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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stars attend Whitney Houston funeral in New Jersey

Friends and family of Whitney Houston celebrated her life with 
moving words and performances

Some 1,500 family and friends have attended the funeral of music star Whitney Houston in Newark, New Jersey.

Houston's cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, presided over the ceremony at the New Hope Baptist Church. Stevie Wonder and Kevin Costner were among the celebrities paying tribute in person.

Security was tight, with fans kept away - although the service was streamed live on the internet.

Houston, 48, was found dead in a hotel in Los Angeles a week ago.

Officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests that will help them ascertain how she died.
'Private viewing'

The New Hope Baptist Church is where a young Houston sang in a gospel choir run by her mother.

Police cordoned off streets surrounding it, as pockets of fans gathered outside the perimeter. A golden hearse was used to transfer Houston's coffin from a nearby funeral home to the church.

During the service Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Houston in The Bodyguard, paid tribute to what he called the "sweet miracle" of her life.

"Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began," he said and urged the nation to "dry our tears, suspend our sorrow and perhaps our anger". 

He spoke about how they built a friendship, despite their obvious differences, exchanging stories about their childhood and growing up in a Baptist church community.

Stevie Wonder performed the song Love's in Need of Love Today, and Alicia Keys Send me an Angel. There were also musical tributes from R Kelly, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and the Rev Kim Burrell.

Aretha Franklin had been due to sing at the service, but the Houston family said she would not be able to attend as she was unwell.

There were also tributes from Clive Davis, her musical mentor, and Houston's sister-in-law Patricia Houston.

The service closed with her best-selling single I Will Always Love You.

Houston will later be buried beside her father, John Russell Houston, at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.

Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown, arrived at the service, but AP news agency reported that he left again shortly afterwards in an apparent disagreement over seating arrangements.

A number of Houston's relatives attended a private viewing service at the funeral home on Friday night.

Houston was one of the world's leading musical artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, selling 170 million records worldwide.

Sales of her records have soared since her death was announced last Saturday.


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