RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Friends and family of the pop singer Whitney Houston attended her private memorial service yesterday at the church in Newark where she sang as a child. Houston's producer and mentor Clive Davis spoke about the string of hits she enjoyed at the beginning of her career.
CLIVE DAVIS: 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?
MARTIN: Houston never equaled that initial run of success. She struggled with addiction until her death in Los Angeles last weekend at the age of 48. But her fans stayed loyal to the end. While the official ceremony was unfolding inside New Hope Baptist Church, hundreds of fans from around the country gathered in the streets of Newark yesterday to pay their respects. We asked them which of Houston's songs has stuck with them over the years?
VONDA SMITH: I'm Vonda Smith. I live in Dallas, Texas. The one song that always resonates well with me is "The Greatest Love" because of the lyrics and what it says: You know, at least I lived as I believed; I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL")
WHITNEY HOUSTON: (Singing) If I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity.
SMITH: Sometimes we need words of comfort and encouragement, and that song just - when I need to have inspiration, outside of gospel songs, that's one that I reach for.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY")
HOUSTON: (Singing) Oh, I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody...
MONICA JOHNSON: My name is Monica Johnson. I'm from Newark. And when I think of Whitney, I think about when I was in first grade. I did a little talent show. And I wanted to pick a song. And the song I chose was "Dance with Somebody," Whitney Houston.
EDWARD THOMPSON: My name is Edward Thompson. And my best song was the Super Bowl anthem. Remember the Super Bowl anthem when she blew it away?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER")
HOUSTON: (Singing) For the land of the free, and the home...
FELICIA NACE: My name is Felicia Nace of Princeton. The thing about her performance that moved me was that Whitney sang with ease. She didn't have like all the synthesized, you know, equipment behind her. When she sang "I Will Always Love You," just simply beautiful.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU")
HOUSTON: (Singing) And I will always love you, ooh, I will always love you.
MARTIN: This is NPR News.