Veteran gospel and soul singer Cissy Houston and mother of legendary entertainer Whitney Houston was born Emily Drinkard on Sept. 30, 1933, in Newark, New Jersey. She began her singing journey at a young age, when her father encouraged her to sing in church.
In 1938, Houston joined her sister Anne and her brothers Larry and Nicky in forming the Drinkard Four, a gospel singing group. She later created the group Sweet Inspirations, who sung back up with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. She married John Russell Houston Jr. in 1959.
In 1969 Houston signed a solo record deal with Commonwealth United Records. She recorded 12 solo albums over the span of her career. She also sang backup for Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. In 1996 and 1998, Houston received a Grammy for her albums Face to Face and He Leadeth Me, respectively.
For more than 50 years, Houston has directed the 200-member Youth Inspirational Choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. In 2012, she performed a tribute to her daughter following her death at the 2012 BET Awards.
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(Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images For BET)