Whitney Houston’s mother Cissy Houston labeled her daughter’s funeral a “home-going celebration”.
The service was held at the New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey, Whitney’s childhood church where she first sang as a child.
Kevin Costner co-starred with Houston in “The Bodyguard”. He talked about private moments with Whitney and admitted they shared a special bond. He said he and Houston traded stories of growing up in Baptist churches and he also remembered her being nervous her first major movie role. She even froze up during her first screen test and had to return to her trailer.
Costner said: “Whitney was scared. Arguably the biggest pop star in the world didn’t believe she was good enough. Didn’t think she looked right. I held her hand and told her she looked beautiful and that everybody wanted her to succeed.”
After encouraging her for 30 minutes, Whitney went back for a second chance and won the part.
Costner said: “I was reminded that this would be her first acting role,” he said. “Maybe we should think about another singer. Maybe someone white. Nobody ever said it out loud. But there would be a lot riding on it. Maybe a more experienced actress. It was clear I really had to think about this.”
Costner said he was so confident that Houston was the right fit that he asked that the production be delayed a year to wait for her to finish a tour.
He said: “It’s a lot of leading men, a lot of guys could have filled that role. But you, Whitney, I believe were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time.”
Tyler Perry spoke of a sadness and a “heaviness” that would come over her when they spoke, but he added, “She is resting, singing with the angels.”
Aretha Franklin, wasn’t able to attend and sing, but there were other performances and remarks from Whitney’s friends.
Gospel artist Kim Burrell was scheduled to sing a cover of Whitney’s “I Believe in You”. But she asked for permission to sing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It was recorded in 1963, Whitney Houston’s birth year. Burrell’s version talked about Whitney being born in New Jersey, being heaven sent and sang that a “change had to come.” The church stood up to applaud.
Stevie Wonder changed the words of his song “A Ribbon in the Sky” in honor of Whitney. He sang, “No more Whitney do you have to cry. You’ll always be our ribbon in the sky.” The church was standing when he sang his second song, “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”
Alicia Keys produced a few songs on Houston’s last studio album, “I Look to You”. She dedicated a piano version of her ballad “Send Me an Angel” to Houston. She also talked about how Houston mentored her and other new stars.
Alicia said: “She reached back to so many people. She reached back to me, Monica, Brandy, Jordin, all these beautiful young artists. So many artists, and just made us like feel strong and capable and loved us.”
The Winans played a big role in the ceremony. Rev. Marvin Winans delivered the eulogy and brother and sister duo BeBe and CeCe Winans performed separately.
BeBe also talked about when Whitney Houston surprised him and his sister with custom-made costumes for their first major headlining tour. She wanted to go on the road with them to sing background vocals.
He said: “She said, ‘Y’all broke right? I’m rich, right? So I can buy what I want for y’all, right?’ That is the Whitney I’m going to miss.”
Clive Davis discovered Whitney and executive produced all of her music.
He looked at Houston’s mother and said: “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. A face like that, a presence like that for a lifetime, and when a person embodies it all, it takes your breath away. That’s the way I felt in 1983 when in middle of your act at Sweetwaters she stepped forward and shattered me with her version of ‘The Greatest Love of All.’”
Davis said when he spent time with Houston the week before she died, she told him that she was ready to make a comeback, was swimming every day, and would be ready by August.
Whitney’s former musical director Rickey Minor remembered a request Whitney had for him for her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” for the Super Bowl in 1991. He said: “She told me, ‘Rickey, did you see Marvin Gaye sing the national anthem? He took his time, and it had a beat under it. Can I do that?’”
The ceremony also included music from Donnie McClurkin (“Stand”), R. Kelly (“I Look To You,” and CeCe Winans (“Don’t Cry For Me” and “Jesus Loves Me”). Bishop T.D. Jakes, Tyler Perry, New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Joe A. Carter and New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker also spoke.
Tyler Perry’s Speech
Kevin Costner’s Speech
Alicia Keys’ Performance