Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on 9 August 1963 in Newark, New Jersey. She started singing in church when she was just 11 years old. The first song she ever sang there was Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah. When she and Stevie Wonder were guests on the Arsenio Hall show in 1990, she recalled that song and sang a bit of it. Here's that video clip:
Whitney's mother was Emily "Cissy" Houston, who formed a harmony gospel-soul group while she was pregnant with Whitney called The Sweet Inspirations, along with Doris Troy and Whitney's cousin, Dee Dee Warwick. That group evolved over the years, adding new members Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith. The group sang backing vocals on dozens of records by artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, The Drifters, Dusty Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Morrison. Houston is the operatic soprano in the background on Franklin's hit, "Ain't No Way". The group also sang backup for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas on his return to live performances during July and August 1969, and for Cissy's niece Dionne Warwick.
Here's a great gospel-flavored cover of the Everly Brothers hit from 1960, Let It Be Me, by The Sweet Inspirations on Atlantic 2418 from 1967, a #13 R&B hit that also appeared at #94 on the Billboard Hot 100:
Cissy left the group in 1969 for a solo career. She got into the Billboard Hot 100 at #92 with this song from 1971, a cool cover of the 1962 Ronettes hit written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. Here's Be My Baby by Cissy Houston on Janus 145 from 1971:
The Sweet Inspirations sang backup vocals on Van Morrison's hit, Brown Eyed Girl. I've got a little story about that song to tell you tomorrow. Don't touch that dial! Keep it set on MusicMaster Oldies, the place to be for pop music history!