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Stars to sing at Whitney's funeral

Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder will sing at a private funeral for Whitney Houston on Saturday, in what promises to be a very musical service.

Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, also confirmed that invitations went out to the singer's ex-husband, Bobby Brown, her co-star in The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, and talk show presenter Oprah Winfrey.

Houston's long-time musical mentor Clive Davis will speak at the funeral. The eulogy will be given by gospel singer and family friend Marvin Winans. Organisers have been preparing the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, for the musical part of the service, setting up speakers and drums in the aisles.

Fans without invitations will be kept away, with Newark police saying streets will be shut down for six square blocks around the church. However, they will be able to watch the funeral on the internet as the Associated Press is streaming the service on http://livestream.com/aplive.

Houston was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a bath at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, California, hours before she was due to perform at producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards event last weekend. Fire services and hotel security rushed to the suite but attempts to resuscitate her failed and she was pronounced dead shortly before 4pm local time.

The 48-year-old was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music programme for many years. Her cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, also sang in its choir.

Meanwhile, Houston appeared "joyful, excited and vibrant" the day before she died, her make-up artist has said. Reginald Dowdley said the pop star chatted happily to him about her plans for the future and showed "no signs of stress" during the three hours he spent with her last Friday.

He said: "There was no indication she wasn't going to be here beyond the weekend so I was extremely shocked to hear of her death." Speaking on the eve of her funeral, he described himself as a big fan of the singer and said she had been "everything I thought she would be".

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