Whitney: I Will Always Love You
Whitney’s voice serenades mourners after her funeral on Saturday.
NEWARK, New Jersey, Monday February 20, 2012 - Whitney Houston said her own goodbyes after her funeral service on Saturday as a recording of her powerful voice singing "I Will Always Love You" moved mourners to tears.
Houston’s 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, sobbed and embraced Houston’s close friend, singer Ray J at length, as her mother’s voice drifted through the church.
As the funeral began, mourners fell quiet as three police officers escorted Houston’s casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies. White-robed choir members began to fill the pews on the podium. As the band played softly, the choir sang in a hushed voice, “Whitney, Whitney, Whitney.”
A programme featuring a picture of Houston looking skyward read “Celebrating the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston, a child of God.” Pictures of Houston as a baby, with her mother and daughter filled the programme.
“I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long,” Cissy Houston wrote her daughter in a letter published in the programme. “And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years.”
“Rest, my baby girl, in peace,” the letter ends, signed “mommie”.
The service marks one week after Houston, one of music’s all-time biggest stars, was found dead in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel the night before the Grammys. A cause of death has yet to be determined.
To the world, Houston was the pop queen with the perfect voice, the dazzling diva with regal beauty, a troubled superstar suffering from addiction and, finally, another victim of the dark side of fame.
But, to her family and friends, she was just “Nippy”. A nickname given to Houston when she was a child, it stuck with her through adulthood and, later, would become the name of one of her companies. To them, she was a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a mother.
And it was in that way that she was remembered during Saturday’s three-and-a-half hour long service at her home church at the New Hope Baptist Church saw performances from big acts such as Stevie Wonder, Reverend Kim Burrell for a Change Is Gonna Come and cousin Dionne Warwick.
However, it was R Kelly with I Look To You, the title of Houston’s final studio album, that brought the church to its feet.
The Winans family and gospel star Reverend Donnie McClurkin were among those paying tribute in song to the memory of the late singer who died last week Saturday in a Beverley Hills hotel room.
It was a day when some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry joined Houston’s family in New Jersey city to clap, sway and sing along with the gospel mass choir.
The moving ceremony included Mariah Carey, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan and Bodyguard co-start Kevin Costner.
Costner remembered Houston for her winning smile to get out of trouble, and as a fledgling movie star uncertain of her own fame.
“It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end,” Costner said. Filmmaker Tyler Perry praised Houston’s “grace that kept on carrying her all the way through, the same grace led her all the way to the top of the charts. She sang for presidents”.
Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, briefly appeared at her funeral, walking to the casket, touching it and walking out. He later said in a statement that he and his children were asked repeatedly to move and he left rather than risk creating a scene.
Streets were closed to the public for blocks in every direction. But their presence was felt around the church, with a huge shrine of heart-shaped balloons and personal messages that covered the street corner around the church entrance.
Houston had her first number one hit at the age of 22 and later went on to sell more than 50 million records in the United States alone. Her voice represented an blend of power, grace and beauty, especially with her hits Saving All My Love For You, I Will Always Love You, The Greatest Love Of All, and I’m Every Woman.
Houston is to be buried next to her father, John Houston, in nearby Westfield, New Jersey.