Internationally acclaimed soprano opera singer Leontyne Price (Mary Violet Leontyne Price) is the first cousin to vocal powerhouses Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick. 

According to the Washington Post, Price, 97, is cousins with Houston’s mother, Emily “Cissy” Houston, making Price the “I Have Nothing” singer’s first cousin, twice removed.

Warwick’s relation to Price came from her mother, Lee Drinkard Warrick, who was Cissy’s older sister. Talent runs in the Warrick (or Warwick) and Houston blood.

As Warwick told People in a February 2022 interview, “It was just preordained.”

It’s unclear if Houston and Price were close, but Warwick recalled meeting Price.

“I met her for the first time when I went to see her sing Aida,” Warwick said. “It was overwhelming. ‘Oh my God, I’m related to you?’ We had a standing joke every time we’d see each other, ‘Hey, cuz.’ To hear her sing, she carried that legacy, the voice, the same Whitney did. I came from a family who understands what our purpose is.”

The 97-year-old opera singer broke many barriers, including racial obstacles, and proved to numerous aspiring singers that they could achieve their goals despite adversities. 

Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi, on Feb. 10, 1927, and developed a love for singing at an early age and would watch her mother, Kate Baker Price, a soprano, sing in the choir at the St. Paul Methodist Church. Obtaining vocal and piano lessons as a child and until her teenage years, Price would eventually attend the College of Education and Industrial Arts in Ohio to study education and public school music to become a music teacher in 1944.

Her college’s president, Dr. Charles H. Wesley, persuaded her to drop music education and focus on her voice. She would achieve her bachelors in 1948.

In the 1940s, it wasn’t a walk in the park to get accepted into prominent schools like Harvard, Yale, etc. But the opera singer found herself with a full-ride scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in New York—they weren’t handing those out to Black students.

After a few years of exquisite vocal training and student productions, composer and critic Virgil Thompson gave Price her first opportunity to make her name known throughout NYC. She starred in a revival of his opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, on Broadway for three weeks in April 1952. 

She would be known nationally and internationally when she starred as Bess in the renewal of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, touring North America, Europe and Russia.

Price starred in numerous works on opera stages and recital halls, making her TV debut on an NBC-TV Opera Company production of Puccini’s Tosca as Floria Tosca.

The Met acknowledges Price as the first Black woman singer to perform at the prestigious venue because she was invited to sing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess for a radio broadcast Met fundraising event. However, her debut performance was deferred until Jan. 27, 1961, when she performed in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

This performance captivated the audience and landed her a 42-minute standing ovation.

Price would go on to win 13 Grammys. 

One thing about Price is she knows her worth and isn’t allowed to voice it. In a stellar interview posted by the Kennedy Center, Price unapologetically gave herself praise for her talents.

“I have been blessed with a voice that is, even to me, breathtakingly beautiful,” she told the interviewer. “That’s total immodesty. I do not apologize for that. I don’t know of anything, not even myself, that I love more than my sound. It gives me goosebumps when it’s at its best.”



Happy belated birthday, Ms. Price!

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