Sending Whitney Home
Whitney Houston was an American pop/R&B singer, actress, and film producer, world-renowned for her stunning vocal prowess and wildly successful music career. On February 11th, 2012, the forty-eight-year-old singer was found dead in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the night before the ever-so-popular Grammy Awards was scheduled to take place.
On February 18th, 2012, one week after her death, the singer was "sent off" in a traditional Baptist-fashioned homegoing funeral service at the New Hope Baptist Church in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Attending were several world-renowned celebrity guests. Family included mother Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, sister-in-law and former manager Patricia Houston, and a very brief appearance by ex-husband Bobby Brown.
Celebrity guests included recording artists Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Mary J. Blige; Gospel singers Kim Burrell, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and Pastor Donnie McClurkin; television personality Oprah Winfrey; and filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry, Whitney Houston's former mentor Clive Davis, and Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner.
Performances included several choral pieces by the church choir, Donnie McClurkin's "Stand", BeBe Winans' "Home", a special rendition of "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Kim Burrell, a re-worded version of Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky", a self-accompanied Alicia Keys with "Send Me an Angel", R. Kelly's heartfelt rendition of "I Look to You" (which he self-penned for Houston's same-titled final album released in 2009), and a tear-jerking performance of "Don't Cry" by CeCe Winans. America's "Queen of Soul" and Houston's godmother Aretha Franklin was scheduled to perform, but was unable to sing due to an unspecified illness.
Speeches included some heartfelt words from Kevin Costner who starred opposite Houston in 1992's "The Bodyguard"; Clive Davis who served as Houston's mentor and record executive for almost twenty years; and Patricia Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and former manager.
The final performance and eulogy, lead by Pastor Marvin Winans, was followed by the recessional, where Houston's family followed her casket outside, while listening to Houston's biggest hit, "I Will Always Loved You", penned by Dolly Parton.
In my opinion, Whitney Houston could not have been given a more touching, heartfelt, and honest funeral service than the one her mother Cissy gave her. I am unashamed to say that even I shed a tear or two during Alicia's "Send Me an Angel" and, of course, CeCe's "Don't Cry". Whitney Houston was one of the greatest singers of all time, and this was, without a doubt, one of the best televised funerals I've ever seen, not only because of the timeless performances and heartfelt speeches, but also because it was an honest, humble, and traditional African-American send off, and, as Pastor Marvin Winans quoted, "brought the world to church".
We miss you, Whitney, and "we will always love you."