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Fans, Family Bid Goodbye To Michael Jackson


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In downtown Los Angeles today there was a star-studded and emotional farewell for Michael Jackson. Twenty thousand ticketed fans, plus Jackson's friends and family, attended the memorial service at the Staples Center. Thousands more jammed the streets hoping for a glimpse of the funeral motorcade.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has our story.

Unidentified Man: Tickets and wristbands go ahead.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: The crowds began gathering early this morning for the public tribute to Michael Jackson's life. William Boyce(ph) traveled from San Francisco to sit in the third row.

Mr. WILLIAM BOYCE: This is the center of the world right now. This is where all the energy is right now, all the world's media, all the eyes of the world are right in this spot. We're in the center of it all.

DEL BARCO: And like so many fans, Cheryl Bryant(ph) said she grew up with her idol.

Ms. CHERYL BRYANT: Michael Jackson will never die. If nothing else, his music will, you know, always be around.

DEL BARCO: Inside Staples Center, images of Michael Jackson through the years were projected above the stage and below, the King of Pop had a front row seat from his gold-plated casket. Then, on the very stage Michael Jackson had rehearsed his comeback concert, days before dying, his music began.

(Soundbite of song, "I'll Be There")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer): (Singing) See, if you should ever find someone new. I know he'd better be good to you. 'Cause if he doesn't, I'll be there.

JACKSON 5 (Group): (Singing) I'll be there.

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) Don't you know, baby, yeah, yeah.

DEL BARCO: Mariah Carey gave one of many tear filled performances. Singer Smokey Robinson read letters of condolences from Diana Ross and this one from Nelson Mandela.

Mr. SMOKEY ROBINSON (Singer): We had great admiration for his talent and that he was able to triumph over tragedy on so many occasions in his life.

DEL BARCO: Some of the biggest names in entertainment praised Michael Jackson's life, starting as a child prodigy who could out-sing Smokey Robinson.

(Soundbite of song, "Who's Lovin' You")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) When I had you, I treated you bad and wrong my dear.

DEL BARCO: They all remembered the innovative dancer who introduced the world to his incredible moonwalk. Motown founder Berry Gordy recalled meeting Jackson and his brothers when they were kids. And he said the words on the minds of many here.

Mr. BERRY GORDY (Founder, Motown): I feel the King of Pop is not big enough for him. I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

DEL BARCO: Basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson thanked Michael Jackson for donating so much to charities around the world. And the Reverend Al Sharpton thanked Jackson for breaking down so many color barriers. Referring to Jackson's later controversies, Sharpton had these words for Jackson's three children.

Reverend Al SHARPTON: Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with.

(Soundbite of cheering)

DEL BARCO: The emotional high point came when Michael Jackson's young daughter Paris Michael Katherine took to the stage to say her own personal goodbye.


Ms. JANET JACKSON (Singer): Speak up, speak up.

Ms. JACKSON: Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine.

(Soundbite of crying)

Ms. JACKSON: And I just want to say I love him so much.

(Soundbite of crying)

DEL BARCO: And there was also the song many said expressed what was in Michael Jackson's heart, when family, friends and fans around the world joined hands to say goodbye.

(Soundbite of the song, "We Are the World")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "We Are the World")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives, it's true we'll make a better day just you and me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and