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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. His fans have said a final goodbye to Michael Jackson, even as many issues following his death have yet to be sorted out, including how he died and where exactly he will be buried. The mood, though, yesterday at Staples Center in downtown L.A. was celebratory. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, thousands came from all over the world to remember Michael Jackson.

(Soundbite of music)

CARRIE KAHN: The crowd rose almost in unison as pallbearers dressed in black suits and each wearing a single sequined glove wheeled in Jackson's golden casket covered in a blanket of red roses.

(Soundbite of song, "Will You Be There")

KAHN: Emotional tributes followed by Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson, who put a gospel spin on Jackson's "Will You Be There."

(Soundbite of song, "Will You Be There")

Ms. JENNIFER HUDSON (Singer): (Singing) Hold me like the river of Jordan and I will then say to thee, you are my friend. Carry me…

KAHN: The two hour memorial was filled with teary remembrances of Michael Jackson the pop star, child prodigy, and misunderstood icon. Brooke Shields cried retelling the time she and Jackson snuck into Liz Taylor's wedding day bedroom. Motown legend Berry Gordy recalled recruiting the young singer and his brothers. And basketball legend Magic Johnson retold the time he went to Jackson's for lunch and watched Michael being served a bucket of fried chicken.

Mr. MAGIC JOHNSON (Former NBA player): And I went crazy, like, wait a minute. Michael, you eat Kentucky Fried Chicken?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: That made my day. That was the greatest moment of my life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAHN: Reverend Al Sharpton got the most thunderous applause when he praised Jackson and told the singer's three children that their father was wrongly criticized.

Reverend AL SHARPTON (Civil Rights Leader): Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAHN: But it was Jackson's daughter who stunned the audience. Long hidden from public view and often covered by masks, 11-year-old Paris burst out with a heartbreaking testament to her father.

Ms. PARIS JACKSON (Daughter): I just wanted to say - ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much.

(Soundbite of applause)

KAHN: Fans streamed out of the memorial, many still crying. Neco Appenny(ph) tried to compose herself outside Staples Center. She had come to L.A. from San Francisco and wore a black sash with the singer's name emblazoned on it.

Ms. NECO APPENNY: The whole thing was touching. I cried more at this than any of my own relative's (unintelligible) literally.

KAHN: Many in the crowd, like Michael Fields, said they were touched to share what felt like a family affair.

Mr. MICHAEL FIELDS: You're at a family funeral and you're not in the family, but it felt like family.

KAHN: He says he wasn't going to brave the crowds, even though he won a free ticket, but now is so glad he did. And the crowds weren't as bas as police had feared. Even after spending millions deploying police, the city may recover much of that from the money spent by the media and fans who descended on L.A.

Yet it may have been Michael Jackson who was the real winner. Fan Laura Sanderson Healy(ph) says the dignified tribute was the boost Michael Jackson's legacy needed.

Ms. LAURA SANDERSON HEALY (Fan): It really restored Michael in the eyes of the world, you know, where he needs to be.

KAHN: Healy was part of the crowd waiting outside Staples Center hoping to catch a last glimpse of the family leaving. People left the memorial somber but with the words of Michael Jackson's favorite song still in their head, as sung by his brother Jermaine.

(Soundbite of song, "Smile")

Mr. JERMAINE JACKSON (Singer): (Singing) Smile though your heart is aching. Smile even though it's breaking.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Smile")

Mr. JERMAINE JACKSON: When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by if you smile.

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