Star-Studded 'Once In A Lifetime Musical Tribute' Planned For Whitney Houston Funeral

Friends and family of Whitney Houston are preparing to say one final goodbye to the superstar on Saturday - and the city of Newark is preparing as well.

The service will be private, but Whitney Houston's millions of fans worldwide will be able to watch it online. According to Houston's spokesperson, a camera will be set up inside the church to stream the service live on the internet.

Security will be tight in the area around the church. According to Newark Police officials, city streets will be locked down for six square blocks around the church beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, and only those with tickets to the service will be allowed inside.

Church officials are reportedly describing Saturday's funeral as a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"It's going to be a once-in-a lifetime musical tribute unlike anything anyone has ever seen," a church official told the New York Daily News.

Sources now confirm Whitney's godmother Aretha Franklin will sing during the private service at the New Hope Baptist Church, after longtime producer Clive Davis personally asked her to be a part of the invitation-only service.

Gospel singer and pastor Marvin Winans will eulogize Houston. She is expected to be laid to rest in Westfield, New Jersey shortly after the services, in the same cemetery where her father was buried. Many fans, however, have felt left out by the family's decision to mourn on a small scale.

Susan Velasquez, a transplant from Australia who now lives in Summit, NJ was quick to lament the loss of the public service, saying, "People want to celebrate her life and it's a shame they don't have something for all of us."

There is only a small length of fence outside the church for impromptu memorials you find too often at the scene of an accident, or a stray bullet that takes someone's life: balloons and candles, posters, pictures and letters to the pop princess whose soulful lyrics touched many a heart.

Berit Ollstaad of Morristown summed it up simply, "It's an opportunity to say goodbye."

Fans were initially excited to find out they too could be part of the grieving process with 36,000 who could have attended a public memorial at the Prudential Center in Newark. But then the family came forward and said no to those plans, it left fans extremely disappointed.

Valerie Mosey of Irvington broke out in an on the spot version of "Greatest Love Of All" outside New Hope Wednesday.

"It's real depressing, real sad. You need an invitation to go to the funeral. I may not have known her personally, but I know her in my soul, my spirit and I would have loved to have gone."

Richard Fleming, who lives in Irvington now but grew up and went to school with a young Whitney in East Orange said even though she was taken too soon at 48, he will always hold her music as a life-long gift. And he spoke for many from this part of New Jersey that doesn't have a lot of shine to it, "In this neighborhood, not too many good things happen and when something good happens, it's a blessing."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content