The music world was in mourning for pop diva Whitney Houston, who died under mysterious circumstances in a Los Angeles hotel on the eve of the annual Grammy Awards.
The death of the six-Grammy winner, who had battled with drug addiction, has cast a dark shadow over the 54th edition of the music awards in the city on Sunday. Houston had planned to attend the ceremony.
Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich said her death would be acutely felt at the Staples Center, where singer Jennifer Hudson will lead a tribute.
Police were called to the Beverley Hilton hotel on Saturday afternoon local time and found the 48-year-old singer unresponsive.
She was pronounced dead 30 minutes later, after hotel security and rescue officials failed to resuscitate her.
Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, reporting from Los Angeles, said that Houston had been seen at public events in good form, and had been working on post-production for the film Sparkle in recent weeks, a film which she was producing.
A coroner's official said that the singer's body has been transported from the hotel and is awaiting an autopsy.
"According to the celebrity website TMZ, she was seen on Thursday at a pre-Grammy party in Hollywood. Photographs were published on the web showing Whitney Houston looking quite dishevelled," said our correspondent.
"The website also says that on Friday - that would have been some 24 hours ago - Whitney Houston and members of her entourage and others were partying heavily, as they put it, at the Beverley Hilton hotel.
"Members of the hotel staff said that while there were a lot of people celebrating in advance of the Grammys, that this particular group stood out for its boisterousness and the loudness of its partying."
Kelley Carter, an entertainment journalist, said the news of Houston's death was all the more tragic and surprising given the star’s recent good spirits.
Carter has seen Houston shortly before her death on Saturday.
"I saw her and spoke to her and never would have thought something like this would happen just a day and a half later," Carter said.
"All of her previous problems with drug were behind her."
By the end of her career, Houston had become a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use.
Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanour and bizarre public appearances.
She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
"The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Bobby Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the US alone.
Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album I Look To You. The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.
Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on Good Morning America went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Oprah Winfrey for straining her voice.
A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out.
Cancelled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies