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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Coverage of Whitney Houston's Funeral in Newark, New Jersey
Aired February 18, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to go back now because the hearse is moving now. You see Reverend Sharpton as well, coming over live. You guys want me to throw it back. You want to talk to Reverend Sharpton here?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know what, Don? We'll keep talking as we are looking at pictures of the gold hearse, Don. We'll show everybody some pictures of the gold hearse that carries the body of Whitney Houston. Obviously, she has a police escort and there are numerous motorcycle police officers as well who are behind that hearse. What they've been able to do is to clear many of the street, blockades really all around and that will make the navigating out to the funeral home much easier for obviously this hearse to get through.
You know, it was interesting to hear some of the pastors who came up, T.D. Jakes certainly who said that he had gotten to know Whitney Houston later. He was the executive producer of "Sparkle," the film that will be coming out in the summer, that apparently he - Whitney was remarkable. He said to the family, you know, you paid a tremendous price in life. You had to share her with the world. I think that's often very hard for families of someone so famous to realize that while this is their day, it's also the world's day. People who are fans of Whitney Houston's, too, are grieving and also want to be part of understanding (INAUDIBLE).
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I thought they got it absolutely right today.
O'BRIEN: I agree.
MORGAN: I thought the family got the balance between giving the fans something and also between I think keeping it an intimate and family affair for family and friends. I thought they got it bang on. People who criticize it have to try to imagine what it must have been like. Cissy Houston, her mother, all week trying to wrestle with the right thing to do. You could not argue that was an incredible service -
O'BRIEN: It was beautiful.
MORGAN: - to pay tribute to her daughter in the most perfect way. But also allowed the media from a respectful distance, I think, and her fans around the world to share in it without being intrusive. And I take my hat off to the whole family. I think they got it spot on today. O'BRIEN: We are look being at pictures of the hearse. This is the gold hearse that carries the body of Whitney Houston and the casket as they make their way away from the church and will head to the funeral home. Then of course, the burial will be tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There had been, of course, the suggestion that he service be held somewhere else, the Prudential Center came up. This was a chance to do something private, something personal, but as we heard several times, to let the world, take the world to church today and to give everyone a chance to celebrate Whitney.
O'BRIEN: Tyler Perry said, grace carried her and grace is carrying her home. I think those were such incredibly apt words to describe the way they were able to pull off what had to be such a challenging and almost impossible event to remember someone who died so young. We just lost our signal there but we go now to Don Lemon who is talking to some more people as they are making their way out of the church. Don.
LEMON: Reverend Sharpton is here. Reverend, you were in the church. Dignified way Cissy Houston sent her daughter off, don't you think?
REV. AL SHARPTON: I think it was dignified. I think it really brought back to the roots of Whitney Houston which was the church. She came out of the church. In many ways, she returned back to where she started. She came with all of her friends, superstars, political figures, to her church. She brought them back.
LEMON: You know, you were tweeting from inside before this, very respectful and I was watching your feed. And I'm sure you saw it. They said on Twitter, Cissy Houston is (INAUDIBLE) took the world to church today. They see how black folks, especially Baptists celebrate people's lives when they die.
SHARPTON: Well, I've tweeted (INAUDIBLE) I didn't misbehaved. I did think that Marvin (INAUDIBLE) said that and every one on the program, the people that were involved in her life, we all were there. But those of us who were not as close were not on the program. So everyone spoke from a personal kind of testimony. Whitney was a beacon of light to this community. I'm very, very happy that her mother chose to do it in this way.
LEMON: One moment that was seen around the world during the service is when it first started, we saw Bobby out here standing upset. He left. What happened inside?
SHARPTON: I talked to Bobby. Bobby did nothing but show love and respect for the memory of Whitney and his daughter. Bishop Jason, I spoke with him on the cell phone. He has shown nothing but love and respect. I wish people would leave Bobby alone.
