Heavy D Funeral Attracts Family, Stars, a Letter From Obama
Hip-hop star Heavy D was remembered through laughter and tears at a funeral service Friday in his home town of Mount Vernon, N.Y. that included anecdotes from longtime friend Diddy and words of encouragement for his young daughter, delivered in a letter from President Barack Obama.
Slideshow: Heavy Hearts
"We extend our heartfelt condolences at this difficult time. He will be remembered for his infectious optimism and many contributions to American music. Please know that you and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers," read the Obama note, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton, who quoted from it during the service.
Xea Myers, Heavy D's 11-year-old daughter, told the audience that her father was "still here, not in the flesh, but in the spirit."
Heavy D, whose real name was Dwight Myers, was influential in the development of rap as it grew into phenomenon in the late 1980s and 1990s.
His hits included "Now That We've Found Love" and "Nuttin' But Love"; much of his music marked the "New Jack Swing" era in urban music, and he stood out from the pack with his rhymes, typified by a positive vibe and a lightheartedness that endeared him to so many.
Grace Baptist Church was so crowded that an overflow area was set up. Among those in attendance were Usher, Queen Latifah, Don King, Q-Tip, John Legend and Rosie Perez. A wake held on Thursday attracted famous friends including Chris Rock, Flavor Flav and Russell Simmons.
Heavy D died last week in Los Angeles at the age of 44. His family said the death was due to complications from pneumonia.
The self-proclaimed "Overweight Lover" was born in Jamaica but reared in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where the service was held. He dubbed the city "Money Earnin' Mount Vernon," and it was also the home of Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Through jokes, Combs talked about how Heavy D helped give him his start in the music industry, and how their decades-long friendship continued until Heavy D's death.
Singer Johnny Gill was tearful, saying: "Just want to say to Heavy: Job well done." He later gave a powerful rendition the gospel hit "Never Would Have Made It."