Stars, family and friends mourned Whitney Houston in a spirited funeral service at her hometown church on Saturday, February 18th, 2012, a week after the sudden death of the singer whose spectacular voice made her one of the biggest pop stars of her era.
A choir had guests swaying to gospel music in the crowded New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, where Whitney first honed her wide vocal range as a young choir singer with her mother Cissy Houston, a backup singer for Aretha Franklin.
"Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began," said actor Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Whitney in the 1992 hit film, "The Bodyguard". He urged those around the world to "dry our tears, suspend our sorrow -- and perhaps our anger -- just long enough, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle of Whitney."
Whitney recorded stirring love songs and vibrant dance tunes during a 30-year career that peaked with her 1992 signature hit "I Will Always Love You" and paved the way for a generation of singers that followed her.
During the service her cousin and famed soul singer Dionne Warwick introduced a host of soul, gospel and pop music greats from the past and present, including Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly and Alicia Keys who said "it was so obvious the way she just crept into everybody's heart" before performing the song "Send Me An Angel".
Influential Hollywood actor and producer Tyler Perry talked about Whitney's "grace that led her all the way to the top of the charts," before adding that now, "she is resting, singing with the angels."
Gospel singers who performed at the service included singer Ce Ce Winans, Be Be Winans, Kim Burrell and Donnie McClurkin who sang a powerful rendition of "Stand" while the choir and church stood and swayed.
Record producer Clive Davis, who discovered and guided Whitney throughout her career spoke at the service, which Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey also attended.
The 48-year-old Whitney died February 11th, 2012, at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, just hours before she was set to perform at producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards bash.
The L.A. County Coroner's Office says Whitney Houston's death was an accidental drowning in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But, in its preliminary report, the coroner cites 'effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use' as contributing factors in her death. Drug tests indicated the singer was a chronic cocaine user and at the time of her death, the 48-year-old singer had cocaine in her system.
Atherosclerosis is a condition marked by a fat buildup in the arteries. Cocaine also constricts the arteries, and the combination of the two may have caused diminished blood flow to the brain and unconsciousness. The 60% narrowing of her arteries "suggests a cardiac event complicated by the cocaine use" led to Houston's slipping underwater, Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey said. "Something happened that caused her to go down and we know that when she slipped under the water she was still alive," he said. "We have evidence of drowning since there was water in the lungs."
Mr. Harvey said toxicology tests turned up marijuana, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the anti-histamine Benadryl in Whitney Houston's system. But the coroner found that they did not contribute to her death. "Those drugs were all at the therapeutic or sub-therapeutic level," Harvey explained. "They're not considered to be related to the actual cause of death."
Whitney was buried on Sunday, February 19th, 2012, at a family plot in New Jersey. The star would be laid to rest at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield next to her father, John Russell Houston, who died in 2003.
STATEMENTS RESPONDING TO WHITNEY'S DEATH
The Houston Family:
"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Whitney.
This is an unimaginable tragedy and we will miss her terribly.
We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from her fans and friends."
"Mommie, having the refreshing presence of God is such a great gift. And to be refreshed and watered, to grow as a lily, is love in action. You are a true beauty. Love, Krissi."
"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.
Rest, my baby girl in peace."
Sony Music Entertainment:
"Whitney Houston was an icon and a once-in-a-lifetime talent who inspired a generation of singers and brought joy to millions of fans around the world. She had a voice of unmatched beauty and power that changed music forever, and she leaves behind an indelible legacy of timeless songs that will never be forgotten. She also was an important member of the Sony Music family who spent her storied recording career with Arista Records. She will be greatly missed. Our deepest condolences go out to her daughter and her entire family."
Neil Portnow, President/CEO Recording Academy:
"Six-time GRAMMY® winner Whitney Houston was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades. Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice."
"I have a very heavy heart and I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who meant so much to me."
"One thing I was struck by with Whitney Houston is I remember she sort of came out as a singer around the same time I did. I remember looking at her singing and hearing people talk about her, and just thinking, 'Oh my God, she's such a beautiful woman and my God, what an incredible voice. I wish I could sing like that.' I just remember being extremely envious of her and also touched by her innocence."
"Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Ms. Whitney Houston. My heartfelt condolences to Whitney's family and to all her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."
"I am deeply moved by this very sad news. Whitney was an amazing and unique artist. When I started singing in english, she was a role model for me. I admired the singer; I loved the very charming and warm person that I had the opportunity to meet a few times. Today all my thoughts go to her daugther and family."
