(CBS) Singer Whitney Houston is "raising the roof" in heaven today, her mentor, music mogul Clive Davis, told mourners, who were doing some musical feats of their own at a memorial service for Houston in Newark, N.J.
More than a dozen speakers and performers praised Houston in song and word Saturday at the hours-long memorial service at New Hope Baptist Church. Music was provided by Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Dionne Warwick, among others. Speakers included filmmaker Tyler Perry and actor Kevin Costner.
Davis recalled first meeting Houston at a 1983 performance by her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston.
"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime," he said. "You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime, and when one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away,"
Davis detailed her music and movie career because, he said, "without knowing of her love of music, her passion and her absolutely natural genius in interpreting songs, you certainly don't know all of Whitney Houston." While he didn't gloss over her struggles with alcohol and drugs, he said, " But when I needed her, she was there. "
At their last meeting just days before she died, David said, Houston told him she was getting back in shape and would be ready when her next movie "Sparkle" opened in August.
"Well, Whitney," he concluded, "I'm going to hold you to it. 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 "
Here's the text of Clive Davis' remarks:
"I can't tell you how moved, touched, inspired I am today. I feel the spirit in this great church. I'm feeling the faith that's helped the grief in my heavy heart. What I do know is about: passing. I lost my parents when i was a teenager. My mother was 47 when she passed away. My father passed away the following year so then i was left an orphan, no money. But i did feel my mother's guidance, spirit, to this very day, and she has helped me through every part of my life.
"If you'll permit me, I want to talk from my experiences in music with Whitney. You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime, and when one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away, and that's the way I felt in 1983 when in the middle of your act at Sweetwater, Cissy, your daughter stepped forward and shattered me with her version of 'The Greatest Love of All,' and that night we connected and we connected with each other every night thereafter. I thought of that just this past week when Whitney and I spent Tuesday afternoon in my bungalow at the Beverly Hills hotel. I looked at her on the couch, saw that she'd applied a little makeup, and I was once again taken aback. She was one beautiful woman. [ applause ]
"We talked nonstop music, a subject that we both fervently loved, and as we spoke, i couldn't help, but silently reminisce about all that we had shared together over the years. In the past, every hit we shared with pure joy. Neither of us could believe the incredible worldwide explosion when it happened. 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 grateful and appreciative and then, yes, then, thanks to you, Kevin, came 'The Bodyguard.' She knew how much I was worried about her transition to film. She had to hold my hand, reassuring me that it would be all right. I said, 'Look, i've got to worry, it's my job to worry.' So I pleaded with her, let me worry, but you know, she and Kevin were right. She literally lit up the screen, and when Kevin stood up and told forget how she looked when she mesmerized everyone in that stunning head dress with 'I Have Nothing.' How she dazzled in her close-ups during 'Run to You.' How she reinvented 'I'm Every Woman' and how she captured the world forever with 'I will Always Love You.' And then she followed with those two special films 'Waiting to Exhale' and 'The Preacher's Wife.' Were they ever memorable. Was there anything she could not do musically? Was there any performance of the 'Star-Spangled Banner 'that remotely compares to hers? [applause ]
"Will there ever be? And then there came a time in 1998, because of the passing of years, for what they called a comeback album. As material accumulated, we would meet in my hotel bungalow, frankly in our pajamas at 1:00 a.m. She ordering the hamburger that she loved with French fries from room service. And I'll never forget the expression on her face when she first heard 'My Love is Your Love,' and 'It's Not Right But It's Okay.' She listened to each song carefully on the character. And we played each song over and over. And gradually, to my amazement, she already had learned the lyrics. And she started singing. With each playback, she started over and it wasn't -- it really wasn't long before she stood before me and totally owned each song. Finding meaning, I'm sure, the composers never even suspected was there. And that's the way it was. Song, videos, right from the beginning.
"Can you picture her on that big theater stage starting our hearts with "The Greatest Love of All" and then turning to run to the wings into her mother's outstretched arms? In a flash, you can visualize the the vitality of 'I Want to Dance with Somebody' and 'How Will I Know.' The camera just loved her. Can you ever forget that video of 'Heartbreak Hotel' as she approached the water draped in fur?
"Memories. Part of your lives. I have them scorching my brain right now. With every album we toured together, at least two continents, previewing her new album with pride, playing each cut to a house, and that includes the last album, 'I Look to You.' We went to London. I would do the talking and deejay and she would come out at the end to acknowledge everyone. But with this album, a definite difference emerged. She wanted to acknowledge, she wanted to speak. And did she speak out. Was she ever articulate. She did this with such assurance.
"You know, Whitney was no longer the shy one. She was no longer introverted. She was there among music. She was returning to music and that was her passion. The Lord and her religion obviously was her life guiding force, music, as well, was her passion. Whitney lived music. Whitney loved music. This was her world and she was so glad that we were back, and that's why I'm talking about the professional Whitney today. Without knowing of her love of music, her passion and her 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. Whitney was purely and simply one of a kind. Yes, she admitted to crises in her life; yes, she confessed to Oprah about her battles. But when I needed her, she was there. [ applause ] She was there for me. An eternally loyal friend. Whatever the cause or event, she was there, dominating the stage, stunning the audience, and creating still another lifetime memory. 'I believe in you and me, ' she sang, looking me straight in the eye. Showing she knew we've always been in it together. Yes, I was her industry father and i was and am so proud of it.
"And, Bobbie Kristina, you, too, always be proud of your mother. She loved you so very much. [ applause ] 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. So as I said earlier last week, last week Whitney came by my hotel. That hotel bungalow alone, no bodyguards, no security, just Whitney and me. And she played her new cuts from 'Sparkle.' And I played some new music that I like for her. It was like old times. And she looked at me and quietly said, 'I want you to know I'm getting in shape. I'm swimming an hour or two a day. And I'm committed to get my high notes back. No cigarettes, plenty of vocal exercising. Clive, I'll be ready by August.' Well,Whitney, I'm going to hold you to it. [applause ] 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. [ applause ]