Michael Jackson Memorial: The Words Of A Daughter
"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him...so much." Those were the tearful words of Michael Jackson's 11 year old daughter, Paris at her father's memorial service today.
When I first saw Paris Jackson about to take the microphone at the very end of the two hour service, my head said, "No, no, don't put that little girl up there!"
But ultimately I was wrong. Ultimately it was the right thing to do to let her speak. She was surrounded by her family and this little girl, whose face we've seen for the first time only since Michael's death, wanted to tell the world what her father meant to her. In those two tearful sentences, she turned Michael "the freak" into Michael "the human being."
He wasn't just a celebrity, he was someone's brother, son, uncle and most importantly to Paris Jackson and her siblings, someone's father.
It was a daughter's grief for a father who was gone too soon, as Usher had sung earlier in the ceremony.
His gold plated coffin was carried into the Los Angeles Staples Center to the voices of a gospel choir singing "We are going to see the King." His brothers who performed with him for all those years on stage as part of the Jackson 5 were pallbearers.
They wore matching yellow ties, red roses in their lapels and then later in the ceremony, single, matching sequined gloves.
For all the anticipation of a spectacle and a circus-like atmosphere since his death nearly two weeks ago, this memorial service was really quite dignified, well orchestrated and the right balance of public spectacle and private grief. It's what his family wanted and his fans needed.
There were words from Michael, via his songs. One nicely edited
montage of Jackson performance highlights was accompanied by Michael singing "You Are Not Alone."
Mariah Carey sang the Jackson 5 standard, "I'll Be There," and though her passion was stronger than her voice, that was okay. She was joined by Trey Lorenz. Lionel Richie belted out "Jesus Is Love," while Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson came out in all her pregnant glory and sang "Will You Be There."
Stevie Wonder, before performing said, "This is a moment that I wished that I didn't live to see come." He then performed the soulfully sad, "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer." John Mayer performed an instrumental version of "Human Nature" on the guitar.
After a clip of a ten year old Michael singing "Who's Loving You," with all the emotion of an adult, Smoky Robinson joked, "I wrote that song. I thought I sang it." He then referred to Michael as his little brother.
Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, the Jackson 5's first record label spoke about how Michael was like a son to him:
He was the consummate student. He studied the greats and became greater. He raised the bar and then broke the bar.
Gordy then set up a roar in the auditorium when he proclaimed Michael the "greatest entertainer that ever lived."
Rev Al Sharpton and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas defended Jackson and extolled his charitable works.
Sharpton roused the crowd with these words:
He out sang his cynics, he out out danced his doubters, he out performed the pessimists. Michael never stopped, Michael never stopped, Michael never stopped.
Then Sharpton was interrupted by a standing ovation when he said to Michael's children:
Wasn't nothin' strange about your Daddy. It was strange what your Daddy had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway.
Today was also a day for all kinds of Michael Jackson stories in the blogosphere. Writer Alice Walker's daughter, Rebecca Walker writes about meeting Michael Jackson in a beautiful post for The Root, "The Untouchable Michael Jackson":
I remember his body language. He moved slowly, like a very cool cat, hesitant, but smooth. And then, in the softest of voices, he asked how I was able to do the impromptu bit of comical business. He could never do something like that on the spot, he said. He'd be too nervous. I remember laughing and chiding him. You'd be great, Michael! I said. He shook his head and out crept a smile so open and vulnerable that I wanted to hug him, and probably would have, if he weren't Michael Jackson.
But he was, and I had no way to reach across the boundary of celebrity that put us on opposite sides of an invisible fence. Michael was, as he described himself in a song years later, untouchable. I believe that is what killed him. A human being can only live so long without the touch of another and can only breathe manufactured air for so many minutes.
La Tara at Mom Unplugged asks people to "Look Beyond The Person To The Soul:
In looking at Michael's life and from what was said today and in the past, I guess I see a lot of myself. I have always been a strange child and wondered why I was different.
My supposed defects were taken and raked through the coal over and over again. It was as if I were the elephant woman and so when I looked in the mirror I saw a girl who was not very pretty. Imagine how Michael felt when he was teased. I can imagine it...can you?
I've watched it on and off but honestly it is one of the most difficult moments in history I have lived to witness.
Kudos to his family, loved ones, and business associates for making this event a celebration of life rather than a somber ceremony.
Professor Lolita Buckner at Ain't I A Feminist Legal Scholar Too, asks in her great post "Is It Michael You Mourn For, Or The Man In The Mirror?:"
My mother once worked in an upscale department store where she waited on Diana Ross. We actually knew people who had met Michael Jackson. Michael sightings and interactions became the highest-valued social currency of our childhood.
He was like a cousin that you used to hang out with but then there came a day that you really didn't hang anymore but you still loved and admired him because he was great. And he was...yours.
So, if it seems strange to people that I am mourning Michael Jackson the International Pop Star, so be it. That's only a small part of who he was.
My fellow CE Catherine Morgan who happened to be doing an interview with singer LeAnn Rimes* today asked her what she thought of the memorial service:
The coverage it's quite amazing, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. It's a very sad loss, I think I'll always remember where I was when I heard he died. He was a musical genius and you never know what he could have done past 50. It's a sad day.
The coverage of the memorial service was on every broadcast network and all the cable news channels. I watched it on CNN and monitored Twitter, whose top 5 trending topics for hours were all related to Michael Jackson. It was live streamed on CNN.com among others, though I thought the Facebook updates window as part of the CNN video player were a great touch.
CNN had cameras in Harlem, Gary Indiana where Michael was born, Atlanta, Times Square and the Neverland Ranch. And mercifully commentators didn't talk through the ceremony.
The most heartbreaking moments of the service were left to family members and close friends, Jermaine Jackson singing what he said was Michael's favorite song, "Smile," and barely able to make it through without sobbing. Brooke Shields, a woman who knows a little something about being in the spotlight at a young age, reminisced:
I used to tease him and I'd say, you know I started when I was eleven months old. You're a slacker, you were what, five? Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together we were two little kids having fun.
Usher sang "Gone Too Soon" and tearfully delivered the final lyrics with his hand on Michael's coffin. Queen Latifah was there to read a poem by Maya Angelou, "We Had Him:"
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us, and we did have him. He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance. Despite the anguish of life, he was sheathed in mother love, and family love, and survived, and did more than that, he thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him. Whether we knew who he was or did not know. He was ours and we were his.
But ultimately, no words were more powerful than those of Paris Jackson, a daughter mourning her Dad.
*You can read Catherine's entire interview with LeAnn Rimes this Friday. LeAnn will be talking about her struggles with Psoriasis.
Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Online Video. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute, Quirky Commentary Around The Clock.