) is an American soul and gospel singer. After a successful career singing backup for such artists as Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, Houston embarked on a solo career, winning two Grammy Awards for her work. Houston is the mother of singer
Whitney Houston, grandmother of Whitney's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, aunt of singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and a cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price.
Houston, the youngest of eight children, was born Emily Drinkard on September 30, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey to Nitcholas ‘Nitch’ and Delia Mae (McCaskill) Drinkard. The Drinkard children attended revival-style weekday services where they discovered gospel music. At the age of five, Houston began singing with her sister Anne and two brothers Larry and Nicky. They formed the gospel singing group, the Drinkard Four, performing regularly at the New Hope Baptist Church. After graduating from Newark’s South Side High School, she and her group, now The Drinkard Singers, continued performing and were featured on a 1951 program at Carnegie Hall starring Mahalia Jackson.
Following her father’s death in 1955, Houston married her first husband, Freddie Garland and the couple had one child, Gary. Two years later, the two divorced and she met John Houston. Later that year, The Drinkard Singers breakthrough performance at the Newport Folk Festival led to the album A Joyful Noise on the RCA Victor label. The group included Houston’s nieces and their adopted sister Judy Guions (Clay). In 1959, Cissy and John Houston were married. Then, in 1963, while pregnant with her daughter Whitney Houston, she formed the Sweet Inspirations with Doria Troy and Dee Dee Warwick
|Cissy & Johm|
(Dionne’s sister), and over the course of the next few years they provided backup vocals to prominent artists including Aretha Franklin (Natural Woman) and Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl). The group released their debut album in 1967 and toured the country with Aretha Franklin and sang back up in Las Vegas with Elvis Presley.
Houston left the Sweet Inspirations in 1969 to pursue a solo career. She recorded an impressive album for Commonwealth United in 1970, Presenting Cissy Houston, which yielded a couple of small R&B/pop hits: "I'll Be There" and "Be My Baby." Much in the manner of the Sweet Inspirations, although the material consisted of fairly well-worn soul, rock, and pop tunes, the state-of-the-art arrangements and gospel-ish vocals made them sound fresh.
Her contract was sold to Janus Records later in the year, and while she issued a few singles there until the middle of the '70s, she never received the support and promotion she deserved. A case in point was her little-known original version of "Midnight Train to Georgia," taken to the top of the charts about a year later by Gladys Knight & the Pips.
In the early 1980s, Whitney joined her mother while Cissy performed regular club dates in New York. In 1985, Whitney Houston’s first album won a Grammy Award and catapulted her to pop super stardom. In 1987, Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney, was released, including the duet “I Know Him So Well,” recorded by Whitney and Cissy. In 1988, the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children was established, and Cissy was appointed president and CEO.
In 1992, Cissy was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Two years later, she was honoured again, receiving two honorary doctorates, and on March 2, 1995, she received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award. Houston won her first Grammy for “Face to Face” in 1996 and her second in 1998 for the all-gospel release, He Leadeth Me.
Houston remained active in both her community and the music industry. In 2005, she released a compilation CD, The Cissy Houston Collection, and in 2006, she recorded the song "Family First" with Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston for the soundtrack to the movie Daddy's Little Girls. Additionally, she led the New Hope Baptist Church 200-plus member Youth Inspirational Choir and in 2004 she was honoured by the church for 50 years of service.
The tragic deaths of her daughter Whitney in 2012 and her granddaughter Bobbi Kristina Brown in 2015 have certainly taken its toll on Cissy and now she is now said to be battling another huge feat.In July 2018 According to Radar Online, Cissy Houston has been diagnosed with Dementia. A source claims that the 84-year old repeats herself a lot as well as suffering from a loss of memory: “She's in the early stages of dementia... She repeats herself a lot and doesn't remember what she says. She just says she's getting old.” Cissy also allegedly disowned her son after he revealed details regarding the reported assault she endured as a child within The Whitney Houston documentary which is currently in theaters.
(Compiled and edited from various sources mainly visionaryproject.org & All Music)