"She had everything, beauty, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us."
"This is a terrible loss, a tragic loss, and what seems like might have been an avoidable loss. I am deeply saddened by this tragedy and my heart goes out to her family in this time of need."
“We have lost another legend. Love and prayers to Whitney's family. She will be missed."
"My heart is weeping. RIP to the legendary Diva & Icon Whitney Houston! Such an incredible influence over music as a whole! She's paved the way for every single singer in the music industry. Iconic, legendary, innovating, amazing, humble…1 the best in the world."
Mary J. Blige:
"So many tears, hurting so bad, this is unbelievable! I really don't know what else to say. I wanted my sister Whitney Houston 2 make it."
"I'm absolutely devastated... she had that voice that could just turn a story, a melody into magical, magical notes."
"I'm being honored tomorrow @ Grammy's and it just don't feel right."
"I feel sick... Life is precious, we are fragile souls. Let's love each other! I miss you beautiful Whitney, the whole world misses you!"
I just can't talk about it now. It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen. She was one of the greatest singers that has ever stood before a microphone. My heart goes out to Cissy, her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby."
"I cannot begin to express my sadness & pain that I am feeling for the loss of my baby sis, Whitney. Its still not real to me. I send love and prayers to Cissy, Bobby Kris, Bobby & the family."
"To me Whitney was THE VOICE. We got to hear a part of God every time she sang. Heart is heavy, spirit grateful for the GIFT of her."
"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. Nippy, I miss you so much! You were so happy and full of love. Your smile will live in my heart forever."
"Such a loss. One of the greatest voices of our time. Sending out prayers to her family. R.I.P. Whitney."
"The loss of Whitney Houston is painful. I remember meeting Whitney for the first time when I was 15. She was the ultimate legend. The ultimate woman. Not only was she confident, poised, stunningly beautiful and intelligent, but she was sincere and kind. She took the time to make everyone feel like they were very important to her. I, like every singer, always wanted to be just like her. Her voice was perfect. Strong but soothing. Soulful and classic. Her vibrato, her cadence, her control. So many of my life's memories are attached to a Whitney Houston song. She is our queen and she opened doors and provided a blueprint for all of us. God bless her."
The Jackson Family:
"We honor and celebrate the life of one of the world's most gifted vocalist and talented entertainers, Whitney Houston. Although we are all saddened by her sudden passing and will miss her, we respectfully ask everyone to consider her family at this time of difficulty by granting them the patience and comfort they need to mourn their loss in peace."
"My heart is broken and words cannot fully describe how I feel. Whitney Houston was a star in every sense of the word. Class and beauty personified. And her gifts and talent literally changed the world. She will truly and forever be missed. My heart and prayers are with her daughter, her mother, her loved ones and her fans all over the world."
"My feelings about Whitney: life is hard for everyone - sadness, disappointment, loss, fear, insecurity, loneliness - imagine doing it in a spotlight. Life is impermanent - over in a breath. Tomorrow, let's do something together for ourselves and to honour Whitney. Let's not sweat the small stuff."
"My heart is destroyed. I lost my idol and dear friend. My prayers go out to Whitney's family and her millions of fans around the world. Whitney - the greatest voice of all time - you are my angel and I will always and forever love you."
"One of the most beautiful soul's ever. Beyond the greatest female singer ever born. My sister & friend eternally. When my life was in a living hell... Whitney was there for me. Fought for me, and is the one that told me 'Jesus need's to be your friend'. Thank you for all the prayers and kind word's. We pray for Bobbi Kris, Her mom, Brother's, entire family, friend's, and loving Fans."
"Shocked we've lost the immensely talented Whitney Houston!"
"My thoughts and prayers for Whitney's family. The voice of our time is now silent. RIP Whitney."
"There is not a word that describes my reaction. It doesn’t exist in the English language. When I first worked with Whitney during "The Bodyguard" she was like a thoroughbred race horse – no tricks, no gimmicks, no warm-up – just get up to the mike and get the job done! – better than anyone else on the planet. This was the voice that record producers dreamed of working with. I got butterflies. She was pure magic. She was iconic. I am not interested in the rumors about how she died – no one knows what it was like to walk in her shoes. I had the pleasure and privilege of having an up close and personal front row seat to the greatest of them all."
Ce Ce Winans:
"I have no words to express how I feel. Whitney was not just a friend but a sister and I am going to miss her voice, her humor but mostly her friendship. She was undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time but she was also a great person. Please keep her family in prayer and the best way to honor her is to be reminded that tomorrow is not promised to any of us so love God and love each other."
