Fans and musicians have reacted with shock to the death of American singer and actress Whitney Houston.
Aretha Franklin, the star’s godmother, said the news was “stunning and unbelievable” while Mariah Carey said she was “heartbroken and in tears”.
Houston died in her hotel room the night before the Grammy Awards, which are taking place in Los Angeles. Some reports say she was found in the bath.
Meanwhile, Houston’s daughter Bobbi, 18, has been taken to hospital.
The 48-year-old Houston was best known for powerful ballads such as I Will Always Love You and One Moment In Time.
But her later career was overshadowed by substance abuse and her turbulent marriage to singer Bobby Brown.
Opening the show, he pointed to the sky and declared, “I love you”.
Addressing fans, he added: “First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage.”
Houston’s career highlights
- 170m records sold worldwide
- 11 US and four UK number one hits
- Won six Grammys, including three for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
- Won 30 Billboard Awards and 22 American Music Awards
- I Will Always Love You is the best selling single by a female artist of all time
The couple’s volatile marriage, which was marked by drug addiction and allegations of domestic abuse, ended in 2007.
After that, Houston’s career appeared to be set for a revival. Her 2009 comeback album, I Look To You, reached number one in the US, and she had recently finished filming a new movie, Sparkle.
The singer’s publicist Kristen Foster announced on Saturday that the singer had died. Police sources later confirmed that she had been found unresponsive in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Celebrity news website TMZ.com said the singer had been found slumped in the bathtub by members of her entourage, her face underwater.
Police investigators inspected the scene before Ms Houston’s body was moved from the hotel to the coroner’s office for an autopsy.
She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth”
An autopsy is likely to be held within the next two days. However, if drugs or alcohol are involved, it will take between six and eight weeks for toxicology tests to be completed.
Houston’s daughter Bobbi was taken from the Beverly Hilton – the same hotel where her mother died – on Sunday morning, according to the Beverly Hills Fire Department.
Her condition is currently not known, but is said to be “non-life threatening”.
The singer’s death came on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. She had been due to attend a pre-awards party in the hotel she was staying in, organised by her long-time mentor and record industry executive Clive Davis on Saturday evening.
He went ahead with the party, holding a minute’s silence and telling the audience he was “personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years”.
Jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who was attending the event, said: “It’s difficult not to be sad about it because it’s a great loss. Her soul, her spirit, lives within all of us.”
R&B star Rihanna, who was rehearsing her Grammy performance when the news broke, simply tweeted: “No words! Just tears”.
She later posted lyrics from Houston’s biggest hits on her Twitter account, including “I have nothing if I don’t have you”, a track from the soundtrack to the star’s biggest film, Bodyguard.
Music mogul Simon Cowell said he expected Sunday’s ceremony to become a tribute to the singer, describing her as a “trailblazer and “legend”.
“There are so few people like her in the world. They are a rarefied breed, these are true superstars, legendary divas – and I say divas in the nicest possible way.
“She had one of the greatest voices I have ever heard in my life, ever.”
Organisers of the Grammys later said Houston would be remembered in a special tribute by singer Jennifer Hudson.
Civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton said that on the morning of the Grammys, “the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird”.
Houston’s background was steeped in soul and gospel music.
Her mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston, she was cousin to singer Dionne Warwick as well as having Aretha Franklin as godmother.
“I just can’t talk about it now,” Ms Franklin said in a short statement. “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.”
Having grown up in New Jersey, Houston began singing in church and then in the night clubs of New York, and was a model before being signed by Arista Records.
To this day, she holds the record for having the most consecutive chart-topping singles in the US – reaching number one seven times between 1985 and 1988.
The first of those, Saving All My Love For You, set the template of towering, melismatic vocal performances – with Houston stretching single syllables out over dozens of notes.
Artists from Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera have tried to emulate her bravura performances, but none of them were as good as the original, music critic Paul Gambaccini told the BBC.
Houston also enjoyed success acting in blockbuster films such as The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.
Sony Pictures announced on Sunday that it would release the star’s final film, Sparkle, which is loosely based on the story of The Supremes, in August.
“Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened,” said spokesman Steve Elzer said on behalf of the studio. “The world has lost an incomparable talent.”
The film also features Houston’s final recordings – including a cover of the gospel standard His Eye Is On The Sparrow – which will be released on a soundtrack album over the summer.