Stars pay tribute to Houston in US

Stars pay tribute to Houston in US

NEW JERSEY - Agence France-Presse
Stars pay tribute to Houston in US

A gold-colored hearse delivered Houston’s body to Newark’s Baptist Church. REUTERS photo

Hollywood stars, music greats and loved ones praised the “sweet miracle” of Whitney Houston at a moving funeral service in her home town Saturday, a week after the pop singer’s sudden death.

A gold-colored hearse delivered Houston’s body to Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, where she sang as a child before her voice was shaped and nurtured into a spectacular talent that arguably made her the biggest star of her era.

Houston’s casket was adorned with flowers as actor Kevin Costner stood up to deliver an emotional tribute to the singer, whose death at the age of 48 prompted sadness, grief and respect from fans and contemporaries worldwide.

“I urge us all inside and outside, across the nation and 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,” Costner said.

The four-hour service ended with an audio recording of “I Will Always Love You,” regarded by many as Houston’s signature track and the theme of “The Bodyguard,” the 1992 box office smash in which she co-starred with Costner.

While Houston’s musical success took her away from New Jersey across the world, countless friends and relatives told of how the singer never lost sight of Newark and the community that shaped her.
Clive Davis, the legendary producer who became Houston’s mentor, said he was spellbound when he met her in 1983.

“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that, for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all, well, it takes your breath away,” Davis said.

“Cissy, your daughter stepped forward and shattered me with her version of ‘The Greatest Love Of All,’” Davis said, looking at Houston’s mother, a gospel singer and one-time backing artist for soul queen Aretha Franklin. And Costner, in a frank recollection of his time spent with Houston, told how the singer almost missed out on her role in “The Bodyguard,” on account of her skin color and lack of acting experience. “We could also think about another singer, was a suggestion. Maybe somebody white. Nobody ever said it out loud, but it was a fair question.”