Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder and Usher led an emotional public
memorial for Michael Jackson on Tuesday as the music world, the
Jackson family and thousands of fans bade farewell to the "King of
Jackson's brothers, each wearing a single sequined glove in homage
to his signature look, carried the singer's gold-trimmed casket into
the Staples Center sports arena, where Jackson had rehearsed the day
before his death for a highly-anticipated series of comeback
Carey performed Jackson's 1970 ballad "I'll Be There" and singer
Smokey Robinson read out tributes from former South African
president Nelson Mandela and singer Diana Ross.
But it was Jackson himself who loomed larger than life over the
18,000-plus arena crowd, shown in old concert footage, music videos
and news clips, singing, dancing his signature moonwalk and
surrounded by adoring crowds.
"The more I think about Michael, and talk about Michael, the more I
think that 'King of Pop' is not good enough," said Motown Records
founder Berry Gordy, who signed The Jackson 5 in 1968. "I think he
is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived."
Jackson's sudden death from cardiac arrest in Los Angeles on June 25
at the age of 50 prompted a worldwide outpouring of grief and sent
sales of his biggest hits back to the top of the music charts.
President Barack Obama, on a visit to Russia, said he was "one of
the greatest entertainers of our generation, perhaps any
generation," and added: "I think like Elvis, like Sinatra, like The
Beatles he became a core part of our culture.
Tuesday's two-hour memorial focused on Jackson's 45-year music
career, his charity work for childrens' groups and his role in
opening the mainstream pop and celebrity world up to
Gordy was among the few who referred obliquely to the darker side of
Jackson's life, which in the last 10 years had come to overshadow
his prowess as a performer and his 13 Grammy awards.
"Though it ended way too soon, Michael's life was beautiful. Sure
there was some sad times and maybe some questionable decisions on
his part, but Michael Jackson accomplished everything he dreamed
of," said Gordy.
"NOTHING STRANGE" ABOUT DADDY
Jackson was on the eve of a comeback after his career collapsed
despite his acquittal in a humiliating 2005 trial on sex abuse
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, angrily denouncing the media focus
on the bizarre aspects of his life, said he had a message for
Jackson's three children.
"Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your
daddy had to deal with," he said to cheers.
Jackson's three children, Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11 and Prince
Michael II, 7, appeared with the family on stage at the end of the
performances. Paris, in tears, took the microphone to say: "Ever
since I was born my daddy has been the best father you can ever
imagine and I just want to say I love him so much."
R&B singer Usher's voice cracked as he sang "Gone Too Soon" while
actress Brooke Shields, who briefly dated the singer, remembered his
laugh as "the sweetest and purest of anyone's I had ever known."
Jackson's family and close friends held a brief private ceremony
earlier on Tuesday at a Los Angeles cemetery before unexpectedly
bringing the singer's body to the memorial.
Fans watched from bridges as the funeral procession made its way
along freeways cleared of traffic for one of the biggest celebrity
events ever seen in a city accustomed to living with superstar
Police had estimated that more than 250,000 people would gather
outside the arena but the orderly crowds were much smaller than
expected. Many fans and downtown office workers appeared to have
stayed at home to watch the ceremony live on national TV networks or
on the Internet.
At the Staples Center, Los Angeles resident Parisa Ebraihimi, 28,
said she had been a Jackson fan since she was five years old. "For
me, his dance moves and his music -- all his songs were about a
better world. He'll live on for generations," she said.
Police, security, escorts and sanitation for the memorial ceremony
are expected to cost cash-strapped Los Angeles city council nearly
$4 million. The city council on Tuesday launched a web site asking
for fans to make donations toward the cost of hosting Tuesday's
Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing
by Mary Milliken and David Storey