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A public memorial service for Michael Jackson was held on Tuesday, July 7, 2009, at the Staples Centermarker in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, 12 days after his death on June 25. It was preceded by a private family service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Hall of Liberty in Hollywood Hillsmarker, and followed by a gathering in Beverly Hillsmarker for Jackson's family and close friends.

Jackson's closed, solid-bronze casket, plated with 14-karat gold and lined with blue velvet, which was not originally expected to be at the memorial service, arrived just before 10:00 a.m. local time, when it was placed in front of the stage. The memorial began a few minutes after 10:30 a.m. with music and a eulogy from Pastor Lucious Smith. The stage was filled with floral arrangements, with photographs and film of Jackson and the Jackson 5 projected onto screens at the back. Music and video montages traced his life from the beginning of his career to the end.

Jackson's brothers, sitting in the front row, each wore a single white sequined glove in tribute of their late brother. Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jermaine Jackson, and Shaheen Jafargholi sang Jackson's songs, and John Mayer played guitar. Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson gave eulogies, while Queen Latifah read "We Had Him", a poem written for the occasion by Maya Angelou.The Reverend Al Sharpton received a standing ovation when he told Jackson's children, "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

Toward the end, the family gathered on stage to offer the final eulogies. Jackson's 11-year-old daughter, Paris Katherine, tearfully told the crowd, "Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine ... I just wanted to say I love him so much." Additionally, an emotional Marlon Jackson said, "Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone."


The memorial service was organized by Jackson's concert promoter, AEG Live, who gave away 17,500 free tickets to fans worldwide through an online lottery that attracted over 1.2 million applicants in 24 hours, and over a half-billion hits to the webpage. An estimated 750,000up to a million fans were expected to congregate outside Staples Centerbut due to California's $530 million budget crisis, city and police officials urged fans to stay home.Street and highway exits around the Staples Center were sealed off, and 3,000 officers, the largest security effort planned since the 1984 Olympics, were on duty at a cost of $1.4 million to the city. The motorcade for Jackson's casket was headed by two police motorcycle outriders, and the LA freeways were closed for the journey of approximately from Forest Lawn to the Staples Center.

The service was broadcast live around the world. The U.S. viewership was extremely high taking into consideration that the service was unusually held on a workday (Tuesday) and a host of people reported watching the service during work.


The service began with Smokey Robinson reading messages of condolences from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. A gospel choir sang Andrae Crouch's "Soon and Very Soon" as Jackson's casket entered (culminating around the line "you will see the King"), followed by statements from Pastor Lucious Smith. Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz then sang "I'll Be There", a number one single for both The Jackson 5 and Carey and Lorenz. This was followed by a statement from Queen Latifah, who also read "We Had Him", a poem written by Maya Angelou for the occasion. Lionel Richie, Jackson's friend and his co-writer on "We Are the World", performed the song "Jesus Is Love" by The Commodores. In the eulogy of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, he stated, "I feel the King of Pop is not big enough for him. I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived." The statement was met with the longest standing ovation of the night.

A video montage of Michael Jackson's life followed, including Neverland Ranchmarker, his meeting with Ronald Reagan, "Billie Jean", "Bad", "Smooth Criminal", "Leave Me Alone", "Thriller", "Black or White", "Scream", "They Don't Care About Us", "You Are Not Alone", "We Are the World", scenes from his tours, scenes from his films The Wiz, Moonwalker, Ghosts, and his appearance at Super Bowl XXVII, and Motown 25. Stevie Wonder spoke, played a small portion of "I Can't Help It", a song from Off the Wall that Wonder co-wrote, then performed a version of his songs "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" and "They Won't Go When I Go". Next Kobe Bryant spoke about Jackson's humanitarian work, and Magic Johnson (who had appeared in the music video for "Remember the Time") recalled his memories of Jackson. Accompanied by a dancing chorus, Jennifer Hudson performed "Will You Be There" from Jackson's Dangerous. John Mayer played guitar on a mainly instrumental version of "Human Nature" from Jackson's Thriller. Brooke Shields then spoke about the personal time she spent with Jackson, read excerpts from The Little Prince, and said that his favorite song was Charlie Chaplin's "Smile", which was then performed by Jermaine Jackson.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s children, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, then stated that Michael Jackson was the best that he could be. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas, Houston), representing the United States House of Representatives, emphasized that in America, people are "innocent until proven guilty" (as the crowd cheered) then spoke about his "American story" plus his meetings with foreign diplomats, and that "Michael never stopped giving". She then went on to claim him as an American icon and world humanitarian (House Resolution 600), closing her speech with a military salute as she said, "Michael Jackson, I salute you." Usher walked to the casket and then sang Larry Grossman and Buzz Kohan's "Gone Too Soon", which Jackson recorded as a tribute for Ryan White after his death; Usher choked with grief near the end of the song, but managed to finish. Following Usher, a clip from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969 featuring the Jackson 5's rendition of The Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You" was shown. Following this, the song's composer, Smokey Robinson, spoke about and made joking remarks about the Jackson 5 covering his song, and continued with a speech. Shaheen Jafargholi from Britain's Got Talent then performed the song.

