Stevie Wonder, who has seen his own career parallel Whitney Houston’s in so many ways, gave a moving tribute to the fallen star, singing one of her favorite songs, “Ribbons in the Sky” with lyrics changed to match the sad occasion.
He spoke to mother Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and all of the family. “I want you to know as have millions of people said not just in this time but throughout her career, we loved her so much and that won’t stop.
“In my fantasy world I had a crush on Whitney,” the blind singer said laughing. “I understand that ‘Ribbons in the Sky’ is one of the ones that she liked a lot.
As he sang “Ribbons in the Sky, he artfully changed a verse.
What God gives is never a coincidence and more than a happenstance
Who can lose with God on our side.
And no more Whitney do you have to cry.
You will always be our ribbon in the sky.
And angel from God’s choir of love.
Whitney an angel from the choir.
From God’s choir of love.
The mourners were moved to their feet when he was done, in a rousing standing ovation.
Stevie then sang one of his hits from the ’70s, “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” accompanied by the choir.
R Kelly followed him to the podium to sing “I Look To You,” also visibly tearful. He’d worked with Whitney on her last album, 2009’s I Look to You. It went platinum with more than one million copies sold in the United States.
The album was hoped to mark her comeback and for a time Houston seemed to regain her footing in her life and career. But her problems with drugs and alcohol continued to plague her after a disastrous European tour. She died on Feb. 11, on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
The church was bedecked in purple and white flowers, reportedly Whitney’s favorite color. Celebrities fill the pews.
Mariah Carey was spotted next to music mogul LA Reid. Clive Davis, a mentor who discovered Houston and built her career, was also there. He gave a moving remembrance.
“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” said the executive, who has discovered a number of top name artists. “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, it takes your breath away,”
Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and ex-husband, Bobby Brown, were also there.
As Houston’s silver casket was carried out, her hit “I Will Always Love You” played over the sound system. Bobbi Kristina began crying, and the sobs of Houston’s mother rang throughout the church. “My baby!” she wailed.