8 Jul 2009

Jackson farewelled in emotional tribute

6:22 pm on 8 July 2009

Stars sang emotional farewells on Tuesday to Michael Jackson, hailed as "the greatest entertainer that ever lived" and described by his tearful daughter Paris as "the best father you could ever imagine."

Some 18,000 fans, family members and friends took part in a public memorial for Jackson in the Los Angeles sports arena where the singer had rehearsed the day before his death for a highly-anticipated series of comeback concerts.

Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey paid tribute before the family joined a sombre finale on stage.

Jackson, 50, died on 25 June in his Los Angeles home after suffering heart failure. He was on the eve of a comeback after his career collapsed in the 1990s.

The exact cause of his death is still awaiting toxicology results amid reports of abuse of prescription drugs, including the powerful narcotic Diprivan.

Jackson's brothers, each wearing a single sequined glove in homage to his signature look, carried his golden casket into the downtown Staples Center.

Carey performed Jackson's 1970 ballad I'll Be There, Usher's voice cracked as he sang Gone Too Soon and the King of Pop's three children made a rare public appearance without veils.

Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, appeared with the family on stage to join in a mass chorus of their father's hits We Are the World and Heal the World.

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 wanted to say I love him, so much."

But it was Jackson himself who loomed larger than life, shown in old concert footage, music videos and news clips, singing, dancing his 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 to a recording contract in 1968. "I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived."

The two-hour memorial focused on Jackson's musical achievements, overshadowed in the last 10 years by the darker side of the singer's life, including his humiliating 2005 trial and acquittal on charges of child sex abuse.

The event focused on Jackson's 45-year musical career in which he was awarded 13 Grammys, his charity work for childrens' groups and his role in opening the mainstream pop and celebrity world to African-Americans. It was broadcast live on US national television networks.

Mystery surrounds burial

Earlier on Tuesday, Jackson's family and close friends held a brief private ceremony at a Los Angeles cemetery before bringing the singer's body and gold plated casket to the memorial.

But questions remained on where exactly Jackson would be buried, or if the body would be interred.

Local media reports say the coffin was being taken to an unknown location but a spokesperson for the family declined to comment.