LEMON: Not that. We just heard his entourage could not be accommodated.
SHARPTON: I don't know anything about that. I know that Bobby when he spoke to Bishop Jason said all he wants to do is show respect and love.
LEMON: Reverend, this is a service. This is the program. Beautiful program here and I'm going to hold it here and look inside at some of the pictures. It's just lovely pictures of Whitney Houston at the height of her career, as a young girl, winning awards, as you can see here, looking beautiful. At the end, of course, all the people who spoke and the way the program went. Reverend, thank you so much.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
LEMON: Appreciate it. God bless. We all went to church today and our faiths were all renewed. We're all renewed.
SHARPTON: I'll look for you tomorrow. Maybe they developed a habit.
LEMON: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. We're going to go to CNN's Jason Carroll now. Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Well, we've been standing out here. As the service took place, you know, you heard prayers going on inside the church. There were prayers happening out here in the street. When you heard an amen in the church, you heard an amen out here on the street. And when there were tears inside during the service, we saw people crying out here, as well.
Obviously, a lot of folks were not invited. People who loved Whitney Houston, her fans, the people who knew her here in the community. They've been standing out here on the street. They were watching the service on one of our monitors in our truck. They wanted to come out and share some of their thoughts about some of the moments that moved them the most.
I know (INAUDIBLE) here during the very end, during the eulogy, there were tears. I saw you crying, as well. Obviously, a very emotional moment for you today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was. Ironically, my favorite song was when Cissy sang "Don't Cry for Me."
CARROLL: Well, everyone agreed with that. That was definitely a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she sang "Don't Cry For Me" we're welling up and tearing up. It was very moving.
CARROLL: For you what was another emotional moment for you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stevie Wonder. (INAUDIBLE) he couldn't sing "Ribbon in the Sky" and had to make his own words right away and just think of something that he wanted to say from his heart.
CARROLL: Whitney Houston was a woman who - she was a superstar. She never really lost her roots here in this community, did she.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no.
CARROLL: Everyone felt it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Correct. We love Whitney. I don't (INAUDIBLE) back in the days right from where I live. We love you, Whitney. We will always love you. (INAUDIBLE) I feel like I was in the church. I loved when it was finishing and they sung, Whitney sung.
CARROLL: So obviously, out here, just a few blocks from where the church is, Piers and Soledad, everyone basically feeling that they in some way got to be a part of the service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Definitely.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I can understand that.
O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) no question about it. We also felt like we were very much in the middle of that service. We are joined now by the great Roberta Flack, amazing songstress. What a pleasure to have you.
ROBERTA FLACK, SINGER: A pleasure to be here.
O'BRIEN: The service from out here were a little bit of a distance away. It looks so moving and so amazing and Reverend Jackson, I'm going to move, if I can.
We appreciate you joining us and Reverend Jackson joins us, as well. You've just come over from the service. So what did you think? It seemed so beautiful from those of us who didn't have a chance to be inside.
FLACK: It was beautiful. I mean needless to say, it was extremely beautiful. And what made it so is the fact that all of the entertainers who performed, who sang either picked songs that they felt described their personal relationship with Whitney or what she might have thought about this whole business, you know. You know, for instance, Stevie sang "Ribbon in the Sky" and he changed the words because he said that it was one of her favorite songs. And that he was doing that for her, but then he changed the words to be relevant to her passing, here birth date and her passing and everything.
And then he sang "Love's in Need of Love Today." That was a high point for me. And Kim Burrell, you know, singing "Change is Going to Come."
O'BRIEN: Right. Right. Changing the words as well.
FLACK: Yes. You know, but every thing was really wonderful and that's as it should be when you consider not only who Whitney was but her mom and the church, the whole setting, just sort of kind of, you know -
MORGAN: Reverend Jackson, let me bring you in here. It was remarkably uplifting service in so many ways, wasn't it? REV. JESSE JACKSON: (INAUDIBLE) the way eulogies should be. It's the joy and the respite. I make the case as all critics weigh in now that (INAUDIBLE) but at the end of the day she is a winner. That's what matters. The cultural impact are far beyond our appreciation. There is almost a new Whitney since last Saturday and she will only get bigger because of the appreciation of her will get deep and far more profound.
