Return to Transcripts main page


Whitney Houston: Her Life, Her Music

Aired February 18, 2012 - 12:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST: And welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN's special coverage of WHITNEY HOUSTON: HER LIFE, HER MUSIC. Today is a private funeral, a funeral that friends and family members have been invited to.

And so the streets around the New Hope Baptist Church here in Newark, New Jersey, have been closed down and fans are kept to outside the perimeter, those who have decided that they want to come out and express their love and joy for Whitney Houston.

The church is a beautiful structure. It's over our shoulders. It's beginning to fill up with the mourners who have come to pay their last respects to a woman whose voice was legendary and who really -- star -- you know, her star shone very brightly for the 48 years of her life.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: I'm getting some quite interesting details here, Soledad, of how the running order will go. At 12:30, the plan is that Donnie McClurkin, who won three Grammy awards, will sing "Stand" with the choir.

O'BRIEN: Amazing song. Amazed -- that is a song --

MORGAN: We can talk about -- that will be an amazing start to this, I think. Then Tyler Perry is going to talk. It's described as "Expressions," in the program, as is Kevin Costner's address, which will also be "Expressions," and Clive Davis. So you're going to have three incredibly different, very heartfelt testimonies, I think, to Whitney Houston there.

O'BRIEN: The choir has begun to pick up again, of course. We're expecting this to begin and really officially get under way in about seven minutes or so.

This is the New Hope mass choir and the New Jersey mass choir. Let's listen in for a little bit as they are performing for those who are inside the church now.



O'BRIEN: Those are the members of the New Hope mass choir along with the New Jersey mass choir performing -- whose song was that, that --


O'BRIEN: "Grateful"?

SOARIES: By Hezekiah Walker (ph).

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. That's a beautiful song.

SOARIES: Great song.

O'BRIEN: We've been told that Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King have arrived inside the church as our coverage of this special day, remarkable day -- it's interesting because outside today is such a beautiful, beautiful day and --


O'BRIEN: And it looks so joyful inside the church but you have to imagine for everyone there their hearts are breaking. Forty-eight years old is so young.

SOARIES: Well, broken hearts do not undermine the capacity to praise God. We live in this dynamic of not having what we want, but needing to be grateful for what we have. And all of us are grateful for the great joy of having known and had Whitney Houston in our presence. And that's what this celebration is about.

MORGAN: And you can tell, actually, from all the tweets that are pouring in now to the #WhitneyCNN. I mean, it's really some of the -- incredibly moving, people are feeling really uplifted by what they're seeing now on screen. This choir seems to have really set the tone for the whole service.

But it is, as you say, it's not just a day for grief and mourning, it's a day for celebration. And it's a joyous celebration of an extraordinary life, too, isn't it?

SOARIES: But remember what this tradition has done. It's been events like these that responded to four little girls being bombed in a church. In services like these --


SOARIES: -- we had to bring healing after the death of Martin Luther King. And so this is the formula that we have used to survive as a people in this country since we arrived here.

MORGAN: Just hearing that, you know, saying, Mariah Carey has just arrived, who many say, you know, is right up there with Whitney Houston as one of the great singers, great divas of our time. I mean this church will be full today, as some of the great singers in history, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder. It's an extraordinary gathering of people.

SOARIES: It's more than a music celebration. It's really a tribute to a life.


SOARIES: Again, her life had meaning beyond her music, but her music gave us hope. I mean, one of the aspects of a great song is a song that people who can't sing feel like that they can --

O'BRIEN: Well, let's listen to this one.

SOARIES: -- and she had these great songs.



O'BRIEN: So this is a look at Bobby Brown, who has now arrived, and is heading into New Hope Church.

MORGAN: Very difficult day for Bobby Brown. I mean, he's taken a lot of flak this week from people who think that Whitney wouldn't have made some of the decisions she took in her life without him.

Talking to friends who knew him, Pastor -- and you know the family well -- maybe some of that blame has been misplaced. I mean, Whitney, it seems, was quite a party girl before she met Bobby Brown, and maybe they were kindred spirits more than people think.

SOARIES: I think that's true. When Whitney was a teenager, she was surrounded by an environment of temptation. She is from an urban area, where she had access to all kinds of things. I would not condemn Bobby Brown for Whitney's struggles.

O'BRIEN: The church is starting service, so we're going to listen in.

A. CURTIS FARROW (PH), MINISTER OF MUSIC, NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: We have been helping this family all week -- and I am also the minister of music here at the New Hope Baptist Church.


