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On February 18, Whitney Houston’s funeral was celebrated in Newark at the N.J.’s New Hope Baptist Church. What was actually a private service, with 1,500 of Whitney Houston’s loved ones, was broadcasted in its entirely on TV and online in order to give Houston’s worldwide fans the chance to say farewell to the beloved star.
The funeral went on for almost four hours; it was a celebration of Whitney Houston’s life and legacy. Several friends and family members took the stage to share their memories and pay homage to the late diva. Unfortunately, Houston’s godmother, Aretha Franklin, was unable to attend the service due to health problems. Furthermore, Whitney Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, left the church before the beginning of the service. Aside from these two unfortunate elements, the celebration was glorious. An amazing gospel choir gave a very touching farewell.
All of the people who had the chance to participate in the ceremony shared something special and emotional. Donnie McClurklin sang ‘Stand’, and Tyler Perry passionately described Houston’s personality and her love for the Lord. BeBe Winans, standing with his sister, CeCe, by his side, sang the song ‘I Really Miss You’ right before Bishop T.D. Jakes spoke.
The pastor underlined how love is greater than death, ending his speech with, ‘Love will last forever, for God is love.’ Kim Burnell then gave a touching performance of ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, adapting it to a description of Whitney Houston’s approach to life and faith.
One of the sweetest speeches was given by Houston’s friend, actor Kevin Costner. He shared with the crowd personal and funny moments. He stressed how he and Houston, despite different thoughts, were very similar. ‘The church was our private bond,’ Costner said. He also talked about the infamous movie ‘The Bodyguard’, which starred Costner and Houston together.
He told the whole story: how he choose her in the first place and how not all of the people involved in the movie’s production were ready to go along with this decision, due to Houston’s inexperience with acting and her race. During his speech he looked very emotional and deeply connected to the late artist and her family. He also described Whitney Houston’s insecurity. He explained how she would often worry about not being good enough or pretty enough and how she was afraid people did not like her.
‘People didn’t just like you, Whitney, they loved you,’ said Costner. ‘God himself wonders how He created something so perfect […] When you sing in front of Him, don’t you worry, you’ll be good enough.’ Alicia Keys then sat at the piano, visibly moved, and talked about how important the 48-year-old singer’s life was. She passionately sang ‘Prelude To A Kiss’, ending it by singing, ‘Whitney is an angel.’
Next, Clive Davis went through a memory of his personal relationship with the artist and her long career, and he talked about being her mentor and producer. He closed his speech by saying, ‘I loved her very much […] Whitney was purely and simply one-of-a-kind […] When I needed her, she was there […] Bobbi Kristina, always be proud of your mother.’
Ray Watson, Houston’s brother-in-law and longtime bodyguard, gave a touching speech and stated, ‘We gotta give back to our entertainers; treat them well, with dignity, treat them with love, and stop ridiculing them.’ Stevie Wonder gracefully took his place at the piano, thanking God for letting him live at the same time as Whitney Houston.
He added that he had a little crush on her when they worked together and said, ‘We loved her so much, and that won’t stop.’ Wonder sang an alternate version of ‘Ribbon in the Sky’, which he modified on his way to the funeral, then concluded with a joyful performance of ‘Love Is in Need of Love Today.’
Patricia Houston gave a long, moving speech, underlining the positive attitude that characterized the late singer, as well as her respect for the Lord. R. Kelly, visibly heartbroken, performed ‘I Look to You’ with the choir. It was a song he had written and that Whitney Houston had sung in her last studio album. Houston’s cousin, Dionne Warwick, who presided over the funeral, introduced speakers and singers, then read a poem, right before CeCe Winans sang ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ and ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’.
After this, Rickey Minor explained how Whitney Houston changed his life and how lovable the artist was from every point of view. As a conclusion, Pastor Marvin Winans sang with his entire family before he started preaching. The ceremony ended with the casket of Whitney Houston leaving the church while her famous performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’ embraced the congregation.
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