O'BRIEN: I thought it was amazing to hear the personal stories. Kevin Costner's story about some of the behind the scenes of "The Bodyguard" was incredible. Incredible.
JACKSON: He was great, wasn't he?
MORGAN: A revelation, I thought. Kevin Costner.
O'BRIEN: And honest.
JACKSON: And so was Clive Davis.
And I think, you know, considering that they are not members of the black community, that was significant. Because you're in a black church, in a church where Whitney Houston, not just somebody, but Whitney Houston grew up. Her mom was there, the whole family is there. There is a whole perspective. And it just proves that you know, not only can we all get along, but we must and when you have a chance to put two artists together like Whitney and Kevin, you come out with something as he said is lasting and memorable. So people will never forget "The Bodyguard." And god knows people who witnessed him talk today will remember it even stronger.
JACKSON: Music is universal. Some years ago I was in the Soviet Union (INAUDIBLE) the Iron Curtain was up. The politicians could not (INAUDIBLE) all night long they played Motown and they played many music. Music has that power. That's why musicians have these special gifts must be careful to use them in a way that's transformative and that's kind of what - (INAUDIBLE) "I will Always Love You" is the greatest. "The Star-Spangled Banner," and "Jesus Loves Me.
(INAUDIBLE) we know that her first teacher was her mother. You know, (INAUDIBLE) how critical was her mother and the surrounding friends. (INAUDIBLE) of joy and pain as they will say sunshine in the rain and having put them together, she is a winner.
MORGAN: I love this picture on the front here of the (INAUDIBLE) service. Because people forget Whitney Houston when she was 17, was a beauty queen. She was a real trailblazer actually. She was a model and she had been on many magazine covers.
JACKSON: A beauty queen at 30, 45, 48 too.
MORGAN: You see that picture there. Really beautiful.
O'BRIEN: The program is lovely. We have to take a commercial break. I want to thank you for talking with us.
FLACK: My pleasure. I'm glad I didn't fall on my face.
O'BRIEN: Well, we did put up rickety chairs up here.
FLACK: Let's have an Obama bump here.
MORGAN: Happy to see you.
O'BRIEN: We're going to take a commercial break and we'll be back in just a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes Jesus loves me. Oh yes Jesus loves me. Come on, everybody, all over the world, sing it. Yes Jesus loves me for the bible tells me so I love you, Whitney.
MORGAN: The rousing voice of C.C. Winans story at the funeral of Whitney Houston. An extraordinary four-hour affair. There's been consternation about one moment when Bobby Brown, Whitney's ex-husband left early. Some people said he was asked to leave. Others said he left on his own accord. Don Lemon I think has an update with a statement from Bobby Brown which clarifies exactly what happened. Don.
LEMON: Yes. Listen we know we're here today, everyone is here today to honor Whitney Houston and pay respects to her. We are standing outside the church. This is a view point that you won't get anywhere except for on CNN, the closest that you'll get. And you know, Reverend Sharpton came over and Reverend Jackson came over and sort of gave conflicting statements.
I realized that Reverend Sharpton wants to down play this a bit I'm sure because this day is for Whitney Houston. But as a matter of fact, there was an incident there with Bobby Brown. Here is his statement from R&B icon Bobby Brown. He sayd and it's from his people. "R&B Bobby Brown departs the funeral of Whitney Houston." Here's his comments, he said, "My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. We were seated by security. And then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move. Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi Kristina. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene. My children are completely distraught over the events. This was a day to honor Whitney. I doubt Whitney would have wanted this occur. I will continue to pay my respects to my ex- wife the best way I know how," said Bobby Brown.
