Whitney Houston, one of the world's biggest music artists, passed away last Saturday at the age of 48. A funeral remembering the legend is set for today at the New Hope Baptist Church in Houston's hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina, ex-husband Bobby Brown and around 1,500 other members of her family and friends are expected to attend the private funeral service today. The late singer and actress' "The Bodyguard" co-star Kevin Costner and longtime producer Clive Davis are also set to speak at the funeral, as well as Aretha Franklin, CeCe Winans and Stevie Wonder. Wonder is reportedly set to perform during the service, which the family has called a "home going" ceremony.
TMZ posted photographs of Bobbi Kristina, who was with Houston in Los Angeles when she died, arriving in New Jersey last night. Outside of New Hope Baptist Church, fans have been laying down balloons, flowers, cards and other commemorative material. The streets surrounding the church have also been been shut down to the public for the service.
Houston is set to be buried next to father John Houston, in Westfield, New Jersey. The hearse carrying Houston's casket was seen departing from Whigham Funeral Home for the church Saturday morning at around 10am.
The six-time Grammy winner was found unresponsive in her Beverly Hills hotel room one week ago; the reason for her death is unknown, though it is reported that prescription drugs were found in her room.
Houston's casket exits New Hope Baptist Church to 'I Will Always Love You.'
Rev. Marvin Winans, brother to CeCe and BeBe, delivered a lengthy, impassioned eulogy in which he both preached and sang gospel. He said, "Let us leave here impacted by her life."
BeBe Winans and sister CeCe remember Whitney on stage; Cece sang "Don't Cry for Me."
TMZ has obtained what they say is a copy of the funeral program. Click here to see photos.
A bespectacled R. Kelly sang "I Look To You," a song he wrote specifically for Houston. It is also the title track of Houston's seventh and final album, released in August 2009.
Patricia Houston, Whitney's sister in law and manager, said that the six weeks the singer was filming "Sparkle" were the happiest of her life and called Clive Davis "the rock that held her together professionally."
Stevie Wonder! The singer went behind the piano to perform two songs, including an original song for Houston. He also revealed that "in my fantasy world, I had a little crush on Whitney, okay?"
Longtime producer Clive Davis remembered the professional Houston, who never let her natural genius get to her head. He also spoke of his love for her and also addressed Houston's love for daughter Bobbi Kristina.
"When she broke that all-time record of seven consecutive number ones, we just felt utter disbelief. I would ask her, 'Are you pinching yourself?' And she would say, with wide-open eyes, 'I'm pinching myself.' She never took anything for granted. She was never arrogant. She was always appreciative... Was there any performance of 'Star Spangled Banner that remotely compares to her? Will there ever be?"
"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 crazies in her life. Yes she admitted to Oprah about her battles. But when I needed her, she was there. She was there for me, and eternally loyal friend... And Bobby Kristina, you too, always, always be proud of your mother. She loved you so very much. She defined not only pure talent, but true heart and soul as well. She'll forever be looking after you, and will never let go of your hand."
Alicia Keys appeared to choke back tears as she went up to the piano. After expressing her close relationship with Houston -- "she called me Mima" -- Keys performed "Prelude to a Kiss."
Kevin Costner receives a standing ovation after delivering a somber speech full of anecdotes that drew laughs from the audience. He reveals that he and Houston both grew up in the Baptist church. Of "The Bodyguard," and Houston's career-defining song in the 1992 movie, Costner says:
"The song 'I Will Always Love You' almost wasn't. It wasn't supposed to be in the movie. The first choice was going to be 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.' But it had been out the year before in another movie so we thought it wasn't going to have the same impact. So what becomes of our broken hearts?"
"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 could have filled that role. But you Whitney, I truly believe, were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time. You weren't just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people just didn't like you, Whitney. They loved you."
Close friend Rev. Kim Burrell, who was Houston's spiritual advisor, sings emotional, custom song for the singer.
Just heard from Aretha Franklin. Suffering from muscle spasms and leg cramps, she was heartbroken unable to sing at Whitney's funeral.— Al Roker (@alroker) February 18, 2012
ABC News is reporting that Bobby Brown abruptly left the funeral at the start of service: "Brown was seen leaving the church in a Cadillac Escalade, along with his two children, Landon and LaPrincia."
Tyler Perry gives an invigorating, highly-charged speech, speaking of Whitney Houston's love of God. "There was a grace that kept on carrying her all the way through. The same grace that led her all the way to the top of the charts, sold all of these albums... The other thing I know for sure, this is more important that anything she's ever done in her entire life -- Whitney Houston loved the Lord... So say whatever you want, God is for her, and she is with you, singing with the angels."
Aretha Franklin is sick, and will not be performing today, Spinner is reporting.
Rev. Joe Carter celebrates Whitney with scripture, opens with: "Whitney, you are the only one that could bring all of us together. Whitney, today is your day. We celebrate. Today is your day. No, I want to just say that we came here to celebrate and this is how we celebrate. We have church. The loving people you see, this family, they love the Lord. It is their faith that is holding them together."
The New Hope Baptist Church choir sets the tone by performing a beautiful rendition of Psalm 23 with a soloist, dressed all in white.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker addresses the crowd, saying: "We are here to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life. God is in heaven, and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston... We thank you for gathering here, and I again, want to say, we love you Whitney Houston. Thank you."
Bobby Brown and freaking out fan rushing his limo twitter.com/SarahMaslinNir…— Sarah Maslin Nir (@SarahMaslinNir) February 18, 2012
Fan from Brooklyn holding merchandise that she purchased outside the Whitney Houston funeral. twitter.com/NYDNmfeeney/st…— Michael J. Feeney (@NYDNmfeeney) February 18, 2012
NBC New York is reporting that some of the invited guests have begun arriving to the church.
Winans, a Grammy Award winner, is pastor of the Perfecting Church in Detroit, which he founded in the early 1990s. When you combine his ability to deliver a sermon and his musical background, he is the hands-down choice to celebrate Whitney's life at the church where she grew up singing, mesmerizing people with her talent as young as 12 years old.
Winans had a special bond with the pop star, say those who know him and knew Houston. His family has known the Houstons for years. Both are rooted in the church, and Winans married Whitney and R&B singer Bobby Brown, her ex-husband, in 1992. They have appeared onstage together but, more importantly, Winans knows the triumphs and trials of the musical celebrity that were at the center of her life.
NBC New York is reporting that a six-block radius has been blocked off outside of New Hope Bapitst Church, with fans not allowed to approach from two blocks.