The 1992 film "The Bodyguard" and its soundtrack will remain her signature achievement. She portrayed a superstar singer, alternatively tough and vulnerable, guarded by a former Secret Service agent played by Kevin Costner. For the soundtrack, she took a little-known Dolly Parton song, "I Will Always Love You," and made it her own. And then some. Again, there are the kudos - it won the Grammy Award for record of the year.
The performance itself was remarkable. Houston's voice soared with the power of a jet engine and kept perfect tone for the quieter, tender moments. Every artist has a defining song; if they're lucky, it also shows the peak of their powers. The hits didn't dry up immediately, but they became less frequent. Her marriage to singer Bobby Brown was ill-fated and she descended into drug abuse. In September 1997, I had an interview scheduled with Houston as she was promoting a concert being televised on HBO. It was by phone, but the appointed hour of her call came and went. No Houston. The next day a huge floral arrangement was delivered to
The Associated Press office addressed to me with a note of apology attributed to Houston. When the interview was rescheduled, I thanked her for the arrangement and said it wasn't necessary. She had no idea what I was talking about. One suspects there were many years and many other examples of instances like that, of covering Houston's tracks as she became increasingly unreliable. The years of abuse took a terrible toll on her talent. She made a comeback in 2009 with a "Good Morning America" concert that was sad to watch.
She went through the motions and played hard to the crowd, but her voice could no longer hit the notes that once seemed effortless. During that 1997 interview, Houston deflected talk about a life and marriage that was already clearly troubled. "I didn't get in the business to talk about my personal life," she said then. "I got in the business to sing, to try to make music and to try to make people happy ... if I can. "My life doesn't go on record. My voice does." It is the only thing to be thankful for with this sad story.