So that is an official statement from Bobby Brown about what happened during the ceremony. But again, Piers, as we've been saying and as we're watching the dignitaries and the guests who went to the funeral and went to the memorial service here leave there was indeed an incident. You know, it's sad on this day, but as you heard Bobby Brown saying, this day is about Whitney Houston. He will continue to honor and respect his ex-wife. And in a manner that he feels possible. He is upset by it because he couldn't see his daughter and he wanted to attend the entire memorial service. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: And the day truly was, Don, about Whitney Houston. It was absolutely beautiful service. I thought struck all the right notes. The mayor of Newark is joining us, Corey Booker. It's nice to have you. Always great to see you.
MAYOR COREY BOOKER, NEWARK: Thanks very much.
O'BRIEN: We appreciate you coming out from being inside the church. We were remarking on not only how beautiful it was, but how a difficult tone to strike to keep it a personal memorial service, but at the same time she is an icon to the world. That is a challenge.
BOOKER: Well, I think they did the right balance, bringing it back to where she started. You know, she was born here in Newark and raised in that church. It was an intimate affair. But at the same time she is a global figure. It was good to have cameras inside at least so her fans who did have an intimate connection through her music, her fans could have a chance to really be there, as well.
O'BRIEN: There was a plan to put it in the Prudential Center for a little while and that was quickly scuttled.
BOOKER: I think that was the right thing. I think it would have been a big mistake. I've see other ones that were done like that. And you lose that sense of intimacy, you would lose that sense of community. It becomes more sometimes a spectacle than it does of a special moment. So I'm very glad the family did it this way. And we honored their wishes and I think it went over so well, so beautiful.
MORGAN: It was wonderful to watch from here. What was it like inside? Obviously, pretty intimate church, 1,500 people. How would you describe the atmosphere?
BOOKER: Well, look when you have Donny McClurkin, (INAUDIBLE) when you have Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys singing not just a song but really singing their spirit into the song, their connection to the woman, it brought all of us to tears. I was sitting in a row of elected officials and to see how they were moved and moving to the rhythm of the moment was really special. So that is an experience I'll never forget for the rest of my life. And it was a fitting home going service to a woman that lived really a life - everybody has a song, but not everybody has the courage to sing like Whitney did. She lived her life fully and elevated all of us through her music.
O'BRIEN: Pastor T.D. Jakes is joining us by phone. (INAUDIBLE) if you will while we talk to him for a moment.
Sir, it's nice to talk to you. We had a chance to talk last week as well. And one of the things that stuck with me what you said while at the podium preaching really was you were talking to the family. And you said "you paid a tremendous price in life because you shared her with the world." Tell me a little bit about the message that you were trying to give when you were speaking directly to Whitney's family.
BISHOP T.D. JAKES, SR. PASTOR, POTTER'S HOUSE (ON THE PHONE): I think we need to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice everyone family pays who gives someone for public service and (INAUDIBLE) and to underscore that. I think much of the public looks at Whitney in her career and her performance and her stage (INAUDIBLE) that you often do that at the expense and sacrifice of family life (INAUDIBLE) and just the simplicity of normalcy.
O'BRIEN: It looked like from those of us who didn't get a chance to be inside the church it was a very beautiful and very appropriate sermon, what do you think, message, really what did you think was one of the highlights for you, sir?
JAKES: You know, I think the most striking thing, of course, I always enjoy the music and such a cadre of great singers and preachers and speakers. I think the thing that struck me the most was the intersection between the secular and the sacred. And I really do believe that (INAUDIBLE) person is a vast dimension. They bring together people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances who would not normally be in the same room.
And I was just struck by what a wide diversity of people they gathered from every walk of life from Clive Davis to Donny McClurkin to Alicia Keys to C.C. Winans to political officials. So people from every walk of life celebrating the same individual.