FARROW (PH): So we welcome you to our home, and we're going to have church today --


FARROW (PH): -- because we believe in a mighty God. He's awesome. Through it all, it is well with my soul. We please ask that you not use your cell phones. We actually ask that you turn them off. No recording, please. No picture taking.

And in case of an emergency, we're going to ask you to go to the nearest exits. You'll have an exit in the rear, to my left, to your right. You have an exit on the right in the rear. We have two exits on the right here.

And now I present to you the mayor of this great, beautiful city called Newark, New Jersey, the Honorable Cory Booker. MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to welcome you all here to our great city. 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.


BOOKER: As the heavens reverberate with joy and gladness, may we understand that though we weep now, weeping may endure through the night, but joy, joy cometh in the morning. We thank you for gathering here and I, again, want to say we love you, Whitney Houston. Thank you.


FARROW (PH): Will everyone please rise?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carries them away as with a flood, they are as asleep in the morning. They are like grass which grows up, in the morning it flourish and grows up. In the evening, it is cut down and withers. For we are consumed by thine anger and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of our countenance.

For all our days are passed away in our wrath. We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and 10. If by reason or strength they be fourscore years, yet to their strength, labor and sorrow, for they're soon cut off and we fly away. Who knows the power of thine anger, even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, oh Lord, how long and let it repent thee concerning thy servants or satisfy us early with thy mercy that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou has afflicted us and the years wherein we have seen evil.

Let thy work appear unto thy servants and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord, our God, be upon us, establish now the work of our hands upon us, yes, the work of our hands establish thou it.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on and give him praise, give him praise. God bless you. Say amen for the choir, say amen for the choir.

God bless you today. Repeat after me. Lord, we welcome you. Have your way. Lord, we welcome you. Have your way. In Jesus' name, amen. If you love the lord, clap for him. Come on, clap. Come on, come on, clap for him. If you love Jesus, come on, clap for him. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory to God. Glory to God. Glory to God. Glory to God. God be praised.

God be praised. God be praised. God be praised. God be praised. God be praised. God be praised. God be praised. My, my, my. Yes.

We are gathered here today because when you are a child of god, when you're dedicated, you're dedicated at an altar. When you're fellowshipped into the body of Christ, it's at an altar. When you make your wedding vows, it's at an altar.

And when God has spoken, you are laid to rest and yet celebrated at an altar. We're here today, hearts broken, but yet with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston today. Now, I want to just say this, as protocol has already been set.

This is not my house. This is not your house. You all can finish that next part, can't you? This is God's house. Whitney, you are the only one that could bring all of us together. Whitney, today is your day. We celebrate.

Today is your day, Whitney. Today is your day. Now, I want to just say that we came here to celebrate, and this is how we celebrate. We have church.

We have church. The loving people you see, this family, they love the Lord. And that is their faith that is holding them together. And so it's not about anybody, but Whitney today, and we celebrate and we want to support and strengthen this family in this hour.

If you love God, clap for Jesus, if you love God. The 23rd Psalm, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.

Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I'll fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anoint my head thou my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

John Chapter 14, Verse 1 through 6. Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself. And while I am there you may be also. Where I go, you know and in the way you know. Thomas said to him Lord, we know not where thy goest, how can we know the way.

Jesus says under him, I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me. This is the word of God. We'll now have a selection by Reverend Donnie McClurkin at this time. Let the church say amen as he comes.


O'BRIEN: That is a powerful song.

MORGAN: Amazing performance. That was Donnie McClurkin with the famous song "Stand," but he's singing with the New Hope mass choir and New Jersey mass choir, the combined effect, what a start to this service and really remarkable.

O'BRIEN: The lyrics of that song, you just stand and be sure, God has a plan, yes, God has a plan. I mean, what meaning, beautiful song, but what meaning for people.

MORGAN: It's so uplifting. I think this is what's great about this service today is that it's a proper church service done in Baptist style. It's very much what Whitney Houston grew up with.

I feel uplifted. I've never been near this church before. You've known this church all your whole life. This I assume is absolutely in the spirit of what this event should be about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The word "ministry" means service and what Donnie McClurkin just did, he describes, appropriately, as music ministry. A musical performance is impressive, but music ministry really serves --

MORGAN: We're going to listen back in to Dionne Warwick now.

