Whitney Houston Funeral: A galaxy of stars gather in New Jersey to say goodbye to the pop legend


Whitney's going home: Stars and family gather at church where Houston's career began for emotional funeral servicePastor Joe Carter said the service will be a 'musical celebration of Whitney Houston's life'Aretha Franklin 'too ill' to sing
Around 1,500 guests expected to attendStar will not be buried until tomorrowKim Burrell will sing I Believe In You And Me – Whitney's favourite song

Whitney Houston's flower-covered casket arrived this morning at the church where her powerful voice first wowed a congregation as family made final preparations to remember the pop superstar in her hometown.

Mourners at the New Hope Baptist Church, including the Rev Jesse Jackson, fell quiet as three police officers escorted Houston's silver casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies, a couple of hours before the service.

White-robed choir members began to fill the pews on the podium. As the band played softly, the choir sang in a hushed voice, Whitney, Whitney, Whitney'.

Casket arrival: A coffin holding the remains of singer Whitney Houston is carried into the New Hope Baptist Church before the noon funeral services for the singer this morning

Casket arrival: A coffin holding the remains of singer Whitney Houston is carried into the New Hope Baptist Church before the noon funeral services for the singer this morning

Final journey: The hearse carrying the body of pop singer Whitney Houston makes its way to the New Hope Baptist Church past the County Hall of Records, where the American flag flies at half mast

Final journey: The hearse carrying the body of pop singer Whitney Houston makes its way to the New Hope Baptist Church past the County Hall of Records, where the American flag flies at half mast

Family prepared a service where
singer Dionne Warwick, Houston's cousin, music mogul Clive Davis, who
shepherded Houston's career for
decades, actor Kevin Costner and sister-in-law Patricia Houston were to speak.

Going home: To Whitney's family and friends, she was known as Nippy, a nickname given to Houston when she was a child, it stuck with her through adulthood

Going home: To Whitney's family and friends, she was known as Nippy, a nickname given to Houston when she was a child, it stuck with her through adulthood

Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly
and gospel stars CeCe and Bebe Winans are expected to sing. Houston's
voice, a recording of her biggest hit, I Will Always Love You, is
expected to be played at the end.

Close family friend Aretha Franklin,
whom Houston lovingly called Aunt Ree, was expected to sing at the
service, but she is too ill to attend, said a person close to the
Houston family who was not authorized to talk about Franklin's decision
and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The service marks exactly one week
after the 48-year-old Houston — one of music's all-time biggest stars
— was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel in California. A cause of
death has yet to be determined.

To the world, Houston was the pop
queen with the perfect voice, the dazzling diva with regal beauty, a
troubled superstar suffering from addiction and, finally, another victim
of the dark side of fame.

To her family and friends, she was
just Nippy. A nickname given to Houston when she was a child, it stuck
with her through adulthood and, later, would become the name of one of
her companies. To them, she was a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a
mother.

'She always had the edge,' Rev
Jackson said outside the church on Saturday. 'You can tell when some
kids have what we call a special anointing. Aretha had that when she was
14. Whitney cultivated that and took it to a very high level.

'The memories are so powerful, the
music will be with us forever. We have a lot to rejoice about. Today we
praise, we preach and we appreciate.

'Whitney had that special something.'

Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce
and Jay-Z, actor-producer Tyler Perry and American Idol musical director
Rickey Minor were all expected to attend Saturday's invitation-only
service. Her ex-husband Bobby Brown also is expected to attend, along
with the couple's only child, Bobbi Kristina.

According to the invitation issued to
the singer's friends and family, the ceremony will be seen as a 'going
home' service rather than a funeral.

The
invitation, featuring a picture of the smiling star that appears to
date back to the peak of her success in the early 1990s, states: 'With
heartfelt gratitude, the Houston family requests the honour of your
presence at the going home service for Whitney Elizabeth Houston.'

Silence: Mourners at the New Hope Baptist Church, including the Rev Jesse Jackson, fell quiet as three police officers escorted Houston's silver casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies, a couple of hours before the service

Silence: Mourners at the New Hope Baptist Church, including the Rev Jesse Jackson, fell quiet as three police officers escorted Houston's silver casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies, a couple of hours before the service

The hearse carrying the body of singer Whitney Houston, with a photo of her in the window, leaves a funeral home en route to a church for funeral services in Newark

Image: The golden hearse carrying the body of singer Whitney Houston bears a photo of her in the window as her family and friends prepare to say goodbye to the star

First mourner: The Rev Jesse Jackson leaves Whigham Funeral Home after visiting with the family of Whitney Houston before going to the New Hope Baptist Church to prepare for the service

First mourner: The Rev Jesse Jackson leaves Whigham Funeral Home after visiting with the family of Whitney Houston before going to the New Hope Baptist Church to prepare for the service

Not singing: Aretha Franklin, who performed at Radio City Music Hall in new York last night, pulled out of singing at her god daughter Whitney's funeral at the last minute, saying she was 'too ill'