MORGAN: It's an incredibly moving thing to watch from where we were. Obviously incredibly moving is as the mayor said inside much more so. How do you think Whitney Houston's legacy will now be remembered after this service? Because there's been so much speculation about her life (INAUDIBLE) What I was pleased today and I think many people will be, particularly her family, is they focused much more on the Whitney Houston as a woman and as a musician.
JAKES: I thought the message today was the family took ownership of their family member. They took it away from public speculation and they said who she was and they had an opportunity to say that unabridged and unedited. I think that gave some healing to the family and the community who knew so many more things about her life than what has been touted in recent days. I felt that they felt good about having an opportunity not to be defined through brief moments (INAUDIBLE) in her life but to be able to bring to the forefront other dimensions of her life to which they define why they loved her like they did. For them, it was not just the music.
MORGAN: Very much so.
O'BRIEN: We're going to take a short break. On the other side of the break we're going to ask the mayor, we're going to ask to stick around with us.
Chris Christie ordered the flags in the state to be flown at half- mast, at half staff. He took a little flack for that which surprised me. We'll talk about that on the other side of the break.
O'BRIEN: We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us everybody.
STEVIE WONDER, SINGER: Night and day, in 1963, we were blessed so incredibly with a sound so incredibly with this voice - voice from the choir of heaven. He loved you touched our hearts and you did from the very start. And that gift, no press or media - nobody can tear apart. It's a gift from heavens -
O'BRIEN: Donny McClurkin singing "Stand." Let's listen for a minute. This is a beautiful song.
DONNY MCCLURKIN, SINGER: Sometimes the lord gets a little too heavy to bear god promised to give us strength in the midnight hour, in the midnight hour we don't know why god does what god does but everything god does he does it well. Do I have a witness here? And you pray and cry, cry, cry, hold your head up high -
O'BRIEN: That was Donny McClurkin singing "Stand." That was remarkable. It was really at the start of the service.
MORGAN: That is one of my all-time favorite songs.
MORGAN: He hit it hard and personalized it for her which is very, very special.
O'BRIEN: Wonderful, wonderful. Before the commercial break, I was asking a little about some of the controversy over Governor Christie's decision to fly the flag at half staff, which to me seemed to be so obvious. I mean Whitney Houston, native daughter of Newark and there was a little backlash he had to deal with.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: It surprised me. Something struck me as disingenuous because the governor had done that for Clarence Clemons who is a loved, truly native to New Jersey in terms how much we embraced him. And he's had struggles in his life but nobody said a word. Something when he did this with Whitney Houston sparked off this controversy. Anybody who made this kind of contribution from New Jersey and arts, entertainment, culture, science, technology, education, it's the right thing for a governor to stand up.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Yes. I thought it was ridiculous to criticize Chris Christie. Well mayor, just one thing about Bobby Brown. We were talking during the break you did see what was going on to some degree because clearly, the original story that came out was Bobby Brown Walked out and some altercation happened. If you go by his statement, it clearly seems to be treated pretty disrespectfully himself.
BOOKER: Well again, I haven't been briefed by my police officers. I came here. I do know my police chief and police director jumped off before the service started and hustled outside because there was some controversy going in. And I heard a few things back from some police officers. But I want to get the official report on our side that he was coming in with a large entourage and there was no room. There was controversy swirling around that.
But at the end of the day, the sanctity of the sanctuary was made whole. And (inaudible) was aware of it. I think again, that Whitney was honored and elevated. And I'm just hoping that in his spirit, he's at peace because today was a very good day. And I extend him, as mayor of the city; I extend him love right now in the spirit of the moment.
O'BRIEN: Gordon Chambers joins us, as well in our conversation. A well-known songwriter. You worked a lot with Whitney Houston. Tell us a little bit about your experience inside the church because from where we are, it seemed amazing.
