Although invite-only, it was nationally televised and streamed on Livestream for fans. It featured family friends, professional colleagues and dignitaries from all walks including daughter Bobbi Kristina, cousin Dionne Warwick, actor/filmmaker Tyler Perry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Flags in New Jersey flew half mast in Houston’s honor.
Bittersweet, the ceremony celebrated Houston’s amazing life and accomplishments and guests shared personal anecdotes about their Nippy, her nickname. Clive Davis mused, “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. A face like that. A smile like that. A presence like that for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all — well, it takes my breath away.” Bodyguard costar Kevin Costner fought back tears as he said, “Go sing for your heavenly father, Whitney.”
Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, the Winans family and R. Kelly were among those who gave Houston a musical send-off. Stevie Wonder personalized the lyrics of his classic “Ribbon In The Sky” to “There’s an angel in the choir of love” for Whitney while R. Kelly performed a moving rendition of “I Look to You”, a song he penned that Whitney featured on her 2009 album of the same name. The proceedings ended in a fitting manner with Whitney’s most famous song, “I Will Always Love You,” playing as her casket was somberly walked out of the church.
Whitney was at her peak the definitive pop diva that all others were measured up to. Her phenomenal vocal range and gorgeous looks made her a multi-genre sensation. The daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, her pristine voice ruled the 80s and 90s with a slew of chart-topping albums and memorable songs like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “The Greatest Love of All”; she broke the chart record with seven consecutive Billboard #1 songs.
Her promising film career included roles like 1992’s The Bodyguard and 1995’s Waiting to Exhale and her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” from the former film stands as one of the most recognized and beloved songs in pop history. Houston’s artistic influence is indelible still on subsequent generations from Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson.
Despite a long-standing public battle with addiction and a tumultuous relationship with then-husband Bobby Brown, Whitney was working on staging a personal and professional comeback at the time of her death. She had wrapped filming on the movieSparkle with Jordin Sparks and was working on new music. Since her untimely passing, Whitney has sold over 1 million albums and singles. The diva lives on.