Not singing: Aretha Franklin, who performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York last night, pulled out of singing at her god daughter Whitney's funeral at the last minute, saying she was 'too ill'

ORDER OF SERVICE

New Hope Mass Choir and The New Jersey Mass Choir sings The Lord Is My Shepherd

Pastor Joe Carter reads scripture

Solo – Donnie McClurkin sings Stand

Tribute by Tyler Perry

Solo – BB Winans sings Home

Bishop TD Jakes speaks

Solo – Kim Burrell sings I Believe In You And Me

Tribute by Kevin Costner

Tribute by Clive Davis

Solo – Stevie Wonder sings Ribbons In The Sky

Tribute by Ricky Minor

Solo – Alicia Keys sings a medley

Solo – R. Kelly sings I Look To You

Whitney Houston's family speaks

Final words by Dionne Warwick

Her body will be laid to rest tomorrow

Pastor Joe Carter, who will read the scripture, said the service will be a musical celebration of Whitney Houston's life.

Traffic cones lined the street outside the church where those attending would be dropped off for the service.

The
electronic sign outside the front simply read 'Whitney Houston'
followed by her date of birth then the words: 'We will always love you'.

The streets around the building were closed off for six blocks on either side to ensure the public had no access to the surrounding area.

Most had also apparently followed police instructions not to attend. But small pockets of fans got as close to the church as they possibly could.

They had already covered the front of the church in dozens of balloons, flowers and card that formed a deep 12ft by 6ft blanket by the entrance.

On the streets there was a heavy police presence with mounted officers patrolling around, a police helicopter flying overhead and police cars by barricades.

Houston's fans were so desperate to be at the service that some journeyed 500 miles from Canada or slept in their cars overnight by the church to be there.

With no single point of focus, they ended up grouping in bunches of 50-100 at various points around the perimeter of the fenced off zone singing Houston's hits like I Will Always Love You and I'm Every Woman.

Vendors sold T-Shirts and posters with Houston's name on them whilst one man used a pair of opera glasses to see what was going on. Others had radios they were carrying around with Houston's music blaring out of them.

Most of the fans wanted to be there on what they said was a 'historic day' but there was also frustration and anger that they had been kept back at least three blocks from the church with one man claiming Houston's mother Cissy had 'betrayed' them.

Melanie Moulton, 37, had set off in
her car from her home in Whitby, Ontario in Canada at 3am on Friday and
arrived in Newark around 2pm that afternoon. Her mother Rita, 61, had
travelled with her too and the pair spent a night in a hotel nearby to
make sure they were able to get a good spot.

The
journey was around 500 miles and the pair estimated they spent
'hundreds of dollars' on the trip including gas and accommodation.

Melanie
Moulton said: 'If I had lived on the other side of the world, I would
still have come here today. I've loved Whitney since I was a girl and
hearing her music made me to get into music production. It's just such a
loss she has gone. She was my inspiration'.

Fan: Renee Taylor, of Baltimore, Maryland, stands with a sign a few blocks from the New Hope Baptist Church before the funeral of Whitney Houston where fans gathered to pay their last respects

Fan: Renee Taylor, of Baltimore, Maryland, stands with a sign a few blocks from the New Hope Baptist Church before the funeral of Whitney Houston where fans gathered to pay their last respects

Security guard Deehaven Murphy, 33, said: 'Whitney shows you how to love, she teaches you how to love. There will be a void in my life now she's gone.

'It's sad how we are being kept back so far and her mother should have let the real fans pay their respects. Her mother is responsible for this and she has snubbed the fans, she betrayed us.

Hairstylist Sheena Braxton, 46, and her friend Rochelle Johnson, 44, also a hairstylist, had worked through the night at their home in Waldorf, Maryland to print up T-Shirt in Houston's honour.

They hardly slept and set off at 5am to get to New Jersey.

Miss Braxton said she had printed up 144 T-Shirts that she was selling for $10 each as a 'tribute'.

She said: 'Whitney could touch you like nobody could imagine. There won't ever be anybody else like her.

'When I first heard the news I was at home on my couch and a chill came over my body and I said: 'No, not Whitney, no way'. I feel so close to her, her music touches your soul.

'I just wanted to be here to pay my respects. She meant so much to me.'

Yesterday, the late singer's family members – including her mother Cissy and daughter Bobbi Kristina – took the opportunity to pay their respects in private.

Bobbi Kristina, 18, seen for the first time since being rushed to hospital after collapsing through stress following her mother's passing, was seen arriving at Whigham Funeral Home in the singer's hometown of Newark, New Jersey, alongside her tearful grandmother Cissy Houston.

They were later joined by famous faces including Houston's life-long friend and mentor Clive Davis and as well as the singer's cousin Dionne Warwick.

Funeral director Caroline Whigham told the crowd gathered outside that the viewing 'was done in privacy between a mother, a daughter, two brothers and a family,' according to People magazine.

