"The Greatest Who Ever Lived"
Michael Jackson's July 7 memorial opened with Smokey Robinson reading condolence letters from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. The Jackson family's pastor, Reverend Lucius Smith, then set the tone of the service with opening remarks that were followed by appearances of some of the best and brightest in the entertainment world.
Michael's brothers served as pallbearers; each wore a single white sequined glove.
Jackson's parents and children -- Michael II, Paris and Blanket -- were in attendance. Notably absent was Michael's ex-wife, Deborah Rowe.
As Reverend Smith finished his remarks, the lights dimmed, and Mariah Carey emerged.
Mariah Carey: I'll Be There
Overcome with emotion, Mariah Carey sang her remake of the Jackson 5 smash, I'll Be There. With her voice cracking, Carey got through the first verses and then introduced Trey Lorenz, who sang along with her. Carey's visible sadness served to amplify the moving musical tribute, as the Jackson brothers sat in the front row, crying as she sang.
Queen Latifah spoke about MJ's inspirational influence, revealing that the first record she ever bought was the Jackson 5's Dance Machine. Latifah then read a poem from Maya Angelou titled We Had Him -- a stunning literary gift.
"I've loved him all my life. Michael was the biggest star on earth," Latifah said. "He let me know as an African American that [I] could travel the world. He was one of [us]."
Lionel Richie: Jesus of Love
Lionel Richie added a rousing rendition of Jesus of Love to the mix, highlighting the positive vibe inside the Staples Center.
berry gordy jr.: "he is the greatest entertainer who ever lived"
Berry Gordy Jr. then spoke about the extraordinarily talented 11 year old he discovered so long ago. "Michael raised the bar, and then he broke it," Gordy said. "The Motown family misses [him]. Michael inspired me. He loved everyone and everybody. He is simply the greatest entertainer who ever lived."
Stevie Wonder: Never dreamed you'd leave in summer
Stevie Wonder, in very personal statements, showed how much Michael Jackson meant to him. "This is a moment I wish I didn't live to see. As much as we need you here, Michael, God must have needed you more," Wonder said. He then performed his 1971 tune, Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer.
kobe bryant, magic johnson and kentucky fried chicken
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson shared stories about Michael -- including one that involved Magic eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on the floor with none other than the King of Pop.
jennifer hudson: will you be there
Jennifer Hudson sang the Michael Jackson classic Will You Be There from his album Dangerous, followed by an appearance of staunch Jackson family friend, Reverend Al Sharpton.
Reverend al sharpton: "Thank you"
Energizing the crowd as only he could, Sharpton intoned, "I came to say thank you. Thank you because you never stopped. Thank you because you never gave up. Thank you because you never gave out. Thank you because you tore down our divisions. Thank you because you eradicated barriers. Thank you cause you gave us hope. Thank you Michael! Thank you Michael! Thank you Michael!"
The Jackson brothers responded with hugs for Sharpton, as the crowd yelled, "We love you, Michael."
Brooke shields: "we had a bond"
Brooke Shields, a frequent companion of Michael Jackson, shared her view of the person she knew simply as a friend.
"We would have fun no matter where we were. We had a bond... maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a young age," Shields said. "I used to tease him and I'd say, 'I started [in this business] when I was 11 months old -- you're a slacker!'"
Tears punctuated Shields' statements as she continued. "Both of us needed to be adults very early. But when we were together, we were two little kids having fun. We never collaborated. We never performed together. We never filmed a video -- but what we did do was laugh. It was a competition to see who could make the other laugh more. Michael would love to laugh. MJ's laugh was the sweetest and purest laugh of anyone I've ever known."
Shields then related a story about Michael's favorite song. "Michael's favorite song was [one] Charlie Chaplin wrote called Smile. 'Smile though your heart is aching.' Today, although our hearts are aching, we need to look at [Michael] where he is undoubtedly perched in a crescent moon. We need to smile."
Jermaine Jackson: smile
Michael's brother Jermaine then sang his brother's favorite song -- or, at least he tried. With tears in his eyes, Jermaine's performance was a sincere, heart-wrenching tribute from one sibling to another.
Dignitaries pay tribute
Martin Luther King III's remarks acknowledged the impact Michael Jackson made on society. "Michael Jackson was truly the best at what he was," King said. "On June 25, because he was the best, I believe heaven and earth did pause to say of Michael Joseph Jackson, 'He was a great entertainer and did his job well.'"
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston talked about the moment of silence held in the House of Representatives. "We know the Constitution in the House of Representatives, and it says you are innocent until proven otherwise," at which the crowd erupted with applause.
Usher: gone too soon
Performances continued with Usher sitting somberly on a stool in dark shades. "Michael, you mean so much to everyone, especially me," he said. His performance of Gone Too Soon was another impeccable musical choice for a memorial that was more uplifting than depressing. Usher always has maintained publicly that, without Michael Jackson, he would not have a career. He was the first to exit the stage and sing near Jackson's flower-adorned casket. "Here one day, gone one night," Usher sang.
Usher could not complete the last line of the song for a few seconds, but managed to gather himself and delivered the final coda. The Jackson family quickly rose to hug him, after which Usher knelt in front of Katherine Jackson, kissed her hand and touched Michael's children on their shoulders as he walked away, visibly crying.
smokey robinson: "he will never really be gone"
Smokey Robinson arrived after a video of the Jackson 5 on the Ed Sullivan Show singing Who's Loving You. "Here comes this little kid, 10 years old. A couple weeks later, they recorded my song. I heard it. I thought to myself, 'Now they have pulled a fast one on us; this boy could not possibly be 10 years old. How could he possibly know these things?' I quickly went over to Michael. I wanted to see his birth certificate," Robinson said, laughing. "I did not believe someone that young could have that much feeling."
"I never thought I would be here today," he continued. "This is my little brother. You just don't think you're gonna live to see him gone. But, he will never really be gone. He is going to live forever and ever and ever and ever. He has made an enormous impact on all of our lives all over the world. One of my greatest blessings was to get to see Michael. I'm glad I live in an era where I could see the greatest entertainer of all time. So my brother is in a place where he is most certainly going to live forever. The world will never forget Michael Jackson."
Shaheen Jafargholi: Who's Loving You
Britain's Got Talent phenom Shaheen Jafargholi sang Who's Loving You in a life-imitating-art moment that brought the Staples Center crowd to their feet.
kenny ortega: "we were a family"
Kenny Ortega, the director who produced many of Michael's tours, spoke about rehearsals with Michael.
"We were a family. This was our house. So when the Jackson family asked us to help put together this memorial, we had to do it here. Michael's house. We were immediately surrounded by family and artists who made this day possible. As we came together as a team, we had to celebrate his life through his music," Ortega said. "We were here, and I tell you, we saw Michael's return to the world."
He then presented one of Michael's favorite moments from what was supposed to be the This Is It tour: A performance of We Are the World.
All of the Michael Jackson memorial performers hit the stage at that point, including Smokey, Usher, Mariah Carey, the Jackson family, Michael's children, Jennifer Hudson and Lionel Richie.
There was no more powerful image during the memorial than Michael Jackson's daughter singing the words to We Are the World -- until Paris Jackson addressed the crowd moments later.
"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine," Paris said as she broke down. "I just wanted to say I love him so much..." Paris then fell into Janet's arms, breaking the hearts of Michael Jackson fans yet again.
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