Whitney Houston Funeral: Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Kevin Costner, R Kelly Give Emotional Tributes
Whitney Houston's funeral became a beautiful and fitting celebration of the singing legend's life after some of the music industry's most-talented stars filled the service with emotional tributes and performances.
The service, held at the New Hope Baptist Church, in Newark, New Jersey, began to the sound of an upbeat gospel choir, dressed in white, singing and clapping as the 1.500 guests, made up of the soul superstar's family and friends, arrived.
The church where Houston sang as a child held host to a series of touching tributes from the likes of music legend Stevie Wonder, singer R Kelly, actor Tyler Perry, longtime producer Clive Davis, singer and friend Alicia Keys and her The Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner.
The funeral began with Newark Mayor Cory Booker telling the guests: "We are here to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life. God is in heaven, and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston."
Rev. Joe Carter then celebrated Houston in his scripture, he said: "Whitney, you are the only one that could bring all of us together. Whitney, today is your day."
Actor Tyler Perry took to the lectern to speak passionately about Houston's grace, which he said "carried her to the top of the charts". He added: "She is resting, singing with the angels."
Singer Bebe Winans said: "What I'm going to miss is crazy Whitney", before performing the first song of the service, breaking down in tears, he sang: "Jesus was waiting when she left here."
READ: Bobby Brown leaves Houston's funeral as it begins.
Actor Kevin Costner took to the lectern next. His speech, though sombre in parts, was crammed full of anecdotes that drew laughs from the audience. The Bodyguard actor received a standing ovation.
He revealed that he and Houston both grew up in the Baptist church. Of The Bodyguard, and Houston's career-defining song in the 1992 movie, Costner said: "The song I Will Always Love You almost wasn't. It wasn't supposed to be in the movie. The first choice was going to be What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. But it had been out the year before in another movie so we thought it wasn't going to have the same impact. So what becomes of our broken hearts?"
He continued: "You weren't just good enough, you were great. You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was. A lot of leading men could have played my part, a lot of guys could have filled that role. But you Whitney, I truly believe, were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time. You weren't just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people just didn't like you, Whitney. They loved you."
Next, Alicia Keys gave a stunning performance of Prelude To A Kiss as she tried to hold back tears. She described Houston as a "beautiful, beautiful human being" who would "call you for no reason at all just to say hi."
Longtime producer Clive Davis remembered the professional Houston, who never let her natural genius get to her head. He also spoke of his love for her and also addressed Houston's love for daughter Bobbi Kristina.
He said: "When she broke that all-time record of seven consecutive number ones, we just felt utter disbelief. I would ask her, 'Are you pinching yourself?' And she would say, with wide-open eyes, 'I'm pinching myself.' She never took anything for granted. She was never arrogant. She was always appreciative."
And added: "She was there for me, and eternally loyal friend... And Bobby 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."
Music legend Stevie Wonder said: "This is such an emotional moment", before performing two songs, including an original song for Whitney. He also revealed: "In my fantasy world, I had a little crush on Whitney, okay?"
Next R Kelly performed a passionate rendition of his song I Look To You, a tune he wrote for Houston and the title track of her seventh and final album, released in August 2009.
Gospel singer and longtime family friend Marvin Winans delivered the eulogy at the end of the service, followed by a song by BeBe Winans and sister CeCe who sang Don't Cry for Me.
Missing from the service was Houston's godmother Aretha Franklin who was originally lined up to sing but was unable to attend the service after falling ill.
The celebration of Houston's remarkable life ended as her hit song I Will Always Love You played and her casket was carried out of the church.