Emotional time: Whitney Houston's mother Cissy Houston, 78, was seen arriving at the funeral home for a special private viewing with close friends and family on Friday afternoon

Emotional time: Whitney Houston's mother Cissy
Houston, 78, was seen arriving at the funeral home for a special private
viewing with close friends and family on Friday afternoon

Sad day: Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina was also seen arriving at Whigham Funeral Home in New Jersey

Sad day: Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina was also seen arriving at Whigham Funeral Home in New Jersey

Sad day: Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina was also seen arriving at Whigham Funeral Home in New Jersey yesterday

A year later: Whitney Houston and her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown were pictured together at the 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala. She died on the day of the same event this year

A year later: Whitney Houston and her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown were pictured together at the 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala. She died on the day of the same event this year

Last moments: Whitney Houston's last ever public performance on Thursday February 9 with her close friend Kelly Price. She was found dead two days later

Last moments: Whitney Houston's last ever public performance on Thursday February 9 with her close friend Kelly Price. She was found dead two days later

The mourning family was also accompanied by a strong police presence which ensured the large crowds of fans who gathered outside the home kept their distance.

Cissy was escorted into the building by a priest and held hands with a woman in a crisp white shirt yesterday afternoon. The former gospel singer was dressed smartly in a black coat with an orange and brown leopard print scarf wrapped around her shoulders.

Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina, pictured in public for first time since she was rushed to hospital following the singer's death in a Beverly Hills hotel, arrived at the funeral home in dark jeans, white vest and a black jacket.

She appeared controlled as she entered the funeral home. 'There are moments when she is strong and moments when it all hits her,' a source told People magazine. 'She can't escape it.'

The 18-year-old is the daughter of
Houston and her former husband Bobby Brown. It has been reported that
the teen will now live with her grandmother 'indefinitely' according to
HollywoodLife.com.

However, a new report on TMZ.com this morning claimed that Houston's
family are keen for Bobbi Kristina to enter a 'live-in rehab facility'
as soon as possible, but are willing to wait until after the funeral to
allow the teenager time to grieve her mother's passing.

The website claims that Bobbi has, for the past three of four years,
struggled with 'substance abuse issues', and her family are said to be
keen for her to seek help before her problems get any worse.

The teenager hid her eyes between a pair of sunglasses and held the hand
of a friend as she walked past security. Family and friends were
greeted by what appeared to be an Egyptian-decorated casket outside the
home.

Houston

Let
the mourners come: Fans of the late Whitney Houston gathered outside
the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey, yesterday where the singer's
body was being held ahead of today's funeral

As well as close family of Whitney in attendance friends also gathered together to pay their respects.

Aretha Franklin, who will sing at the
funeral today, believed Whitney Houston had overcome her demons and was
primed for a comeback, which made learning of the troubled singer’s
death all the more shocking.

The
Queen of Soul said she was watching TV in her hotel room in Charlotte,
North Carolina, when she learned of Houston’s death in a hotel suite
across the country in Beverly Hills, California.

She
said she had seen recent video of Houston, 'and she looked fresh, she
looked healthy and she looked gorgeous. And I thought, “Yes, she has
conquered her challenges and she’s on the way”.'

Now
her fans should remember Houston for her artistry, Franklin said, and
not focus on the challenges she faced with substance abuse.

Her last album, I Look To You, debuted on the top of the charts when it was released in 2009 with strong sales, but didn't have the staying power of her previous records. A tour the next year was doomed by cancellations because of illness and sub-par performances.

But a comeback was on the horizon. She was to star in the remake of the movie Sparkle and friends and family said she was working on new music.

Capturing a moment in history: People took photographs and paid respects at the candle lit shrine at the funeral home tonight

Capturing
a moment in history: People took photographs and paid respects at the
candle lit shrine at the funeral home on Friday night

From the heart: A fan signs a memorial book as she pays her respects to the late singer, who died last Saturday

From the heart: A fan signs a memorial book as she pays her respects to the late singer, who died last Saturday

Ray J, who was dating Whitney in the months before her death finally broke his silence.

The
31-year-old released a statement that said: 'Over the past few days,
I've tried to process the emptiness that I am experiencing. What my
heart feels cannot be expressed in words. The world lost an icon, but I
lost my close friend.'

Alluding to a nickname given to Whitney by her father he added: 'Nippy, I miss you so much!'

'You were so happy and full of love. Your smile will live in my heart forever.'

Ray J was seen at LAX airport on Friday catching a flight to New Jersey ahead of Whitney's service today.

It
has also revealed yesterday that Mel Gibson reached out to the I Didn’t
Know My Own Strength singer a few years ago to try and deal with her
addiction issues.

The
Braveheart star was invited to the funeral by Whitney's family but is
unable to attend because of prior family commitments, TMZ reports.

The funeral comes one week after Houston was found dead in the bath of her hotel room in Los Angeles.

Police have reportedly obtained her medical records and are investigating what drugs were supplied to her in her final days.

No cause of death has been identified yet and officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests.