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Whitney Houston Funeral Coverage

Aired February 18, 2012 - 17:00   ET




DIONNE WARWICK, SINGER: Don't grieve for me for now I'm free. I'm following the path God laid for me.

God wanted me now, he set me free.

(singing) Jesus loves me for the bible tells me so. I love you, Whitney.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. My colleague Don Lemon joins us live from outside the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, site of today's services for Whitney Houston in just about 60 seconds or so from now.

But first, a final good-bye to a music legend at the place where it all began for her. A spirited tribute that was all things at once, mournful, joyous, moving, a celebration of the life of Whitney Houston.


STEVIE WONDER, SINGER: What god gives is never a coincidence in far more...


WHITFIELD: Stevie Wonder, just one of her famous friends saluting her during the funeral service at Houston's hometown church in Newark, New Jersey. Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, Bebe and Cece Winans all honoring Houston with their voices. Stars like Tyler Perry and Kevin Costner told a personal stories in memory of the superstar. Aretha Franklin was scheduled to be there, but had to cancel because she wasn't feeling well. The service included a letter from Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina and her mother Cissy Houston. It read in part, quote, "God said it's time. Your work is done. Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter." As for Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown, he was there for a while. He says in a written statement, he wasn't happy about being asked to move three times and says security kept him from seeing his daughter Bobbi Kristina. So, he left because, quote, "I refuse to create a scene." In all it was a roughly four-hour home going tribute. And punctuating the service today, a recording of Houston's "I will always love you" as pallbearers carried her casket out.

The pastor who gave Houston's eulogy told her mother that she took the world to church today by having her daughter's service at home in Newark. It was indeed a celebration of life. A private ceremony shared with the public. Our own Don Lemon has been at the church all day today. And Don, this was very personal. And those who spoke or even sang really did pour their hearts out today, didn't they?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: They did. And I saw your e-mail when you said it was great. You were explaining about what a home going is. And you know, this is what happens almost every Sunday in the black Baptist church. This is what happens when we send people home. And the world got to see that. I have to tell you, Fred that on twitter, I saw people saying, you know what, Don, this is amazing. Because people get to see how we worship. And in many ways, it validates what many African-Americans, how we praise and worship and the world got to see that. They were very ecstatic about that. I want to go now Fred to the man who spoke at Whitney Houston's memorial service and it's Bishop T.D. Jakes from the Potter's House.

Bishop, it was an amazing service and I have to be honest with you. It renewed my faith and I think it renewed a lot of people's faith around the country. And that is definitely something worth saying and worth knowing about.

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, SR. PASTOR, POTTER'S HOUSE (voice-over): You know, it was an amazing service. Very powerful, very spirited. And because of the influence and the magnitude of who Whitney Houston was, people who normally would not watch the service were able to watch, be impacted, be inspired and be renewed. And I really think that the church shines at its best when people are often at their worst because it is then that we really fulfill the idea that we are a hospital for the hurting souls of humanity. And I think that's what we saw today.

LEMON: Imagine when Bishop, out of all of this, when everyone says, what is the good in all of this? What good can come of this? Imagine if the good is that more people because of this church service, because of Whitney Houston, because of Cissy Houston, that more people came to God or came to faith because of what, because of today, seeing this globally?

JAKES: Well, you know, that may be the end result of it. As the Winans sung, you know, a lot of us count on tomorrow, tomorrow is not promised to us. Whenever we see somebody die prematurely, it drives home the fact that we don't know the day nor the hour which any of us for any reason could find ourselves in similar straits. And it was a good reflection. I think it made you want to hold the people you love a little bit more closely. It made you reevaluate your priorities and where is God in your life and how important is he in your life? And maybe some of us who are really really blessed need to take more time to give thanks to God and put our priorities, as Pastor Winans said, into their proper perspective. LEMON: And you took the words right out of my mouth, I was going to say in a live shot before that wherever your loved ones are, call them if you're not with you or hug them because you'll never know when the time is going to come. So, Bishop, sitting there and watching, you know, Tyler Perry really become a preacher and watching Kevin Costner become a preacher. These aren't that venues we are used to seeing those people in. And I think they rose to the occasion which shows a lot of people around the world about versatility and about being able to be your best when you're called to be your best.

