Michael Jackson memorial moments

The Late Michael Jackson
The Late Michael Jackson

All eyes were on L.A. as fans, famous friends and family gathered to honor Michael. USA TODAY reflects on memorable moments.

Hear the sadness in her voice

Mariah Carey set the stage for a succession of reverent musical tributes with a dramatic but un-divalike performance. Re-creating her hit cover of the Jackson 5 classic I’ll Be There with Trey Lorenz, Carey seemed tentative at first, her trademark hand gestures betraying emotional intensity more than technical affectation. As her voice gained power and confidence, its slight hoarseness made the lyrics seem more plaintive. “We never will say goodbye,” Carey sang at the end. She added, speaking softly, “We miss you.”

It was sadly incongruous to see Motown founder Berry Gordy eulogize the child prodigy he championed decades ago in a moving, if sometimes hyperbolic, personal tribute. Jackson “was like a son to me,” Gordy said, recalling “this little kid” who “had a quality I couldn’t completely understand, but we all knew he was special.” While acknowledging the star’s troubles, Gordy stressed that Jackson “accomplished everything he dreamed of. At 10 years old, he had passion — passion to be the greatest entertainer in the world.” The title King of Pop wasn’t sufficient, Gordy said, declaring him “simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived.”

A spiritual moment

“This is a moment I wished I didn’t live to see,” said a visibly shaken Stevie Wonder, whose impassioned performance of his ballad Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer reinforced both Jackson’s place in the pantheon of R&B legends and the spiritual connection he forged with many admirers. “As much as we may feel we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more,” Wonder said.

Inspiration, not hesitation

Belting out Will You Be There in a white maternity dress, Jennifer Hudson provided the service’s most life-affirming vision and voice. While some other performances took on fragile or mournful tones, Hudson — who lost several of her own family members under tragic circumstances last fall — was a model of forthright virtuosity, emphasizing the song’s inspirational flavor.

In his defense …

Those expecting the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of Jackson’s most high-profile supporters, to be a voice of defense and defiance were not disappointed. “He outsang his cynics,” Sharpton said. “He outdanced his doubters. I want to say to his three children, there wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway. … Some came here today to say goodbye. I came here to say thank you.”

Childhood memories

In a revealing speech marked by humor and pathos, Brooke Shields described the close bond she shared with Jackson, whom Shields met when she was 13. “Maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very young age,” she said. “Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun.” Shields jokingly recalled her buddy’s unsuccessful attempt to teach her to moonwalk, and his sequined glove: “I told him, (if) you’re going to hold my hand, it better be the non-gloved one, because sequins really hurt.” She fought back tears as she remembered Jackson as “caring, funny, honest, pure, non-jaded and a lover of life.”

Source: USA Today

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