13 Feb 2012

Prayer for Whitney Houston at Grammys

7:22 pm on 13 February 2012

The Grammy awards in Los Angeles have opened with a prayer for singer Whitney Houston.

Houston's death in a Beverly Hills hotel during the weekend has cast a cloud over the three-hour awards evening.

The audience, with stars including Paul McCartney in the front row, watched a clip of Houston singing one of her greatest hits, I Will Always Love You, and gave her a standing ovation.

Host LL Cool J prayed for the diva, saying she was "gone too soon".

Houston was a superstar in the 1980s and 1990s but her career went off the rails as she battled drug and alcohol abuse.

She was found dead in her room in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Saturday, shortly before a pre-Grammy gala evening. Houston, 48, had been due to attend the Grammy Awards on Sunday.

County coroner Ed Winter has confirmed she was found in a bath but the cause of death has been deferred until toxicology results are in.

The singer won six Grammy Awards and sold tens of millions of CDs before her battle with drugs overshadowed her career.

Aretha Franklin, Houston's godmother, said the news was "stunning and unbelievable" while Mariah Carey said she was "heartbroken and in tears", reports the BBC.

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.

Following news of her death, a visibly distraught Brown took to the stage in Southaven, Mississippi, with his band New Edition on Saturday. Opening the show, he pointed to the sky and declared, "I love you".

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 No 1 in the US, and she had recently finished filming a new movie, Sparkle.

Fans gathered on Sunday to light candles outside the hotel where she was found dead.