19 Feb 2012

Mourners pay tribute to Whitney Houston

10:18 am on 19 February 2012

Music and movie stars, family and friends have gathered to mourn singer Whitney Houston at an emotional funeral service in New Jersey.

A week after the sudden death of the singer, whose spectacular voice and best-selling albums made her one of biggest pop stars of her era, the guests crowded into pews at the invitation-only service at the New Hope Baptist Church in a modest neighborhood in her native Newark.

Some 1500 people are attending the ceremony at the church where Houston sang in a gospel choir as a child.

Among those who paid tribute was Kevin Costner, who starred with Houston in the film The Bodyguard.

He urged those 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."

Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder sang at the service, and record producer Clive Davis, who discovered and guided Houston throughout her career also spoke.

Houston's family decided against a public memorial, as was done for pop star Michael Jackson after his 2009 death, but agreed to allow the service to be broadcast live by television networks and on the internet.

There was a heavy police presence outside the funeral and streets were cordoned off.

Fans were kept away from the church, with police urging people to stay home and watch the funeral on the internet or television.

However, some turned up early outside police checkpoints to get as close as they could to the late singer.

Houston recorded stirring love songs and vibrant dance tunes during a 30-year career that peaked with her 1992 signature hit I Will Always Love You.

The music star was among the greatest singers of the 1980s and 1990s, but her personal life and marriage to singer Bobby Brown was tumultuous.

She admitted to heavy use of cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and prescription pills.

The 48-year-old was found dead in a hotel in Los Angeles on 11 February. She will be buried at a local cemetery, alongside her father.