Stars mourn Whitney Houston at rousing New Jersey funeral

Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:22pm EST
 
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By Christine Kearney and Jonathan Allen

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Stars, family and friends mourned Whitney Houston in a spirited Baptist funeral service at her hometown church on Saturday, a week after the death of the singer whose spectacular voice made her one of the biggest pop stars of her era.

Gospel and soul music greats, celebrities and family members swayed to gospel hits and delivered tributes both sung and spoken to the crowded New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where Houston honed her wide vocal range as a young choral 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 Houston 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."

Houston, who died in a Beverly Hills hotel room last week, 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.

She was among the greatest singers of the 1980s and 1990s, but later admitted to heavy use of cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and prescription pills. Officials have said prescription drugs were found in the hotel room where she died.

Her death at age 48 shocked her family, fans and the music industry. Houston was found underwater in a hotel bathtub on the eve of the music industry's Grammy Awards. Her cause of death has yet to be determined.

She suffered a turbulent personal life and marriage to singer Bobby Brown, who said in a statement he left the service early after being repeatedly asked to move by security, who prevented him from seeing the daughter he shared with Houston, Bobby Kristina Brown, 18.   Continued...

 
Pall-bearers load the casket of pop singer Whitney Houston into a hearse following her funeral service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey February 18, 2012. Houston, 48, died in a Beverly Hills hotel room on February 11, the eve of the music industry's Grammy Awards. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson