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World Bids Farewell to a King

L.A. Watts Times, News Report, Pat Munson Posted: Jul 07, 2009

Thousands packed the Staples Center July 7 for an emotional memorial service for Michael Joseph Jackson, the King of Pop.

There were tears of sadness, joy and laughter as each speaker and singer took to the stage to bid farewell and pay their last respects to the musical giant.

After the opening prayer, and as Michael Jacksons flower-draped, gold casket was rolled into the Staples Center, the crowd stood to its feet as a choir sang gospel singer Andrae Crouchs 1980s hit song Soon and Very Soon.

Mariah Careys singing prompted audience members, in part, to cry as she sang one of Jacksons early hits, Ill Be There, while a slide show of Jackson and his family played on giant screens.

Throughout the crowd an estimated 20,000 filled the Staples Center came repeated screams and shouts of We love you Michael.

The crowd, a diverse mix which came from many cities, states and countries, wiped tears from their swollen red eyes as they clutched memorial picture books given to everyone in attendance. Picture and cell phone cameras flashed incessantly as fans tried to capture whatever memories they could, one last time.

Queen Latifah, one of the first speakers in the memorial, talked about what Jackson meant to her and how his Dancing Machine was one of the first records she and her brother ever purchased.
Michael was the biggest star on earth, Latifah said to roaring applause. She also read a tribute, We Had Him, from poet Maya Angelou, who was not able to attend the service.

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, who first brought the Jackson 5 to prominence, told the crowd that, I think King of Pop is not big enough to describe Michael. I think he is simply the greatest entertainer who ever lived.

Brooke Shields drew hearty laughs as she talked about the bond she shared with Jackson and how he once tried unsuccessfully to teach her to dance.

Michael loved to laugh, she said.

Former Motown label mate Lionel Richie sang Jesus is Love and Stevie Wonder, before singing, said of Jacksons passing, This is a moment that I wish that I didnt live to see.

Academy award winner Jennifer Hudson led a choir in a moving version of Jacksons Earth Song.
One of the most emotional moments came when Usher, who has made it known that the King of Pop was a big influence on his career, sang Gone Too Soon. Choking back tears, Usher sang as he walked off the stage and down to where the family was seated. It was an emotional gesture for many in the audience.

Family friend and activist the Rev. Al Sharpton brought the crowd to its feet on several occasions as he spoke of Jacksons genius and love for people.

Michael made us love each other, Sharpton said. Every time he got knocked down, he got back up.
The crowd went wild when Sharpton encouraged Michaels young children, telling them: There was nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with.

The service was closed with an encore of We Are the World as many of the celebrity participants and family members including Janet, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon and Randy appeared together on stage.
As the crowds started to stir, Jacksons young daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson, took to the microphone to try and put into words what her dad meant to her and how much she will miss him.

Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine, the 11-year-old said, crying. And I just wanted to say I love him so much.

As Paris cried and was consoled by family members, people in the audience cried.

Many felt the memorial was a fitting tribute to the King of Pop. And as actor LeVar Burton said privately just before the service started, Its a beautiful day, and were going to send Michael home right.

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