February 19, 2012



  1. . . . That’s what Whitney Houston’s family meant in calling the service a “home going,” which took place at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N. J., on Saturday.
  2. . . . Their daughter was “going home to heaven to be with God."
  3. . . . The term connotes a more positive and upbeat event instead of calling it a ‘funeral. ’
  4. . . . Still, for many peopleit was a ‘homecoming’ of sorts, with friends and family returning to the hometown where Houston was born.
  5. . . . The service was POSITIVE:No one made much of the troubles she’s had in recent years.
  6. . . . UPBEAT: The sermons, the speakers, the singing, the remembrances. No dirgy affair.
  7. . . . INSPIRING. The love in the room.
  8. . . . But still a sad day when you think about what happened to the just 48-year-old singing star.
  9. . . . SURPRISING PREMONITION. Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother, wrote a letter for the ceremony program and in it said, “I never told you that when you were born, The Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long,” reported the Associated Press. “And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years."
  10. . . . WONDERING. What made Cissy believe that her daughter might come to a premature end?
  11. . . . “Rest, my baby girl, in peace,” the letter read and was signed, “mommie."
  12. . . . BACKGROUND. Mom Houston is a soul and gospel singer in her own right with an impressive background which spans decades.
  13. . . . Her Sweet Inspirations vocal group had hits of their own (“Sweet Inspiration,” 1968 on Atlantic Records)and were well-known session singers for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, Elvis Presley (in Las Vegas) and countless others on the soul and pop music spectrums in the 60s and 70s.
  14. . . . Dionne Warwick (white-haired now), Whitney Houston’s aunt, acted as ‘host,’ introducing each speaker who either sang or talked about her niece. She did a good job of keeping things moving.
  15. . . . She’s got a nice speaking voice, in a low register now, but I was hoping she would sing.
  16. . . . Gospel singer BeBe Winans did sing, was visibly overcome at times (as was actor/director Tyler Perry when he spoke) but told a funny story of Whitney wanting him and his sister CeCe to sing background for her even though she had made the big time.
  17. . . . BeBe made sure his sister stayed near him on the stage, seemingly for support, and she did.
  18. . . . Kim Burrell, also a gospel singer and good friend of Houston, was to sing “I Believe in You and Me” but changed her mind and sang instead a personalized version of Sam Cooke’sA Change Is Gonna Come” (1964).
  19. . . . “She was born in Newark . . . ,” Burrell began, replacing the standard famous line, “I was born by the river (in a little tent) . . ."
  20. . . . The original song became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and is often sung to illustrate the struggle against racism and discrimination in America.
  21. . . . Cooke himself came up through gospel (the Soul Stirrers), as Whitney did, before going secular in his music.
  22. . . . Actor Kevin Costner was there and gave a fine tribute, which has been mentioned as one of the highlights of the service. He starred with Houston in the Bodyguard (1992) movie.
  23. . . . He talked about pushing the producers to have her star in the film;her screen test, her insecurities and her talent.
  24. . . . He, like Whitney, was raised Baptist.
  25. . . . Alicia Keys sang “Send Me an Angel” at the piano. It was a little drawn out, to be honest, and when she wailed it often sounded like she was screaming in a hoarse, not-musically sounding voice.
  26. . . . I thought, “Too bad Teena Marie’s not still alive and singing here today."She would have sung her song with much less drama.
  27. . . . Alicia and Whitneytexted’ a lot and Keys called her “Mee Mah,” or something like that.
  28. . . . Clive Davis was up next. The record company executive is considered the one who introduced Whitney to the world and signed herin 1983 to his label, Arista.
  29. . . . “You wait a lifetime for a voice like that,” he said.
  30. . . . He related his stories of Whitney through her music, mentioning by name some of the songs she sang and the “vivid, visual memories of her videos."
  31. . . . He mentioned they recorded “her version” of “The Greatest Love of All,” which indicated that the song had been done before, which it had.
  32. . . . Cabaret singer Jane Olivor did it and then George Benson (1977) had the first big hit with it when it was used for a biopic about Muhammad Ali called “The Greatest."
  33. . . . But obviously, Whitney had the biggest hit off it and made it hers.
