They sang, they cried and they remembered Whitney Houston, the soulful singer who once wowed the congregation at New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey, before she became a music icon, and a worldwide sensation.
Some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry joined Houston’s friends and family for her funeral at the same church where she first made her name, to remember the life of the woman who sold millions of albums during her life, and touched millions more with her booming voice.
“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” said music mogul Clive Davis.”
The funeral service ended with one of Houston’s most popular songs, “I Will Always Love You” filling the air in the packed church.
Some of the celebrities invited to say their final goodbyes to Houston included Tyler Perry, Jennifer Hudson, Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, and Oprah Winfrey.
“We are here today, hearts broken but yet with God’s strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston,” Rev. Joe A. Carter told mourners inside the church.
The funeral started around noon with a choir singing to the packed room of mourners.
Houston’s biggest fans were able to mourn the singer by following the funeral live on the Internet, with the Associated Press streaming it on Live Stream.
Just after 12 p.m. Saturday more than 100,000 were viewing the live stream of the singer’s funeral.
The farewell to Houston comes just one week after she died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. She was discovered underneath the water inside a bathtub. EMT’s pronounced her dead after they were unable to revive her.
Houston, who was 48 when she died last week, was scheduled to perform at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy Awards party that night.
Her death also came one day before the Grammy’s, which is considered music’s biggest night. During the awards show, Hudson sang Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in a moving tribute to the powerful singer.
Mourners were handed a program at the funeral, that included a letter published by Houston’s, mother, Cissy Houston, who wrote:
“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.”
-With Associated Press