GORDON CHAMBER, SINGER, SONGWRITER: Well, you know. I produced three songs for Whitney and we have hang out quite a bit. And every time I was in her presence we talked music. And she loved Newark. She loved where she was from. We talked about Andy Bay and the basses just we talked about the dreamt of singer, her family, her husband. And uncles who are all from Newark.
So, the fact her ceremony took place here in Newark, at her very beloved church would have meant the world to her. And the music, the performances were so obviously spiritual and it sent a message to the world that Whitney believed in God. She never wavered in her faith. Everyone who spokes spoke about her spirituality because she and I, in the studio prayed together many times.
And when Whitney spoke to you, you felt the spirit of an angel speaking to you. She spoke to me in the studio and when I was producing her told me, she said Gordon; you need to do your solo career. She was an angel. And she was angelically celebrated today.
MORGAN: One thing I felt was sad was Aretha Franklin was due to perform in the end Martin was too sick to perform which is sad. I think it would have been great. She was actually Whitney's godmother it turns out. She was called the godmother by many members of the family. That would have been nice to and glad to the extraordinary mix.
CHAMBERS: For a minute, I thought they would do the virtual thing where she is going to comeback live from the hotel.
O'BRIEN: I actually thought the same thing because the word was sort of introducing her. She sent a message of course but she had her leg was bothering her.
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, she is dealing with health consequences.
O'BRIEN: Of course. Yes. we should mention that we are looking at pictures as people are streaming their way out of the church, New Hope Baptist church which was really did a wonderful job hosting. I mean, they ask the world, literally today we are on this relatively smallish church here.
MORGAN: Yes. But not a small city, right?
O'BRIEN: No. Big city.
MORGAN: I thought Marvin Winans, what do you call that, is it a eulogy, is it a sermon?
CHAMBERS: Black folks call that having church.
O'BRIEN: You warned us.
MORGAN: It was free spirited and uplifting. Anyone watching would have felt so engaged.
O'BRIEN: I love the way he said, God says, I got you. I mean, it really was a way to kind to bring home that message which peace I was dealt prioritizing, the message of today is to leave with his prioritized. So relevant, obviously.
CHAMBERS: There is a story I heard many times about the set of "the preacher's wife" when Penny Marshall was conduct - was conducting a scene of "the preacher's wife." And Whitney sang a song and they were like, cut, cut. And they said, an usher came in to Penny said Miss Penny, with all due respect you can't cut the spirit. She is singing and people were just --.
O'BRIEN: That might work for people, but doesn't work for God.
BOOKER: Speaking of spirit, I mean, I have to say Kevin Costner got up there and he connected with a majority of African-American audiences, to show he has a deep spirit, deep faith and they had a real love and connection to which --
MORGAN: As a Baptist, I mean I didn't know half that stuff about Kevin Costner's early years, really important together and really suburban love.
CHAMBERS: He spoke with authenticate and honesty that connected with everyone.
MORGAN: I know you have to leave us now. Thank you so much for joining us.
BOOKER: Thank you for having me. Thank you all for being in Newark giving honor to Whitney Houston.
O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.
MORGAN: We are going to take a short break. We'll be back with more reaction to Whitney Houston's funeral.
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O'BRIEN: And that of course is from just a few minutes ago really as they were bringing the casket, holding the body of Whitney Houston out of New Hope Baptist church here in Newark, New Jersey and the voice of course of Alicia Keys, singing her beautiful song as she remembered Whitney Houston in the middle of the service. And that was a remarkable service. We are going to get to Don Lemon who is standing by with some of the folks who were inside the church -- Don.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The folks inside, I just want to show you this is as close as you're going to get. They let us up a little bit to show us the memorial in front of the church, Soledad. And you see the officers here, mounted police officers making sure everything is OK and guarding over the guests. But the final guests are leaving. The police let us get close. We were up earlier just in front of the memorial service in front of the memorial service reading. We found out that makes is memorial in front of the church just reading some of the cards and some of the memories that people were sharing about Whitney Houston. They put posters up. And you can see the balloons with hearts.
