Celebrities Mourn Whitney Houston's Loss, Celebrate Her LifeWorld | February 18, 2012, Saturday // 20:07| views
The hearse that carried the casket of US singer Whitney Houston, drives by outside of the New Hope Baptist Church before Houston`s funeral in Newark, New Jersey, USA, 18 February 2012. EPA/BGNES
The funeral for music legend Whitney Houston got underway Saturday in her hometown of Newark, NJ.
After a rousing performance by the choir of the New Hope Baptist Church, A. Curtis Pharaoh, the church's minister of music, introduced Newark Mayor Corey Booker.
"We are here to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life," Booker said. "God is in heaven, and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston," as cited by Fox News.
Earlier, under a bright blue sky, a flower-covered casket carrying the deceased singer arrived at the New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston's powerful voice first wowed congregations four decades ago.
Some mourners arrived hours before her funeral as white-robed choir members took their places on he church's stage as a band started playing.
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 scheduled to speak.
Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and gospel stars CeCe and Bebe Winans are planning to sing. Houston's recording of her biggest hit, the Dolly Parton-penned "I Will Always Love You," is to be played at the end.
Aretha Franklin, whom Houston lovingly called "Aunt Ree," had been expected to sing at the service, but fell ill and will not attend, a person close to the Houston family told the media.
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.
Houston's death at the age of 48 marked the final chapter for the superstar whose fall from grace while shocking was years in the making. Houston had her first No. 1 hit by the time she was 22, followed by a flurry of No. 1 songs and multi-platinum records.
Over her career, she sold more than 50 million records in the United States alone. Her voice, an ideal blend of power, grace and beauty, made classics out of songs like "Saving All My Love For You," ''I Will Always Love You," ''The Greatest Love of All" and "I'm Every Woman." Her six Grammys were only a fraction of her many awards.
But amid the fame, a turbulent marriage to Brown and her addiction to drugs tarnished her image. She became a woman falling apart in front of the world.
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.
Still, a comeback was ahead: She was to star in the remake of the movie "Sparkle" and was working on new music. Her family, friends and hard-core fans were hopeful. Houston is to be buried next to her father, John Houston, in nearby Westfield, N.J.
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