New Jersey, Feb 19 It was an emotional tribute. Whitney Houston’s mother, family, friends and some of the biggest names from the music world gathered here Saturday to pay their last respects to the iconic star, one of the world’s best-selling and highly-awarded music artists. The funeral held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, saw singers Chaka Khan, Brandy, Roberta Flack, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson, among the mourners.
Singer Ray J, who spent time with Houston during her last days, broke down crying, reports dailymail.co.uk.
But the tragic star’s distraught ex-husband Bobby Brown was seen storming out of the church shortly before the service began. He was driven away from the service but it is believed he later returned in time for the going-home service.
After a brief welcome by city mayor Cory Booke, pastor Joe Carter took to the alter to read some scripture and start the celebration of Houston’s life.
“Whitney you are the only woman who could bring all of us together, Whitney today is your day,” he said.
A programme featuring a picture of Houston looking skyward that read “Celebrating the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston, a child of God” was screened. It had pictures of her as a baby, with her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, and daughter Bobbi Kristina.
“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 to 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,” ended the letter, undersigned “mommie”.
Gospel singer Donnie McClurken was the first soloist to sing. He performed “Stand”, which was a request from the Houston family, according to dailymail.co.uk.
Members of the congregation stood up and started raising their hands and praising as Donnie McClurken sang to the congregation accompanied by the large gospel choir.
Several others like Bebe Winans, Kim Burrell, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder performed touching numbers, and shared their heartwarming experiences and memories of Houston, who was found dead at a Beverly Hills hotel Feb 11. She was 48.
The family had prepared a service where singer Dionne Warwick, Houston’s cousin, music mogul Clive Davis, who shepherded Houston’s career for decades, actor Kevin Costner and sister-in-law Patricia Houston, spoke.
Her close family friend Aretha Franklin, whom Houston lovingly called Aunt Ree, was expected to sing at the service, but she could not attend due to illness.