And so, people were sharing their experience and saying it was one of the most heart-felt services they had ever seen and what a fitting tribute it was to Whitney Houston, one of the greatest singers in their estimation ever.
So, it's wrapping up here at the church. I want to tell our viewers as well. They are going to a repast here in New Jersey which is sort of the after event where everyone gets together and eat and they are going to share their memories of Whitney Houston more than what they shared here in the church - Soledad. Piers.
O'BRIEN: All right, Don. Thank you very much. Michael Eric Dyson joins us now. It's nice to have you. You know, what's interesting? And when we were talking earlier to Pastor Soyes (ph), he said a similar thing that Pastor Carter who as the pastor of this church said this is not a performance. This is not a concert. This is not -- this is church.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, RADIO HOST: It is. And you can see it in the spirit of the sanctuary itself. That was lit with the spirit of God, the emotion was pure. The fire was amazing. And people's focus was on celebrating Whitney Houston's life. Not getting involved in gossip or mean spirit in the searches about her life. But to celebrate the genius of what she did because you can see, she is rooted squarely in the black Baptist tradition. And yet, she gave a gift to the world. And she was pop singer which is amazing.
You know, she was booed at the "soul train" music awards years and years ago. People thought well, is she sufficiently black? But it doesn't get more black than this. She rooted in the blackness of this culture and yet, she was able to translate that into a global aesthetic that allow millions of people around the globe to participate.
O'BRIEN: Well, I think it allowed those of us who are not Baptists to watch and really learn sort of how a Baptist service goes.
MORGAN: Yes. We don't get that in the Catholic Church, right Soledad?
MORGAN: I've never been to a funeral service like that.
DYSON: That was a drive-by Baptist experience. But being a Baptist minister myself, I appreciate those from time when I was knee high to a tadpole. And you know, because the point is let's repudiating some of the negativity. That is simply of the gossip. But what has happen in your life, let's celebrate, let's lift up. Let's elevate human beings and understand just how great she was and how much she was loved.
O'BRIEN: Is it insane for me to ask, what was your favorite part of that service?
DYSON: I will tell you. Well, it was an extraordinary smorgasbord of spiritual genius. But, I mean, Stevie Wonder I mean, doing his thing, talking about love, but the testimony of the bodyguard when he stood up --.
MORGAN: I felt the same.
DYSON: When this man said this was a woman who was regal and full of Grace and she was a real person, and she did all of this for you. I mean my God, how moving.
O'BRIEN: He really did sort of call out you, we need to love people back was kind of his message.
DYSON: I mean, my God. These are suffering servants so to speak. These are people giving their last bit to make sure your days go better. And what you can do in return is to love them and celebrate them.
O'BRIEN: I thought that was beautiful.
MORGAN: Very poignant. I thought it was the tale of two bodyguards.
O'BRIEN: Kevin Costner was moving.
MORGAN: Kevin Costner was moving. I thought the paradigm pitched what they said perfectly for the moment, very, very moving. DYSON: Coming up in Campton as he did. A lot of people didn't know he was born in Compton. But in different kind of Campton that was predominantly black now. But being in part of that Baptist tradition, speaking honestly about his own fears about Whitney's own fears.
O'BRIEN: And about race, frankly. I mean, talk about, you know to pick a black woman as his co-star in "the bodyguard" and that people weren't necessarily happy with it. He was very blunt about that.
MORGAN: I didn't know that story in the detail he told it.
DYSON: And not only a black woman, but a chocolate black woman. I mean, you know. During the time she was emerging, it was very interesting. Whitney Houston is a brown-skinned girl. And brown- skinned girls weren't necessary being celebrate to the degree but we know --
O'BRIEN: And it would have been her first acting gig herself.
DYSON: It was her first acting gig so the life of experience the dark-skinned black woman but a pop star of the first order, and yet, taking that chance meant they were taking a chance on themselves. I think it's beautiful.