  34. . . . The song was co-written by frequent Houston collaborator Michael Masser (“Saving All My Love for You,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” and Linda Creed (“Rubberband Man,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New”).
  35. . . . Davis told Bobbi Kristina, Houston and former husband Bobby Brown’s daughter, to “always be proud of your mother."
  36. . . . Speaking to Whitney, Clive offered a prediction:“I know you’re gonna raise the roof like no one has ever done,” referring to what Houston would be doing when she gets to heaven.
  37. . . . Aretha Franklin was a no-show (for medical reasons): “She’s not here but she is here,” said Dionne respectfully.
  38. . . . I guess by that she meant that she was there in spirit.
  39. . . . CLARIFICATION. Aretha Franklin is NOT Whitney Houston’s godmother. She told the Today show’s Al Roker that earlier in the week.
  40. . . . The Queen of Soul said she was like an “honorary aunt” to Whitney.
  41. . . . Singer Darlene Love (the one who sings “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” on David Letterman every year and is lead singer on the great Phil Spector-produced “He’s a Rebel” song from 1962) is Whitney’s true godmother.
  42. . . . Houston’s real-life bodyguard, Ray Watson, spoke with his remarks particularly moving and heartfelt.
  43. . . . He told a funny story about Houston wanting to drive on a long trip instead of flying.
  44. . . . When he learned she had died he said, “I lost a friend, a boss, but her spirit came to me and said, ‘You are free. ’”“In those 11 years, I was by her side,” he said, according to a CNN live blog.
  45. . . . At the end of his talk he said, gesturing smoothly with both hands toward the singer’s coffin and speaking to the congregation, “This lady right here … she loved you."
  46. . . . Now it was Stevie Wonder’s time to commemorate.
  47. . . . He said Whitney liked his “Ribbon in the Sky” song (1982, from “Original Musiquarium,” on Tamla Records) but he wasn’t sure if it (the lyrics) was quite right under the circumstances (“a ribbon in the sky for our love”) so he put new words to it.
  48. . . . “You’ll always be our ribbon in the sky,” he sang.
  49. . . . After Stevie was done with that Warwick let out a “Woo,” expressing her feelings about how great Stevie had done his thing.
  50. . . . Then Wonder did “Love’s in Need of Love Today” (from ‘Songs in the Key of Life,1976 on Tamla), with the choir joining in.
  51. . . . Patricia Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and manager,traced the star’s career and personal life, thanked people who helped her through the years and mentioned Oprah Winfrey and Diane (Sawyer, I presume), who were both in attendance.
  52. . . . “The legacy that she left was music but what she left for you was her love for God,” said Patricia.
  53. . . . Of the performers, R&B singer/songwriter/producer R. Kelly was last and sang “I Look to You,” which he wrote and which is on Houston’s album of the same name (2009).
  54. . . . “I look to you . . . And when melodies are gone . . . In you I hear a song . . . I look to you . . ."
  55. . . . An inspirational song directed to God.
  56. . . . Kelly visibly struggled through it, raising his shaking right hand with emotion coming out in his voice.
  57. . . . At the end Warwick gave the mike to Houston’s former music director, Rickey Minor. They go back 30 years.
  58. . . . He’s currently bandleader on the ‘Tonight Show,” was the same for ‘American Idol’ and has done numerous superstar tours, including those for Christina Aguilera, Ray Charles, Beyonce, Alicia Keys and, of course, Houston.
  59. . . . He recalled her anticipation and excitement about doing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991 and said she had ideas [about doing it] right away. “It wasn’t gonna be what everyone thought,” said Minor of Whitney.
  60. . . . She asked Minor, “Rickey, did ever you see Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem (1983 at NBA All-Stars Game)? Did you see that? I mean, he took his time and had a beat under there. So can we have a beat?
  61. . . . Minor responded, “You’re Whitney Houston. You can have anything you want."
  62. . . . Minor thanked all “the musicians and singers and dancers and actors and stage crew and staff” on behalf of Houston.
  63. . . . He ended by saying, “Because of you, Whitney, because you were there, I am here . . . because you were there."
  64. . . . UH . . . So Emotional -- Whitney Houston, on Arista, from 1987.
  65. . . . That’s what it all was.



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