JAKES: You know, I think it goes even a step deeper than that. It speaks to the fact that many, many people that we don't see in church settings all the time have got spiritual roots that are underestimated. I wasn't surprise. I thought Kevin Costner was just absolutely amazing as an orator. I mean, most actors don't orate that well independent of having scripted lines. And yet he wrote it and spoke so eloquently in an unusual situation. But as he began to inform of it, it wasn't unusual for him. That like Whitney Houston he grew up in church. And Tyler Perry likewise.

I mean, he maintained his relationships with the church, throughout the process. So, though he was amazing, he did not surprise me, I'm well aware that he looks to God. I think we're living in a time now that everybody needs to take a deeper look into God and to faith and really consider making a real commitment to Christ. Because these are turbulent times that all of us face, whether you're the haves or have- nots. For one reason or another, life puts you in situations that human hands can't help you.

LEMON: Yes. Reverend, I have to say that I follow you on social media, and I have been following social media all day. And Whitney CNN has been trending on twitter all day. And as you were speaking, as many of the speakers were speaking, especially you, when you would say something, on twitter it would go and let the church say, amen or they would say shout or preach. And it was amazing. I felt like there was a church service going on in social media. I mean, imagine that.

JAKES: It's always a new day to them. So many people are so appreciative of the technology that we had today that it enables us to participate in events that we would not otherwise be able to participate. It's wonderful that we can watch it on CNN and be able to -- but be able to chime in and let our voices be heard is how we do church. It's not a monologue, it's a dialogue. It's not the preacher talking, the congregation is talking by to them. And so, it's a great -- I don't think that that's limited to just African-Americans, I'd like to add. I think that we might have been the origin or impetus of it, but I think that other cultures are starting to be less formal and more participatory as we have a more relaxed and younger generation that wants to be able to express themselves.

LEMON: Yes. And less churchy, as you always say. Don't be so churchy. Let's get out of that. I want to talk to you about Cissy Houston and Bobbi Kristina or Kristie. Everyone was saying, you know, poor Whitney, of course poor Whitney but she is gone and she has no longer suffering. But her family, Cissy Houston and Bobbi Kristina, what they're going to have to deal with over the coming days, weeks, months, maybe even years. And we know, they have a family around them for support but man, it's going to be hard for a while for them.

JAKES: I told Cissy and I told Whitney's daughter before I left, I said, I'm only a phone call away, anything. Of course, I'm not their pastor, but I told them anything that I can do to help in any way, I would be glad to do that. The one of the great things about church people is that we do come together in a crisis and -- each other. And my heart goes out to all of the family that's hurting. Each one in a unique way. All of them lost something different. And yet, I think this is a time that they really need our support. The thing that really blew my mind about Cissy is that she was incredibly strong. You know, I prayed with her over the phone. She was of course shocked, and hurting and weeping.

I expected her to be kind of emotionally debilitated. But the lady I saw sitting there today, of course she shed tears about her daughter but she was very strong. And I have to applaud Whitney's daughter. I thought she did such an incredible job standing up to something that is unimaginably painful. Until you have lost your mother, a mother that you have a very close relationship with, you would never imagine what that does to you emotionally to find yourself motherless in this world. And I thought the whole family was incredibly courageous.

LEMON: Where am I going? Bishop, thank you so much. Bishop, hey, real quickly in just a couple of seconds that we have. Can you say something for our audience, to the Houston family, to the friends all around the world and the fans that will give us some comfort?