O'BRIEN: It was a great story.
MORGAN: I think we should give real credit to Cissy Houston who organized all this and has been the rock of the family so long. She must have been going through hell this week. She held herself together so well today.
DYSON: She did. She did she is pulling on her faith. Remember, she was a backup singer with inspiration for Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin has the godmother of Whitney Houston. So, here's a woman singing "sweet inspirations" in the '60s and '70s with Aretha, her daughter it her knee. Her daughter wants to be Aretha singing that. So, it comes full circle here today and Cissy Houston is a bed rock of fidelity and faithfulness and you saw this in this church.
MORGAN: We'll take a short break and have more reactions to Whitney Houston's extraordinary funeral service today.
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O'BRIEN: That is Kim Burrell singing a version of Sam cook's song "a change is going to come." She was born in Newark. And how she started that song --.
DYSON: Well, it shows the improvisational character of black music. Here she is taking a song and then tried to gets her own sing way. Stevie did the same thing.
O'BRIEN: It's beautiful. We have Susan Candiotti standing by. Many of these people who are inside the church have now headed to a new location. Susan was there. Hey, Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. Yes, we've been standing here of course since long before the funeral ended. And we've seen a number of notables come in. I talked with the niece of Whitney Houston before this started. And in fact, she told me some of the people who were there including Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King.
We have also seen Kevin Costner who also was here, reverend Jesse Jackson. You remember Kevin Costner, I think one of the memorable lines from him during his eulogy was when talked about how Whitney Houston sometimes didn't think she was pretty enough or good enough. And he said when you sing before him, referring to God, don't you worry, you'll be good enough.
Well, there is a small crowd, as well, across the street from here, onlookers, the public who have come to see and pay their respects but also to see naturally if they recognized any of the family and friends who are here. We are at quite a bit distance so we are not sure, we think we also saw Cissy Houston, as well enter here a long time ago, but a private affair for close family and friends - Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes. No surprise there, Susan, really keeping in the theme which has been a family affair, a private affair. Fans being able to take part, but really from a distance being able to watch the service on television.
DYSON: Well, yes. And it restores the dignity of Whitney Houston that was deprived in her especially in the last few years and especially the aftermath of her death. Some kinds of passionless glory get it back to her. I think it was beautiful.
MORGAN: Most uplifting day I think I had, against all expectation, I had in a very long time.
O'BRIEN: It was absolutely beautiful. We'll take a short break. We got to be right back.
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MORGAN: It's been an extraordinary day here in New Jersey, the funeral of Whitney Houston. Quite remarkable, uplifting, a four-hour ceremony which had remarkable performances by some of the greatest singers of the modern age. Great testimonies from the likes of Kevin Costner, a really, really extraordinary day.
We are having an hour-long special on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" at 9:00 eastern tonight with all the highlights of what has been as I say quite remarkable occasion I think. O'BRIEN: It has been absolutely beautiful. And for those of you who missed the funeral, of feel like to re-live some of the highlight, we leave you and leave with a look (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life. One of our angels, Whitney Houston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I know about her is she loved the Lord. If there was a Grace that carried her all the way through, it was the same grace that carried her home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, say whatever you want, God was for her and she is resting singing with the angels. God bless you, family. God bless you, Whitney, we love you so much.
KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: She told god she was going to be like Aretha, like her famous cousin Dionne, like her beautiful mother Cissy. There can be little doubt in this room that she has joined their ranks, and as the debate heats this up century, and it surely will about the greatest singer of the last century, as the lists are drawn, it will have little meaning to me if her name is not on there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without knowing her love of music, her passion and 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone in heaven, including God, is waiting and I just know you're going to raise the roof like no one else has done before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today we as a family celebrate the life of our sister, our daughter, our mother and our friend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't grieve for me for now I'm free. I'm following the path God laid for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God wanted me now, he set me free.