"It was the greatest honor of my life to be able to be the one to pay tribute to Whitney’s memory. It was from my heart. I haven’t stopped crying since she passed. Her family is in my prayers."
"I knew every single word to all of Whitney Houston's songs and I remember her inspiring me to listen to the power of song and voice. I'll never forget you Whitney, your the voice of a generation and an inspiration to every singer and artist."
"I am overwhelmed. I cannot wrap my mind around this. I missed the chance to see her at a party this past Thursday and when we spoke last she had just finished SPARKLE and she told me how excited she was to start production on WAITING TO EXHALE 2 with Angela, Lela and myself. My prayers go out to her family and I am so honored for the time I spent working with her on WAITING TO EXHALE, THE PREACHER’S WIFE and on ‘Boston Public’. I love you, Whitney, and I will miss your easy laugh."
"R.I.P. Whitney Houston gone but never forgotten."
"The loss of an icon and superstar like Whitney Houston is devastating. However, it can't compare to the loss of a mother, daughter, niece and friend, so my heart goes out to her family, to whom she was so much more."
"Never forgotten. We lost an icon. It was a sad situation but what she did for music will live forever."
"Aren't you tired of losing our people? I am. Love your artists. When they falter, hold them accountable. But love them. People are now showing Whitney Houston the love and respect she should have received throughout her career - through all of it."
"We really lost one of the greatest singers we'll ever hear."
"I'm so sad... Whitney Houston was so kind, sweet, wonderful, amazing, talented, and a true gift to the world."
"Please, please someone tell me it's not true... Little by little these deaths kill the best part of each of us, the awe and joy we feel when we hear a gift that can only come from God."
"48 years is far too young for her to pass. I believe when these situations happen where the reasons are yet to be determined, the best thing to do is to reserve opinions. However, I have prayed for her and her family and it was a GREAT honor to have worked with her!"
"RIP Whitney Houston. Sending my love and deepest condolences to her family and friends. Fly Whitney Fly."
"I am so sad to hear about Whitney. We have lost one of the greatest singers of all time."
"No words! Just tears. Dear Whitney."
"So devastating. We will always love you Whitney, R.I.P."
"I’m speechless… I’m in shock right now. Just pray for her and the family."
"R.I.P WHITNEY HOUSTON. ONE OF THE PUREST SOULS I’VE EVER MET IN MY LIFE."
"One Of The Greatest Voices... Huge Inspiration!!!… SMH Sad News Man Messed up the Whole Day!"
"Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed."
"I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney's passing. Ashford & Simpson first made me aware of Whitney when she was just 16, and I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly."
"Whitney Houston may you Rest In Peace. You will be missed and you will be remembered for your beautiful voice and positive things you did."
"It's a tragedy. Whitney Houston was the greatest singer I've ever heard and she will be truly missed."
"Rip 2 a Legendary Diva, Icon, Mother & Friend Whitney Houston. 1 of the greatest voices ever. U will be truly missed. R.I.P Whitney Houston."
"RIP Whitney Houston- que descanses en paz."
"Whitney? Pls No! R.I.P my beautiful! This REALLY hurts my heart!"
Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil:
"She had incredible beauty and talent and yet she seemed to be in so much pain. A terrible loss for her family and for all of us."
"I dedicate my set tonight to Whitney, I will always love you."
"Nothing I could write on twitter could possibly express what Whitney Houston means to me personally and professionally. Nothing."
"Whitney Houston was by far one of the greatest artist I ever worked with. One of the most amazing, anointed, gifted voices I've ever had the chance to capture in the studio. Most importantly she was a beautiful person, she had such a sweet, beautiful spirit. She blessed us with so much greatness in songs that we can never ever forget her. Whitney was a dear friend and my family will truly miss her. Our love and prayers go out to the entire Houston family! We love and miss u Whitney!"
"She was one of her kind, to make it possible for Beyonce to do what she's doing today. She was at the Superbowl, and shut that thing down."
"This is the saddest thing I've ever had to write in my life, R I P to one of the greatest humans that I have ever known Whitney Houston."
"I am completely devastated by the loss of the greatest voice of all time! R.I.P. Whitney Houston. I will always love you!"
