Whitney Houston was laid to rest Sunday at a brief private ceremony in New Jersey, the end of a weekend that saw the pop star's family and friends gather at a star-studded funeral to mourn her loss while celebrating her career. Fans and onlookers gathered in several places along the route the motorcade took from the Newark funeral home to the cemetery about 35 kilometres away in Westfield, where Houston was buried next to her father, who died in 2003. Fans gathered again near the funeral home Sunday morning, and some even slowly ran alongside the hearse as it began the journey to Houston's gravesite. Several yelled out “We love you, Whitney” as the hearse, which had a black and white headshot of the star in a window, slowly drove away.
WHO WAS AT THE FUNERAL
Whitney Houston's cousin Dionne Warwick presided over the funeral, introducing speakers and singers and offering short comments about Ms. Houston between them.
Ms. Houston's mentor, music mogul Clive Davis, joined her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, and family at the ceremony in Newark, N.J. Mourners included Oprah, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actress Angela Bassett and singers Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Ray J., Brandy, Monica, Jordin Sparks and BeBe Winans.
Speakers at the event included Ms. Houston’s co-star from The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, and filmmaker Tyler Perry.
WHAT WAS SAID
Cissy Houston: “I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long,” the elder Ms. Houston wrote her daughter in a letter published in the program. “And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years.” The letter ends with “Rest, my baby girl in peace,” and is signed “mommie.”
Clive Davis: “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” said Mr. Davis, the music mogul who guided Ms. Houston’s career for several decades. “You wait for a face, a smile, a presence like that for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away. And that's the way I felt in 1983.”
Kevin Costner: Mr. Costner shared several anecdotes from their time together making the movie, revealing that he postponed the film for a year so that she could finish a tour. Mr. Costner said she was nervous at her screen test and that he wanted to tell her that she basically already got the part. “She could have fallen down and started speaking tongues and I was going to find a way to explain it as brilliance.”
Tyler Perry: The filmmaker praised Ms. 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.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson: "Life is sunshine and rain, it's joy and pain," Rev. Jackson said in an interview with AP. "We tend to reveal our successes and our highs; we conceal our pain, because people deal with our pain so ruthlessly, until maybe there's a tipping point. Maybe she hit her tipping point. But, you know, at a ball game you judge people by the box score. There's a home run in one inning, there's a strike-out, there's a great catch, there's an error. But at the end of the game, what's the box score? The box score with Whitney is a winner. She won the game."
Alicia Keys: “She was such a beautiful human being. She'd call you for no reason at all just to say hi.”
Pastor Joe. A. Carter: “Whitney, today is your day. We celebrate.”
WHAT ABOUT BOBBY BROWN?
Ms. Houston’s ex-husband came at the last minute, apparently went to her casket and touched it before having an argument about his seats and the seats of the people he came with.
Mr. Brown says in a statement that he and his children were seated but asked repeatedly to move. Mr. Brown says he left because he didn't want to create a scene.
On Twitter, Rev. Al Sharpton said: “I am at Whitney's funeral. I spoke with Bobby Brown trying to calm him down and not distract from the services. Today is about Whitney!” Once outside the service, Mr. Sharpton added: “I don't want anyone distorting Bobby Brown. He has shown love and respect today. Stop hatin'.”
ON HOUSTON’S HEALTH
In his speech, Kevin Costner remembered a movie star who was uncertain of her own fame, who “still wondered, ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ ... It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.”
Clive Davis talked about how Ms. Houston promised him last week that she was getting back in shape, swimming one to two hours a day, working on reaching the high notes again. She told him she'd be ready in August.
Tyler Perry became emotional as he is talking about how all of the hardships Ms. Houston endured did not separate her from her faith in God, which was received with applause and cheers from the crowd.
WHAT THEY SANG
Aretha Franklin, a close family friend whom Ms. Houston lovingly called “Aunt Ree,” had been expected to sing at the service, but she was too ill to attend. Alicia Keys stepped in for her scheduled performance, and had to be handed a handkerchief from someone in the front row because she was tearing up before her song, Send Me An Angel.
Rev. Kim Burrell sang a personalized version of Ms. Houston’s favourite song, Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come, that included facts about her life in lyric form. “A change from mortal to immortal has come,” she sang. “No more tears for us. No more crying.” Stevie Wonder also customized song lyrics to pay tribute to Ms. Houston in his rendition of Ribbon in the Sky.
R. Kelly came up to the pulpit to sing Ms. Houston’s song I Look to You.
Gospel singer Rev. Marvin Winans and the entire Winans family came on stage so his brother, Carvin, could sing Tomorrow. Mr. Winans also delivered a eulogy for Ms. Houston before a rendition of Let the Church Say Amen.
The last piece of music played was a recording of Ms. Houston’s I Will Always Love You, played as pallbearers carried her casket out of the church.
Staff, Associated Press