JAKES: I would like to say to the fans around the world, I've already spoken to the family, but to the fans around the world that may be hurting today, let's use every lesson that we can learn from Whitney's life to impact our own families, to develop our own spirituality, to love people, even if they're not perfect. Even if they are flawed in some way. Love them and embrace them because tomorrow they may be gone.

LEMON: And let the world say, amen. Bishop Jakes, thank you. I appreciate it.

JAKES: Always a pleasure, Don. Have a great one.

LEMON: All right. Fredricka, no more fitting way to end that interview than what he said to the world there. And, you know, you're my friend, I am so happy to see you, I'm happy that you're in my life. And I have to say that to all my loved ones and to my family watching. This renewed my faith. And it would be, wouldn't it be great if out of all of this, and I know I'm being a little bit, you know, optimistic here that some good could come out of it and people could be more positive about their loved ones and about the faults that others have.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I think no doubt people have been touched all week long. And today, it really did punctuate and take to a whole other level how Whitney Houston's life, how the eulogies, how the words of so many people who loved her came out today to honor her life, how that may have touched people in so many different ways. You know, among them, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, was there. And he said he was honored to be there. It was a privilege for him to be there, to really celebrate. And he said, in his words, you know, we are here to mourn our loss, but we're here to celebrate her life. You spent an awful lot of time outside that New Hope Baptist Church today. And that also made you spent a lot of time with people who did not have an invitation to be inside, but they felt it was important to be there to honor Whitney Houston, a real daughter of the community. What did they tell you in large part as to why they felt compelled to be there even if they couldn't be inside the church?

LEMON: Well, listen, they didn't get as many people as they thought were going to come out because they had been saying for a while, police had been discouraging people to come out and I think they did a pretty good job of that. So, there were few fans who were sort at the perimeters, which were blocks away. To my left, there is a neighborhood, really, the neighborhood right in front of this church. And there were people playing loud music at the Bodegas, Whitney Houston songs. And to be quite honest with you, about this particular neighborhood and how this church is really a beacon of hope in this neighborhood, where we are sitting, where the platform is for the media, hundreds of media from all over the world, we are really on the property of an abandoned housing project.

And the neighborhood around here is really blighted. Many of the homes are gone, they have been abandoned, many of them have been torn down. But yet this New Hope Baptist Church stands as a beacon in the middle of a blighted neighborhood and is really the hope here that this neighborhood can rise from the ashes. It is -- we are in Newark which suffered so much distress from crack cocaine, and drugs in the 1980s and crime as well. But this one church is standing here. And in 1967 when they had the Newark riot, this church was a meeting place and stood, withstood that. And you heard one of the reverends here talk about this church and this particular neighborhood and why the Houston family chose to stay at this church and chose to be a part of this church. So, it means a lot.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Even when the family moved away.

LEMON: It means a lot to the community.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Even when the family moved away from the neighborhood, they continued to call this New Hope Baptist Church their home. All right. Don, thanks so much. We'll going to check back with you later on in the hour.

And of course, there is much more. Next, film maker and friend Tyler Perry delivers a moving eulogy to Whitney Houston. And then later, Kevin Costner shares his memories of Whitney while they worked on the movie "The Bodyguard." But first, Bebe Winans sings us to break.


BEBE WINANS, GOSPEL SINGER: (singing) But I'll miss your wit, I'll miss your charm just want to hold you in my arms --



WHITFIELD: Welcome back to our split programming. I'm in Atlanta and my colleague Don Lemon is in Newark, New Jersey. And you know, what's unique about this day, you know, Don, and this tribute to Whitney Houston that we heard from people who admitted to not knowing her that well. T.D. Jakes among those, producing "Sparkle," he said, that is when he developed a friendship, a relationship with Whitney Houston. And we've heard from people who have known her all her life, Kim Burrell. But the common thread here is that all of them talked about her eloquence, her grace, her charity with her heart and her kindness. So, there was a feeling of love in that house of New Hope Baptist Church. And I think it really was transmitted quite fluidly beyond the confines of that church today.

