: For all of the emotions usually equated with death, Dwight “Heavy D” Myers' funeral was billed as a celebration of the artist's life. As such, it could not – and would not – be such a sad affair. As the mayor-elect of Heavy's hometown of Mount Vernon, New York put it, “We are not here because Heavy D died. We are here because Heavy D lived.”
What became clear, from within the two overflowing halls of Mount Vernon's Grace Baptist Church, was that Heavy D had touched countless lives – particularly in the hip-hop and African-American communities. Jay-Z, Usher, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, John Legend, Denzel Washington and Queen Latifah were spotted walking in; a list at one of the security check-ins included the names of Sony Music's Chairman/CEO Doug Morris and Doug E. Fresh. Three Mount Vernon police officers sat down the row from BET President Stephen Hill. A woman and her daughter held a VIP pass from a concert Heavy D must have performed years ago, just as a cab driver had shown off photos of himself and Heavy from their shared high school days. “There's stories on every corner of this city, of people he helped,” said the pastor, without exaggeration.
His presence was felt far beyond that, though. Rev. Al Sharpton – once a heavy man himself, he noted – called Heavy D's young daughter Xea up as he read a letter that he felt she should hold onto: “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.” It seemed like a nice tribute but relatively unremarkable until Sharpton quickly added, “That's from the President of the United States of America. I want you to frame that.”
(Earlier, Teddy Riley – who produced Heavy's hit “Now That We Found Love” and “Jam,” Heavy's 1991 collaboration with Michael Jackson – told Rolling Stone, “When Puffy left Uptown and he got Biggie, to me that was him saying, ‘If I can’t have Heavy, I’ve got to go make my own Heavy.'”)
Johnny Gill, Yolanda Adams, Heavy D's nieces and Kim Burrell each sang, their voices peeling the paint off the walls, beautiful and heart-wrenching. R&B singer Anthony Hamilton walked through the saddest version of Sam Cooke's “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a look to tomorrow, a torch held to the past.
It was a deeply spiritual ceremony, religion offering a silver lining amongst darker clouds, a tribute to a life cut short just as it was starting to pick up again. And so, we need not worry about Heavy. The pastor said, “Heavy asked [in his song, “Ask Heaven,” from 1999], 'Ask heaven, heaven, is there room for me?' I say, St. Peter's gonna have to expand the rooms!”