"I am beyond heartbroken. Whitney Houston was undoubtedly one of the greatest singers and performers of all time and such a huge influence on me. She embraced me when I first started out with Destiny’s Child, with love, with encouragement and with that powerhouse voice. My deepest sympathies and prayers go out to her daughter, her mother and to all of her loved ones."
"I just can't stop crying inside for Whitney so thankful the opportunity to have worked and met her. RIP Love u meant so much to our culture! A true Icon! Words can not describe the hurt. We love u Whitney!
"We've lost another legend. RIP WHITNEY HOUSTON. I'm honoured to have had the chance to work with such an amazing human being."
"R.I.P Whitney Houston... A true icon of our time. Gone too soon. My heart goes out to the family in their time of distress."
"I just heard the news... so crazy. One of the GREATEST VOICES EVER just passed. RIP Whitney Houston. My prayers go out to her friends and family."
"I was a huge fan of Whitney, and I was also a fan of her spirit. She was always smiling and I just always felt like she was relatable."
"Tears won’t stop falling man! Wow! I literally was jus with her laughing, joking, talking... she is like family! Wow man! Funny she hugged me and said they don't know. We from East Orange, New
Jersey! Told me to keep making incredible music and to stay humble."
Bryan Michael Cox:
"In one month we lost Etta James, Don Cornelius, and Whitney Houston. All in black history month, unbelievable."
"Thank u 4 the times we worked 2gether your Voice touched the World! N this rough time I pray for The Houston Family."
"I witnessed Whitney record three songs during the filming of "The Preacher's Wife" her voice was "the 8th wonder of the world" Rest In Peace Babygirl."
"Whitney was the greatest singer that ever lived! Everything that came out of her mouth was greatness. There will never be another Whitney."
"R.I.P. Whitney Houston. Ugh I hate that I'm even typing this…I'm shocked. She was my hero growing up."
"Jesus Christ, not Whitney Houston. Greatest of all time."
"Whitney Houston! OMG! I really can't believe this. This is one of the saddest days ever."
"Whitney Houston is my favorite singer. I thought she had the best, natural female voice. That I had ever heard. BEFORE or SINCE. The one good thing is that she recorded so many great records, so that means she'll live forever. Amy Winehouse, God Bless her, but she had only done two albums, she was very young. But Whitney had recorded so many great things. But its still a shame, she's 48 years old. It's a shame."
"Whitney. Rest in peace. There will never be another like you. Lenny."
"Such terrible news to hear of Whitney Houston's passing. She gave the world so much happiness. God bless her & her family at this time."
"I'm speechless, I'm in shock right now. Just pray for her and the family."
"A voice, a talent, and a spirit that will forever remain incomparable. RIP to the Queen, Whitney Houston."
"Can't believe we've lost another 1 of our Royalty. Sister Queen Whitney Houston. God Bless on ur journey as u now stand with the Most High."
"Mama Whit. RIP. My heart hurts."
"At this time, the question is not how she went. It is how she will be remembered. I will always remember Whitney Houston as a true legend."
"RIP Whitney Houston. A Legend lost :( Her voice was insurmountable, her smile was illuminating, she was truly one of a kind and a huge inspiration to me. She has always had sweet and fun words
to say to me. I will cherish the moment I was able to share with her, forever. This is truly unbelievable. My prayers and condolences to her family at this sad time."
"Oh Dear Lord! Hurting so Bad! MY Sister Whitney! Newark please Pray! World Please Pray!"
"R.I.P. Sister WHITNEY HOUSTON! We will always love you."
"Whitney was the reason many of us do what we do. A few stolen moments is all that we share. RIP"
"Very sad news about Whitney. My heart and prayers go out to her daughter and family."
"Dear God... There is a grief that can't be spoken... DEVASTATED."
"I'm having such a hard time with Ms. Houston's passing. My prayers and thoughts are on her family, The people that truly knew her."
"I've know Whitney since she was a little girl and I loved her. She was like family to me. I will miss her."
"Tomorrow night at the Grammys, the only person on our minds will be Whitney Houston."
"We are so heartbroken to hear of the loss of Whitney Houston. One of the best voices EVER! Praying God's comfort for her family."
"I can't believe it... Rest in Peace Whitney... Descanses."
"I am deeply saddened and touched to the core of this news of my musical mentor Whitney Houston. I'll always love you."
"My heart is heavy for all of us who knew and loved Whitney."
"R.I.P. Whitney Houston. Our prayers go out to Bobbi Kristina and her family."
"Condolences to the Houston family, especially Bobbi Kristina. I'm lost for words. Prayers and love."