LEMON: Absolutely. And you said, I think a great word that you said was "eloquence." Because one of the most eloquent people I saw today's service was actor, director, producer, mogul Tyler Perry who talked about his friend. And we'll talk a little bit more about that. He hasn't known Whitney Houston that long, but he gave a very poignant speech and thoughts about Whitney Houston today. Let's take a listen to Tyler Perry.


TYLER PERRY, ACTOR, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER: There are two constants that I know about Whitney Houston. And one is that there was a grace that carried. A grace that carried her from heaven down through Miss Cissy Houston. A grace that brought her up through singing. A grace that brought her -- from what I understand, she wasn't even supposed to be able to speak let alone sing because of an incident that happened to her as a child. But there was a grace that kept carrying her all the way through.


The same grace led her all the way to the top of the charts, sold of all these albums and just done some amazing things, won all these awards. She sang for presidents. And there was a grace that kept on carrying her. That's one thing I knew. And the other thing I knew. For sure, and this is more important than anything that she's ever done in her life, Whitney Houston loved the Lord.


And in every conversation we had over these years, it was evident that she loved the Lord. She loved the Lord. And when I think about her, there is a scripture that keeps burning in my heart. I keep thinking about the Apostle Paul in Romans, when he was talking about, "I am persuaded that nothing shall separate me from the love of God."


So, what I know about is that nothing separated her from the love of God. And if you look at what Paul was saying, he was describing her life so perfectly. He said, "Neither height, which meant, no matter how far she went in the stratosphere, nothing separated her from the --


Neither heights nor death, no matter how much struggle. No matter what she had to go through. No matter what she had to walk through. It's still, it wasn't enough to separate her from the love of God nor principalities nor power, nor things to come. Nothing was able to separate her from the love of God. So, what I know about her is that she loved the lord. And if there was a grace that carried her all the way through, it was the same grace that carried her home.


LEMON: And you know, that was the lyrics to one of the best songs I think Whitney Houston ever sung and that was, "I love the Lord," that song. Let me tell you something Fredricka, about Tyler Perry. I don't think he would mind me sharing this. Whenever there is something that happens or going through something or something in the news that comes up about me, Tyler Perry will find me wherever I am and say, are you OK, do you need anything? Do you need support? I'm thinking about you, brother. And he not only does that to me, but he does that to many people who are coming up in this business. He is a mentor. And today, we got to see the side of Tyler Perry that not many people get to see. Great guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I think very few people thought that he had that pastor in him. All right. Thanks so much Don.

All right. Not all of Whitney's friends could make it to today's funeral in New Jersey. Chili of the R&B Group TLC shares her memories of working with the superstar and her bond with Bobbi Kristina. That's coming up, next.

But first, the Reverend Kim Burrell who personalized one of Whitney's favorite songs.


REV. KIM BURRELL, GOSPEL SINGER, PASTOR: (singing) Because Whitney understood somebody's waiting beyond the sky. It's been a long, a long time coming oh, a change had to come oh, yes it did.



WHITFIELD: Whitney Houston's funeral in Newark, New Jersey, ended just over an hour ago. And among the 1,500 mourners, stars of stage and film who paid tribute to the singers remarkable life and talent, but not all of Whitney's friends could make it to New Jersey today. Earlier I talked with Chili, a member of the R&B Group TLC. She appeared in Houston's video "I'm every woman." And she explains how in many ways she was inspired by Whitney.


ROZONDA "CHILLI" THOMAS, SINGER, TLC: I was very lucky, too, to have known her. I remember the first time I met her. She was like the first superstar I had ever met once I got in the business. And I was just like --

WHITFIELD: Awe-struck, huh?

THOMAS: That's Whitney Houston. You know, and when we first met her, she was just so sweet. She wasn't, you know, standoffish or anything. She's just made us feel like we had all known each other forever.

WHITFIELD: And that surprised you about her?

