Her soaring vocals and powerful stage presence were the gold standard by which many of her peers judged themselves.
So, along with fans the world over, the greats of the music business stars are mourning the death of Whitney Houston.
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Mariah Carey, her collaborator on When You Believe, said the six-time Grammy winner had one of the "greatest voices to ever grace the earth".
Meanwhile, Dolly Parton - whose song I will always love you gave the diva her most memorable hit - said: "Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death".
The daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin of singer Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of Aretha Franklin, Whitney had a once in a generation talent.
Having grown up in New Jersey, she began singing in church and then in the night clubs of New York, and was a model before being signed by Arista Records.
But her phenomenal career was overshadowed by troubles with substance abuse and a turbulent marriage to rapper Bobby Brown from 1992 to 2007.
The tragic songbird died, aged 48, at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel, where she'd been due to perform at a pre-Grammys party, organised by her mentor Clive Davis.
Paramedics were called to her fourth floor suite at 3.43pm (11.43pm). Moments later Whitney was pronounced dead.
Her 19-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina was among a large family group staying with her.
On hearing of her passing, the teenager's father Bobby telephoned relatives to tell them the news.
One told People magazine: "He could hardly get the words out. He is besides himself right now."
Remembering a legend
- Mariah Carey: "She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."
- Dolly Parton: "I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I will always love you'."
- Miley Cyrus: "I LOVE Whitney :( I'm not turning my tv on. just gonna stay @ home & listen 2 her records."
- Aretha Franklin: "It's unbelievable. My heart goes out to Cissy.. her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby."
- Queen Latifah: "Oh Dear Lord! Hurting so Bad!!! MY Sister Whitney!!!!!!! World Please Pray!"
- Tony Bennett: "Whitney Houston was the greatest singer I've ever heard and she will be truly missed."
- Smokey Robinson:"I've known Whitney since she was a little girl and I have always loved her. She was like family to me"