Jackson choreographer Kenny Ortega presented Jafargholi, honored Jackson, and introduced the final performance of the memorial, which Michael had been slated to perform during the This Is It tour. The concerts' chorus singers, Darrell Phinnessee, Ken Stacey, Dorian Holley, Judith Hill and guitarist Orianthi performed "We Are the World" and were joined on the stage by several of the guest speakers and performers as well as the Jackson family for the final chorus. With the entire group still on stage, Hill then led a performance of "Heal the World", with the remainder of the group joining in the chorus.

Jackson's family then addressed the crowd. Jermaine Jackson—who had earlier performed a tearful rendition of "Smile"—gave a brief speech, followed by a eulogy by Marlon Jackson, where he tributed his deceased twin brother Brandon, who died at birth, telling Michael to "give him a hug" for himself as a favor. Then Marlon began to hand the microphone over to Janet Jackson, but in a move that came as a surprise to the show's organizers, she said that Paris Jackson, Michael's daughter, had something to say. Surrounded by her aunts and uncles, Paris tearfully addressed the crowd before breaking down and being escorted off the stage by her family:

Marlon Jackson then thanked the crowd in attendance, and the family escorted the casket out of the arena while an instrumental version of "Man in the Mirror" was performed. A microphone placed center stage was lit by spotlight while the instrumental version of "Man in the Mirror" played out, symbolizing the 'absence' of Michael Jackson. Pastor Lucious Smith closed the service with a prayer at 12:48 p.m.

Guest list

The participants were Ron Boyd (family friend), Kobe Bryant, Mariah Carey, Andrae Crouch (choir), Berry Gordy, Queen Latifah, Judith Hill (recruited 'This Is It' performer), Jennifer Hudson, Shaheen Jafargholi (a child finalist on Britain's Got Talent, who sang a Jackson song), Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King III, Bernice A. King, John Mayer, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Brooke Shields, Pastor Lucious Smith (family friend), Usher, and Stevie Wonder.

In addition to the above persons, ABC News reported, Lionel Richie's daughter Nicole, who was Michael's goddaughter, and singers Akon and Sean Combs would attend the services.

Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and mother of two of his three children, hoping not to be a distraction, did not attend the funeral; nor did his first wife, Lisa Marie Presley. Elizabeth Taylor & Diana Ross, two of Jackson's closest friends, as well as Macaulay Culkin, Elisha Jackson Duphrey, Ivonne Duphrey (Michael Jackson's cousins) also did not attend.

Other attendees with tickets were CNN-anchor Larry King, Barbara Walters, Dionne Warwick, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Brown, Evan Ross (Diana Ross's son), Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Riley Keough (Lisa Marie Presley's daughter), Chris Tucker, and Gladys Knight. Actor Wesley Snipes (who starred in the Bad video with Jackson) was also in attendance.


Jackson was presented in a gold-plated solid bronze Promethean casket furnished by the Batesville Casket Company, which cost roughly $25,000. It is similar to the one in which James Brown was buried. The closed casket at the Staples Center was decorated with red roses and Bells of Ireland flower arrangement. The casket was escorted by Jackson's brothers, each wearing a single sequined white glove on the hand in which they held the casket. It is rumored that Jackson's body was not actually inside in the casket during the ceremony, and was still inside a Morgue for preservation.Jackson was originally to be buried on what would have been his 51st birthday, however the services were postponed and he was interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale on September 3, 2009.

Live broadcast

The service was broadcast live around the world, from the U.S. to Slovakia to parts of Asia, with an estimated one billion viewers. Public screenings were held in 37 cinemas across the U.S., as well as in Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Gothenburg, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Malmö, Oslo, Paris, Milan, Seville, Stockholm, and Tallinn. There was also a live broadcast at 3am in Melbourne, Australia at Federation Square.

According to Nielsen, 31.1 million Americans watched the service live on television; an amount comparable to the 35.1 million that watched the state funeral of President Ronald Reagan, and the 33.1 Americans who watched the public funeral for Princess Diana. Also in comparison to other big non-funeral related events, the inauguration of President Barack Obama garnered about 38 million viewers, and the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics garnered about 34.2 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

The memorial service was one of the most watched events in online streaming history. CNN's webcast drew at least 9.7 million streams; their feed on Ustream, 4.6 million streams; and MSNBC's feed via drew three million.

According to official news sources around the world, the event exceeded 2,500,000,000 viewers, making it the most watched live television broadcast of the history of humanity worldwide, surpassing the level of hearing in the television broadcast of the Apollo 11 space mission in July 1969, until then considered the live television broadcast with higher worldwide audience.


The city of Los Angeles, which is $530 million in debt, said the memorial had cost the city $1.4 million for 1,400 police officers, trash pick-up, sanitation, and traffic control. The city set up a webpage asking fans for donations to help with the expenses, though it kept crashing.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said it would be wrong to expect taxpayers to finance a private event. "The city attorney does not want something like this happening again, the city paying for a private event," spokesman John Franklin told CNN. "That's especially in a cash-strapped city, where people have been furloughed or even lost jobs."


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  3. Larry King Live. July 6, 2009.

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