DIONNE WARWICK: Giving us what we asked for. Your song means a lot to Cissy and it meant a great deal to Whitney and we do thank you and love you. We'll now ask Tyler Perry to come and give us words of expression.

TYLER PERRY: God bless you. The Houston family, I know this -- I know this grief. It was Pat who introduced me to Whitney a while back, and she and I sat in a restaurant in Atlanta, just the two of us, sat there talking for about an hour and a half about four years ago.

And during this time she was telling me about her life. I was very surprised at how candid and open and revealing she was as she was talking to me. She would talk about some things that she had went through. Some things that had made her sad, some things that were tough.

As I would see her talk about this, I would see this heaviness come upon her. I'm the type of person that when I would see this with anyone, I would just want to say something encouraging. But before I could get words out to encourage her, but she would say "but the Lord."

And the conversation went on, the conversation went on, we would talk a little bit more. She would go back into sadness and just when I'm about to step in, she would say but my Lord and my Saviour, Jesus Christ and his amazing grace. It was at that moment that I knew that I would do all I can to stand with her. From that moment until now I've been standing with the family and with her. I'm just completely thankful to God for all that he has done in her life.

There are two constants that I know about Whitney Houston. 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 in -- 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 on carrying her all the way through.

The same grace led her all the way to the top of the charts, sold all of these albums and has just done some amazing things, won all these awards. She sang for presidents. There was a grace that kept on carrying her. That's one thing I know.

The other thing I know 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.

When I think about her, there's a scripture that keeps burning in my heart. I keep thinking about the Apostle Paul in Romans when he is talking about I am persuaded that nothing shall separate me from the love of God. So what I know about her is that nothing separated her from the love of God.

If you look at what Paul was saying, he was describing her life so perfectly. He said neither height, which no matter how far she went in the stratosphere, nothing separated her -- neither height nor depth, no matter how much struggle.

No matter what she had to go through, no matter what she had to walk through, it still wasn't enough to separate her from the love of God, nor principalities or power or 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. And I just want to close by saying this because the Apostle Paul said something else that just fascinates me as I read the words sometimes.

He said, what then say you to these things that if God before you, who can be against you. So say whatever you want. God was for her and she is resting, singing with the angels. God bless your family. God bless you. God bless you, Whitney. We love you so much.

WARWICK: We just heard from somebody that truly knew Nippy. Yes, she loved the Lord and still does. A young man that has been around Nippy for quite a while in our family, I'm going to ask if he will come and sing for us. Bebe Winans. BEBE WINANS, GOSPEL SINGER: I said I wasn't going to do this, but I don't mind doing it, I don't mind doing it, I don't mind. I asked Cece to come up here because we spent a lot of time together, and we talk about her voice and we talk about her talent, which was a beautiful thing.

But what I'm going to miss is crazy Whitney. I had a chance just to sit back a little bit and start remembering until last night we were here. And I said Cece, if anything I want to share in what I'm going to miss is that Whitney when we were getting ready to do our first major headline tour.

And Whitney told us we had to come over. So we came over to the house and she said, OK, we were sitting in her closet. And her closet was about as big as this church, though. We wasn't crowded.

And so we're sitting there and she said, OK, all right, so I've got to tell y'all what we're going to do. We're going to -- I went and I -- I had some uniforms made. We looked at her.

She said I got the background dresses for the three girls in a cream and I got the band and I got the cream for the shirts and Bebe, I got you a suit, I got a cream suit made and Cece, I got you a melon dress made and I got me a green one.

She made her a green one. She said because we going to headline and she was determined. And I know Clive is here. She made Clive so mad because she decided in the height of her career she was going to come sing background with Bebe and Cece.

And so we sat there and we said Whitney, you can't do that. Nobody told you to do that, girl. This is not a material relationship. She said OK, OK, OK, well, look, look, look. Let me just say this. You're my brother and sister, right?

We said yes, we're your brother and sister and I'm your sister, right? And we said yes, you are our sister. She said, OK, and we love each other, right? Yes, Whitney, we love each other. And she said -- this is what I'm going to miss.

And she said, and you all broke, right? And then she said I'm rich, right? So I can buy what I want to for you all, right? But that is the Whitney. That is the Whitney. And so one of the songs that came to my heart, Cece stay right there, is a song that I actually wrote for my brother when he passed.

He was 48 and Whitney was walking down the aisle and coming to the service and I was standing here when she would start coming into the service. When she walked into the service, she just waved her hand and said family, family. I'm here, family. And so family is here today to say this.