THOMAS: It did because I didn't know any celebrities. You know, and in meeting her, I was just like, wow. And then in my mind, I'm like, you know, we are going to be big, too. And I want to be like that, just humble, you know? I mean, and that's just how she was. I hate saying "was" like when my sister left out passed away, it took me about three years to be able to say, to talk about her in past tense. I just couldn't do it. It was really, really hard. And, you know, it just takes me back there. And this is too soon, you know?

WHITFIELD: It is. Just 48. When you look at the photograph of you and Whitney, this is about early '90s, you believe Brandi -- there. Just looking at that, that strikes what memories? Look how young in your careers you all appear.

THOMAS: I know. Babies. Like I say, I have so many memories. I remember having a Halloween Party and Whitney, Bobby and Bobbi Kristina just walked in like, hey. Like, you know, she doesn't need an invitation, you know, for anything. But, you know, she just came in and was just like, you know, mingling with everybody. You know, she wasn't off in some corner doing her thing. And I love the relationship, we talked about this before, between she and Bobbi Kristina.

WHITFIELD: What did you see in that relationship?

THOMAS: Very protective and loving, you know.

WHITFIELD: Both ways?

THOMAS: Both ways. Which reminds me so much of my relationship with my mother. I'm very protective. My mom always says, hello, daughter. You know, she reminds me, you're the daughter, I'm the mommy, you know, what I mean?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Sometimes daughters can be like that with their mom. I think I have that same kind of relationship.

THOMAS: I know. I know. But my son is that way with me. So, it's like I totally can relate, you know? But that's exactly how their relationship was. They were very close.

WHITFIELD: How did you see that sometimes in Bobbi Kristina, that she would be very protective of her mom?

THOMAS: Well, you have to keep in mind, you know, Whitney Houston is one of the biggest stars ever. You know, she was an angel, as far as I'm concerned. And on top of that being her mother and then she is this mega superstar, I mean, she was very protective of her as she should have been. You know, I thought that was very normal because you know, you don't know what someone is going to say. And people say all kinds of stuff. And it just, it can get to you. So, she just -- it was just sweet to see, almost kind of like you said, like Bobbi Kristina was the mom sometimes. Like, you know, hey, you know, protecting her mother. And I thought their relationship was very beautiful.

WHITFIELD: Did you see that grow and evolve as Bobbi Kristina got older?

THOMAS: Yes, I did. I totally did. I mean, I remember when Bobbi Kristina was just like a baby. And, you know, when Whitney was pregnant, I was like a leech on her stomach. I don't know if I just love pregnant women, but you know, every night before going on stage, I would go to her dressing room. I mean, it was like a ritual thing, it was like brushing my teeth.

WHITFIELD: Because you had that incredible opportunity to tour with Whitney Houston.

THOMAS: Well, yes. It was actually the Bobby Brown tour. And she was on the road with him. And I'm telling you, every night I would go and hug on her stomach and shake her stomach so that the baby would move and kick and all this kind of stuff. And she would just laugh. She would let me do it. She was so sweet.


WHITFIELD: That was Chilli of TLC. Much more from the funeral for Whitney Houston ahead this hour including her co-star in "The Bodyguard," Kevin Costner. They had a friendship and spiritual connection few knew about before today.

But first Alicia keys in a tearful performance for the singer she called an angel.


ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: And it's a long long way to heaven but I've got to get there. Can you send an angel, can you send an angel.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Whitney Houston went home today. An emotional tribute to one of music's all-time greatest singers in the church she grew up in.

(SINGING) WHITFIELD: A recording of her voice singing her biggest hit, "I Will Always Love You," as pallbearers carried her casket out of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. The moment capped a moving funeral service that lasted nearly four hours. Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Art Kelly (ph). BeBe and CeCe Winans, all honoring Houston with their voices. Stars like Tyler Perry and Kevin Costner told personal stories in memory of the superstar. Aretha Franklin was scheduled to be there, but had to cancel because she wasn't feeling well.

