Newsdesk's blog

Media and students mob French presidential hopeful in London

There was a lot of excitement about VIP visitors at a top London university on Wednesday. First the Queen graced King's College with her presence, then there was a speech from French presidential poll frontrunner François Hollande, who was mobbed by media and students like Europe’s version of President Barack Obama.

Death of the diva Queen Whitney Houston


Fallen superstar Whitney Houston has died, aged 48, in Los Angeles. Here Marc Wadsworth pays tribute.
On drugs? Adorable Black beauty Whitney Houston? Never. I, like millions of her devoted fans, was in denial that our diva queen could be so self-destructive. Wasn’t she the clean-cut protégé of music guru Clive Davis, the famed no nonsense head of Arista? Years after skinny, frizzy blond-haired Whitney burst onto the world stage to sing the prophetic lyrics “when the night fall, loneliness calls” the muck-raking National Enquirer made a shocking claim about the superstar’s coke habit. I refused to read the piece in the celebrity obsessed gossip rag. But the photographs alone told a terrible story. 
Youngest child and only daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin of soul sensation Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of legend Aretha Franklin, Newark, New Jersey-born Whitney had it all. As a teenager, she was talent spotted and modeled for top magazines, including Glamour and Cosmopolitan. She also performed at clubs with her mum. 
Then in 1978, at 15, she sang backing vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single I'm Every Woman, a song she would later turn into a bigger hit on her platinum-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang backing vocals on tracks by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson. 
Disco hit-maker Michael Zager, whom I met at his New York music studio in the 1990s, worked closely with Cissy Houston. He told me he had been hugely impressed by Whitney’s soaring, rich soprano vocals (everyone wondered how a small framed woman like her had such a mighty voice). Zager unsuccessfully tried to persuade Cissy to allow Whitney to get a record contract. 
Aged 20, Whitney signed to Arista in 1983 but didn’t release a single until a year later. Then in February, 1985 her debut album Whitney Houston came out. It featured superb productions from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson, and Narada Michael Walden and, more importantly, hit songs. The New York Times heaped praise on Whitney’s “exceptional vocal talent”.  
Back to the music video and Whitney’s blond hair. I remember the controversy it sparked among Black people who said cruelly that Whitney had “sold out” (did she end up in her disastrous relationship with bad boy Bobby Brown to prove a point?). Even the lighting in the film gave her a Beyonce complexion that, some commentators felt, made Whitney more acceptable to a white audience. Others thought the Clive Davis marketing ploy was a stroke of genius. It resulted in her “crossing over” – like Sam Cooke had before her – to music’s biggest selling pop genre. 
Like so many artists blessed with a great talent, Whitney was troubled and complex. There were scintillating rumours, before she finally married Bobby, that she preferred women to men. She never denied her closeness to best friend Robyn Crawford. They met at a Catholic girls high school and Whitney described Robyn as the "sister I never had". It was said that Bobby Brown had told Whitney to choose between Robyn and him. The taste-making gay disco clubbers worshipped Whitney.
She blazed a trail for other Black artists whose releases were not being shown on the all-important MTV television music channel. Her third US single, How Will I Know, peaked at No. 1 and introduced her to the TV station.
Whitney’s eponymous second album was released in June 1987 when I first noticed her and she became my favourite female singer. In fact, as leader of the trade unions at Thames Television I was about to pull the plug on the Des O’Connor show on which she was appearing, because we were in dispute with the employer, but decided not to just for her. 
The second album resulted in Whitney landing the accolade of first female artist in history to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the first artist to enter the albums chart at number one in both the US and UK and in many other countries around the world. Its first single, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), was also a massive hit worldwide, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and topping the singles chart in countries like Australia, Germany and Britain. 
The next three singles, Didn't We Almost Have It All, So Emotional and Where Do Broken Hearts Go all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. Houston became the first female artist to generate four number-one singles from one album. She has been nine times platinum in the US for shipments of more than a million copies of her songs and has sold a total of 20 million copies worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Whitney was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. She was not eligible for the Best New Artist category due to her previous hit R&B duet recording with Teddy Pendergrass in 1984. She won her first Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female with the song Saving All My Love for You. At the same award show, she sang that Grammy-winning hit. The performance later secured her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. 
Whitney won seven American Music Awards in total in 1986 and 1987 and an MTV Video Music Award. The album's popularity carried over to the 1987 Grammys when Greatest Love of All would receive a Record of the Year nomination. Whitney's debut album is listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Definitive 200 list. Whitney's grand entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today. Following her breakthrough, doors were opened for other African-American female artists such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker to find notable success in popular music and on MTV
After her celebrated career in the 1980s and 1990s Whitney hit the headlines for the tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown, with its drug-taking and domestic violence. She had one child, daughter Bobbi Kristina, 18, from this relationship with the hell-raising ex-New Edition singer.
It has been reported that Jennifer Hudson will lead a tribute to the star at tonight's Grammy Awards.
Whitney was a six-time Grammy winner and insiders say the show's producers are keen to present a fitting tribute at the ceremony. I will forever remember Whitney in her peerless prime. The shambolic latter day performances, when her incredible voice failed and fans walked out have been wiped from the hard drive. For me, her passing is like a death in the family. She can never be replaced. RIP Whitney.

