Houston died on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles at the same hotel where her mentor, record mogul Clive Davis, was holding a pre-event party with music industry celebrities.
Beverly Hills police said they were called to the hotel where Houston’s body was found in a fourth floor room. Police said there were no obvious signs of criminal intent.
Ms. Houston’s death — she was found dead in a bathtub at a hotel where a pre-Grammy party was held — cast a shadow over music’s biggest night.
“Tonight we ask ourselves how do we speak to this time, to this day?” the host LL Cool J said at the show’s start. “There is no way around this: We have had a death in our family.”
Then a video of Ms. Houston in her prime, singing her hit “I Will Always Love You,” played on a giant screen. The audience rose to applaud afterward.
A number of celebrities expressed their grief during the ceremony.
“A great deal of sadness but yet at the same time, I think there’s a feeling of honor, to respect and to honor an incredible talent this world has lost,” Billy Ray Cyrus said regarding the tone of the evening in the wake of Houston’s death.
“First of all, as a human being, she’s always been very nice to me, my family, me, as we’ve crossed paths throughout the years, As an artist, she’s one of those artists – she sang the backdrop of our lives.”
“She really was the soundtrack of a lot of the emotions and storylines, the different moments that we all went though over the past 25 years. She’s been singing the songs we’ve all been living,” he added.
“The first time I met her, I was so excited, because I always admired her since I was a little girl. I loved her movies, her music and I thought she was such an icon, and now that this has happened, I was in shock, it’s so heartbreaking and awful,” said Paris Hilton.
Over the course of a 30-year career in which she established herself as one of the most-admired and influential singers of her time, Houston won six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards, Reuters reports.
The soundtrack for the hit movie in which she starred, “The Bodyguard,” was among the best-selling film soundtracks ever.
By the early 1990s, Houston’s success on stage was accompanied by an increasingly troubled personal life. In 1992 she married singer Bobby Brown and their tumultuous 14 years together were marred by drug abuse and domestic violence.
Kelly Rowland said: “I think it’s a really somber tone tonight at the Grammys because we lost our hero. I know if I say she’s my hero, I mean that with every fiber of my being…”
She continued: “I just love her so much and really, my heart is heavy, but my prayers go out to her mother, her daughter, because if we feel this great of a loss, I can only imagine how heavy their hearts are.”
There was a bittersweet moment when Tony Bennett, the veteran jazz singer, won a Grammy for his duet “Body and Soul” with Amy Winehouse, the British singer who died of alcohol poisoning last summer. Mr. Bennett’s album “Duets II” also won best traditional pop vocal album.
Standing beside Mr. Bennett, Ms. Winehouse’s parents accepted the award on her behalf.
“We shouldn’t be here,” her father, Mitch Winehouse, said. “Our darling daughter should be here. Those are the cards we are dealt.”
He added: “Long live Whitney Houston. Long live Amy Winehouse. Long live Etta James. There is a beautiful girl band up there in heaven.”
At the New Jersey church where her singing career first took flight, fans and admirers gathered on Sunday to celebrate the life of Whitney Houston and mourn her passing away.
Cards and flowers were tied to the railings of the New Hope Baptist Church, and congregants hugged and cried at the entrance. Among those paying their respects was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist.
“The suddenness of it all leaves us traumatized,” said Jackson, who watched Houston grow up and sing at New Hope. It was in that red brick church on a quiet backstreet near downtown Newark where Houston’s career began as a soloist in a gospel choir in the 1970s.
Houston’s only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, who was suffering from anxiety, was taken on Sunday morning from the hotel by paramedics to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Beverly Hills police and fire officials said.
In a separate statement issued through People magazine, Houston’s former husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, with whom she had shared a long struggle with substance abuse, said, “I am deeply saddened at the passing of my ex-wife, Whitney Houston.”
Brown, who is Bobbi Kristina’s father, was described by an unnamed relative as “beside himself” with grief, according to the magazine.