The service included a letter from Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and her mother, Cissy Houston. It read, in part, "God said it's time. Your work is done. Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter."

As for Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown, he was there for a while. He says in a written statement later that he wasn't happy about being asked to move three times and says security kept him from seeing his daughter, Bobbi Kristina, so he left, because, quote, "I refused to create a scene."

More on the coverage of the Whitney Houston funeral momentarily.

But first, let's look at the weather picture for the new week.

Jacqui Jeras in the Weather Center.

What's going on, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We've got a lot of storms we're dealing with here, Fredricka, all along the gulf coast and throughout the southeast.

We have the threat of flooding rains as well as tornados and watches still in effect at this hour from New Orleans stretching all the way over to the panhandle of Florida. This watch over here, which includes New Orleans, in effect until 5:00 local time this. Watch here until 9:00 central time. We had a number of tornado warnings. Mobile County under a warning. This is a Doppler radar indicated tornado. These lines of storms also bring the threat of damaging winds. Winds on the range of 50, 60 miles per hour. The rainfall rates have just been amazing. Take a look at a couple of these numbers from earlier today. More than three inches. When you get that much rain in a short period of time, we've got a lot of roads which are closed now because they are covered with water. We could see an additional one to two inches on top of what you have.

This weather system will move up to the north and east and will catch up with cold air from the Midwest. We'll start to see this rain transition to snow. Especially across the central Appalachians. D.C., you might get in on the northern fringe of this, but certainly under an inch. This storm will exit off the coast by Monday morning.

This is a weekend event for everybody. Just to detail a little bit better where we are expecting the heaviest snow accumulation, and there you can see less than two inches in places like D.C. and over towards the Norfolk area. We also have a storm system out west, Fredricka, bringing heavy snow into the Cascades and will move into the watched range across parts of Utah tomorrow. Lots of snow.


WHITFIELD: Thanks, Jacqui, appreciate that.

The turmoil in Syria is creeping closer to Bashar al Assad even as the president's allies rally to his side. The Syrian president met today with China's vice foreign minister who endorsed Syria's plan to hold a referendum on a new constitution.





WHITFIELD: But a peaceful end to this conflict seems increasingly unlikely. This video is from the city of Homs. It's said to show the Syrian military in action. CNN cannot confirm the video's authenticity.

For president al Assad, the most troubling development may be an outburst of violence today in the capitol, Damascus.

Nick Peyton Walsh has the latest for us.


NICK PEYTON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And interesting insight into how people really feel after 11 months of unrest. In the capital, Damascus, a funeral for a man allegedly killed by security forces turned into a protest upon which Syrian security forces opened fire. You can hear that particular moment just now.


PEYTON WALSH: Now, these scenes help give you an idea how the unrest is growing within the capital, economic hardships, a general sense of a country that are caused while this bitter, bloody conflict plays out. Organizers suggesting it could have been 15,000 people at this particular protest. There will be many now after this harsh response by Syrian security forces, questioning the future of the regime, wondering where this goes next in this ongoing Syrian government crackdown.

Nick Peyton Walsh, CNN, Beirut.


WHITFIELD: Next, other special moments from Whitney Houston's funeral, including an emotional eulogy by Kevin Costner, sharing his memories of Whitney while working on the movie "The Bodyguard."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Whitney was already a music superstar when Kevin Costner approached her about starring in the movie "The Bodyguard." In his touching tribute, he talked about the struggle to convince the studio to take a chance on her, and convincing Whitney herself that she was good enough for the part.


KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: It's a tree we can all hang from, the unexplainable burden that comes from fame. Call it doubt. Call it fear. I've had mine. And I know the famous in the room had theirs. I asked her to trust me and she said she would. A half hour later, she went back in to do her screen test and the studio fell in love with her.

The Whitney I knew, despite her success and worldwide fame, still wondered, "Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me"? It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.

Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you, you weren't just good enough. You were great. You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was. A lot of leading men could have played my part, a lot of guys, a lot of guys could have filled that role, but you, Whitney, I truly believe you were the only one that could have played Rachel Marron at that time.


COSTNER: You weren't just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn't just like you, Whitney. They loved you. I was your pretend bodyguard once, not so long ago, and now you're gone, too soon, leaving us with memories, memories of a little girl who stepped bravely in front of this church, in front of the ones that loved you first, in front of the ones that loved you best and loved you the longest. Then boldly you stepped into the white, hot light of the world stage. And what you did is the rarest of achievements. You set the bar so high that professional singers, your own colleagues, they don't want to sing that little country song. What would be the point? Now the only ones who sing your songs are young girls like you who are dreaming of being you some day.

And so to you, Bobbi Kristina, and to all those young girls who are dreaming that dream that may be thinking they aren't good enough, I think Whitney would tell you, guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle of your own life, and then sing your hearts out, knowing that there's a lady in heaven who is making God himself wonder how he created something so perfect.

So off you go, Whitney. Off you go, escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father. When you sing before him, don't you worry. You'll be good enough.


(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: Next, you'll hear heart-felt words from Whitney Houston's music producer and mentor, Clive Davis.

But first, CeCe Winans performing at today's service.



WHITFIELD: Whitney Houston's long-time producer and mentor, Clive Davis, today remembered the woman he worked with for nearly 30 years. Davis said Whitney was more than pure talent, but true heart and soul, as well.


CLIVE DAVIS, MUSIC PRODUCER: Whitney lived music. Whitney loved music. In fact, this was her world and she was so glad that we were back. And that's why I'm talking about the professional Whitney today. Without knowing of her love of music, her passion and her absolutely natural genius in interpreting songs, you certainly don't know all of Whitney Houston.

Personally, all I can say is that I loved her very much. Whitney was purely and simply one-of-a-kind. Yes, she admitted to crises in her life. Yes, she confessed to Oprah about her searing battles. But when I needed her she was there.


DAVIS: She was there for me, an eternally loyal friend. Whatever the cause or event, she was there dominating the stage, stunning the audience and creating still another lifetime memory. "I believe in you and me" she sang, looking me straight in the eye, showing she knew we've always been in it together. Yes, I was her industry father. And I was and am so proud of it.

And, Bobbi Kristina, you, too, always, always be proud of your mother. She loved you so very much.


DAVIS: She defined not only pure talent, but true heart and soul as well. She will forever be looking after you and will never let go of your hand.


WHITFIELD: When we come back, we'll take a look at some of the other stories making headlines, including Iranian navy ships reportedly passing through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea.


WHITFIELD: Checking our headlines now. The world watches as Whitney Houston's family and friends said good-byes to her today. A funeral service was held for the superstar at her home-town church in Newark, New Jersey. So many famous faces were on hand to give their last respects, Tyler Perry, Kevin Costner, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and so many more.

The Iranian navy ships, including a destroyer, have reportedly passed through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea. A deployment one year ago, as seen here, stirred fears in Israel and other nations. An Iranian news agency quotes an admiral as saying the deployment is meant to show friendship and support for countries in the region and to display Iran's military resolve.

Presidential politics now. Republican hopeful, Rick Santorum, is mocking Mitt Romney's role in turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics back in 2002. Romney's solution was to ask Congress for millions of dollars in federal earmarks. Santorum says that makes Mitt Romney a hypocrite. Romney criticized Santorum for bringing home federal dollars while serving in the U.S. Senate.

Stevie Wonder said Whitney Houston loved his song "Ribbon in the Sky." So he rewrote the lyrics for that melody for the occasion. And you'll hear it next.



WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for watching this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Don Lemon will be here at 7:00 eastern time. "The Situation Room" is up next.

But for now, we leave you with Stevie Wonder performing a special version of "Ribbon in the Sky." He says that was one of Whitney's favorites.