Fallen superstar Whitney Houston has died, aged 48, in Beverly Hills, California. Here Marc Wadsworth pays tribute.

On drugs? Adorable Black beauty Whitney Houston.

Never. I, like millions of her devoted fans, was in denial that our diva Queen could be so self-destructive. Wasn’t she the clean-cut protégé of music mogul Clive Davis, the famed no nonsense founder of Arista?

Attacks on murder witness aimed at citizen journalism

Ron Ross

A soldier by the name of Tearah Moore was inside the hospital where some of the Fort Hood shooting victims of November 5 were taken. From her position she Tweeted minute-by-minute reports and sent photos as the wounded passed by.

A new low for the rumour-mongering Daily Mail

Chris Gaynor

Unlike some bloggers and hacks, I've not leapt into making sweeping comments about the ghastly article written in the Daily Mail by Jan Moir about the late pop star Stephen Gately. That just wouldn't be in the spirit of top class blogging would it? However, now's the right time to comment.

Say 'yes, yes, yes' tonight

Chris Gaynor

National Orgasm Day is the time when lovers should celebrate ecstasy. The guys and girls at   website Sextoys urge people to say "yes, yes, yes" to lovemaking with their partners to rejoice in the sexual climax.

Fascist leader 's anti-Islam and anti-African views exposed


New constitution needed to save UK politics from ruin

Chris Gaynor

Again, shocking revelations today have come out in the Daily Expensograph, about British cabinet ministers troughing thousands of pounds from the hardworking taxpayer by trying to seek advice on their tax issues. Even though MPs don't pay tax! Well, not much of it any how.

Why Congress made history with Indian poll win

The results from India's general election 2009 are out and the mandate is loud and clear. The country will have a successive government under the same prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, for the first time since Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s, writes Sumantra Maitra.

Rebels threaten to derail elections in India

Sumantra Maitra - In Kolkota, India

As India went to the polls this week, it witnessed a day of   "red rampage" in six states; most affected by Indian Maoist rebels, who had earlier made a call for people   to boycott the general elections in the world's biggest democracy.

Do I dare to dislike the 'Slumdog'?

Sumantra Maitra - in Kolkata, India

Let's get this straight. I am not here to write an article demeaning the credits of Indian film composer A.R.Rahman and artistic colleagues Resul Pookutty and Gulzar Sahab for winning so many Oscars; lyricist Gulzar being my favourite among them. I simply want to raise a few questions which came to mind during all the hype about much raved about movie Slumdog Millionaire.