Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 20:01 pm (KSA) 17:01 pm (GMT)

World bids farewell to icon Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's coffin at the front of the stage at the Staples Center
Michael Jackson's coffin at the front of the stage at the Staples Center

The world bid farewell to Music legend Michael Jackson on Tuesday with tears, laughter and performances at his public memorial service, which was dedicated to celebrating the life of the world's only King of Pop.

Thousands gathered outside the Los Angeles Staples Center and an estimated billion people tuned in on television and online as the memorial kicked off with messages of condolences from South Africa's anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, and singer Diana Ross, who, along with Jackson's close friend ElizabethTaylor, were absent from the star-studded event .

Mariah Carey performs her cover of the Jackson Five song I'll be There

"Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry. And we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide," said Mandela's message, read out by singer Smokey Robinson as millions tuned in around the world to watch the tribute.

Music superstar Mariah Carey opened the night of performances with her cover of the Jackson Five's song "I'll Be There," which she sang standing in front of Jackson's gold-plated casket – placed at the front of the stage.

Top singers Usher, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson and John Mayor also performed in between speeches from the likes of actress Queen Latifa, who read out a poem by famous author Maya Angelou, followed by a speech by a tearful Brooke Shields.

Basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King III were also in attendance.

The Jackson brothers carry Michaels casket into the public memorial service

One of the biggest ovations came after remarks made by Reverand Al Sharpton, a close friend of the Jackson family, who credited Jackson with uniting different racial groups and making it possible for Barack Obama to become the first black American President.

"It was Michael Jackson that brought blacks and whites and Asians and Latinos together," he said as the crowd cheered.

To Jackson's three children, who were seated in the front row beside the Jackson family, Sharpton said: "I want his children to know, there wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

Nearly two weeks after the King of Pop’s death, cities across America grinded to a standstill as Jackson's memorial was aired in national theaters and on big screens across the country and the world.

Outside the Staples Center an additional 1,400 police officers were on duty to provide security, while several city blocks surrounding the venue were sealed sealed off for hours beforehand.

Private funeral

Fans had to have a ticket and a wristband to get into the Staples Center

Before the public memorial, close friends and family attended a private funeral service at 8:00 a.m. (1600 GMT) at the picturesque Forrest Lawn Cemetery where the superstar will be buried, joining a string of Hollywood stars whose final resting place was also in the hills above Los Angeles.

Whether Jackson, who was raised as Jehovah's Witness but reportedly followed in his brother Jermaine’s footsteps and converted to Islam after visiting Bahrain, would be buried according to Muslim tradition remained unclear.

The memorial will be nondenominational following familial wrangling over which religion should guide the public service, according to the New York Daily News.

Fans across the world

Jackson fans gather in London to watch his memorial

Meanwhile, fans gathered to sing Jackson's greatest hits and watch his music videos ahead of the event in cities across the globe.

In Tokyo, hundreds of fans flocked to Tower Records in the fashionable Shibuya shopping district for a series of free viewings of Jackson's videos.

In Australia, fans in Melbourne were expected to brave both the pre-dawn darkness and icy temperatures to watch the memorial on a giant television screen set up in the city's central plaza, Federation Square.

U.S. President Barack Obama meanwhile told CNN in an interview from Russia said Jackson was "one of the greatest entertainers of our generation."

 His extraordinary talent and his music was matched with a big dose of tragedy, and difficulty in his private life 
President Obama

"I think like Elvis, like (Frank) Sinatra, like the Beatles, he became a core part of our culture," Obama said, acknowledging the "tragedy" that was a part of the singer's life.

"His extraordinary talent and his music was matched with a big dose of tragedy, and difficulty in his private life," Obama said. "I don't think we can ignore that, but it's important for us to affirm what was best in him."

Jackson died aged 50 after he had sold more than 750 million albums during a four-decade career that was ultimately overshadowed by repeated allegations of child abuse, his startling physical transformation and eccentric behavior.

Local and federal law enforcement agencies continue to probe the circumstances of his June 25 death.

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