Stevie Wonder - Stevie Wonder Sings At Whitney Houston's Funeral
Whitney Houston's life was celebrated at her ''going home'' service on Saturday (18.02.12), with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and R. Kelly all performing musical tributes to her, while Clive Davis and Kevin Costner delivered emotional eulogies.
The Motown legend sat at the piano and sang 'Ribbon in the Sky', one of her favourite songs, and 'Love's In Need of Love Today', before paying a personal tribute to the late singer at the emotional service held at the New Hope Baptist Church - which Whitney attended and sang at as a child - in Newark, New Jersey,.
Stevie said: "I want to thank God for allowing me to be in this world at the same time as Whitney ... In my fantasy world I had a little crush on her, I think everyone did."
Whitney's cousin Dionne Warwick introduced the speakers, musical performers and tributes which came from the star's family and friends at the "going home" service - a Celebration of the deceased's person's ascension into heaven - while Pastor Joe Carter conducted the religious aspect of the day.
Invitations for the funeral stated "with heartfelt Gratitude, the Houston family requests the honour of your presence at the home going service for Whitney Elizabeth Houston".
Her mother Cissy Houston - who was seen tightly holding the hand of her granddaughter Bobbi Kristina, Whitney's child with ex-husband Bobby Brown, throughout the memorial - penned a heartfelt letter to her daughter which was read out during the order of service.
It read: "I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long. And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years."
Cissy - who has led the 200 member Youth Inspirational Choir at the Newark church for the last 50 years - signed the letter as "mommy".
When it was time for Alicia to perform, Dionne introduced her as "a young lady that Whitney adored".
The singer was tearful as she walked up to the piano and recalled her Friendship with her idol.
She said: "We called each other Meema. She was such a beautiful human being. Call you for no reason at all but just to say hi. And that's rare I think sometimes.
"I feel like in so many ways she reached back to me and to Michael and Brandy and Jordin and all these young artists and made us feel strong and capable and loved. I think she is an angel to us. She has been an angel to us."
She then sang a medley beginning with 'Send Me An Angel' - changing the lyrics to "Whitney is an Angel".
Backed by the church choir, R. Kelly delivered a moving rendition of 'I Look to You' - the song he wrote for Whitney's final album of the same name - and afterwards he simply uttered the words "we love you Whitney, rest in peace."
Kevin Costner - who co-starred with Whitney in 1992 film 'The Bodyguard' - delivered a 15-minute eulogy, in which he described his friend as "a lady in heaven making God wonder how he created something so perfect".
Her long-time record producer and mentor Clive Davis recalled the final days leading up to her shock passing on Saturday February 11 when she was found dead in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, just hours before she was due to appear at his annual pre-Grammys party.
He said: "Whitney and I spent Tuesday afternoon (07.02.12) in my bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I looked at her on the couch, saw that she had applied a little make-up and was once again taken aback - she was one beautiful woman. We talked nonstop music, a subject we both fervently loved. And, as we spoke, I couldn't help but silently reminisce about all that we had shared together over the years.
"In the past every hit we shared, we shared with pure joy. Neither of us could believe the incredible worldwide explosion when it happened. When she broke the all time record of seven consecutive number ones we just felt utter disbelief. I would ask her, 'Are you pinching yourself?' She would say, with wide open eyes, 'I'm pinching myself. She never took anything for granted. She was never arrogant. She was always grateful and appreciative."
Clive also made reference to her well-documented problems with substance abuse, including her infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009 in which she confessed to smoking "marijuana with rock cocaine" with her former spouse Bobby.
However, he insisted no matter what personal struggles she was going through she was a loyal friend to him until the day she died.
He said: "Personally, all I can say is that I loved her very much. Whitney was, purely and simply, one of a kind. Yes, she admitted to crises in her life. Yes, she confessed to Oprah about her searing Battles. But when I needed her she was there. She was there for me, an eternally loyal friend. Whatever the cause or event, she was there dominating the stage, stunning an audience and creating still another lifetime memory. 'I Believe In You And Me' she sang, looking me straight in the eye, showing she knew we've always been in it together. Yes, I was her industry father and I was and am so proud of it. And Bobbi Kristina you too always, always be proud of your mother. She loved you so very much. She defined not only pure talent but true heart and soul as well. She'll forever be looking after you and will never let go of your hand."
Whitney's silver casket was carried out of the church as her most famous hit 'I Will Always Love You' was played, reducing many mourners to tears.
Cissy, being supported by two helpers, and Bobbi Kristina followed closely behind the coffin as it was lifted into a gold coloured hearse adorned with flowers.
Whitney's body will be laid to rest next to her father John Houston at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey, on Sunday (19.02.12).