Stars mourn Houston at funeral
Updated: 2012-02-20 08:10
Two women pause near a memorial display before the funeral of singer Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday. [Photo by Mel Evans / Associated Press]
NEWARK, New Jersey - Stars, family and friends mourned Whitney Houston in a spirited Baptist funeral service at her hometown church on Saturday, a week after the death of the singer whose spectacular voice made her one of the biggest pop stars of her era.
Gospel and soul music greats, celebrities and family members swayed to gospel hits and delivered tributes both sung and spoken to the crowded New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where Houston honed her wide vocal range as a young choral singer with her mother Cissy Houston, a backup singer for Aretha Franklin.
"Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began," said actor Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Houston in the 1992 hit film, The Bodyguard.
He urged those around the world to "dry our tears, suspend our sorrow - and perhaps our anger - just long enough, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle of Whitney".
Houston, who died in a Beverly Hills hotel room on Feb 11, recorded stirring love songs and vibrant dance tunes during a 30-year career that peaked with her 1992 signature hit I Will Always Love You and paved the way for a generation of singers that followed.
She was among the greatest singers of the 1980s and 1990s, but later admitted to heavy use of cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and prescription pills. Officials have said prescription drugs were found in the hotel room where she died.
Her death at age 48 shocked her family, fans and the music industry. Houston was found underwater in a hotel bathtub on the eve of the music industry's Grammy Awards. Her cause of death has yet to be determined
The coffin holding the remains of Houston is carried to a hearse after her funeral. [Photo by Mel Evans / Associated Press]
She suffered a turbulent personal life and marriage to singer Bobby Brown, who said in a statement he left the service early after being repeatedly asked to move by security, who prevented him from seeing the daughter he shared with Houston, Bobby Kristina Brown, 18.
"This was a day to honor Whitney," Brown said. "I doubt whether Whitney would have wanted this to occur."
During the service, her cousin and famed soul singer Dionne Warwick read out a funeral poem and introduced music greats from the past and present, including Alicia Keys who said "it was so obvious the way she just crept into everybody's heart" before singing an emotional rendition of Prelude to a Kiss.
Singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder spoke of once having "a little crush" on Houston before singing a version of his 1982 R&B hit Ribbon In The Sky, inserting the lyrics "No more, Whitney, No more, Do you have to cry - You'll always be a ribbon in the sky."
Remembered in China
Houston's funeral was watched on the Internet by tens of thousands of her fans in China, many of whom posted messages on micro-blogging service Sina Weibo to pay their respects to the late star.
One netizen said Houston was the "unchallenged queen" of music thanks to her "perfect voice". Another wrote: "Whitney, may you enjoy peace in heaven."
"Houston has passed away and all we need to remember is her beautiful voice," wrote a micro-blogger named "Olivia with Crystal Heart".