Jackson memorial silence
Bemused fans spent several minutes sitting in silence at Michael Jackson's memorial service after Smokey Robinson opened the ceremony
Bemused fans spent several minutes sitting in silence at Michael Jackson's memorial service.
The tribute appeared to have begun - shortly after the scheduled 10am start time - when music legend Smokey Robinson appeared on stage to address the thousands gathered at Los Angeles' Staples Center, where he read out tributes and comments from friends of the late singer, who died of a suspected cardiac arrest on June 25.
Among the tributes read out were letters from Nelson Mandela and Diana Ross, neither of whom were able to attend the service.
The former South African president's tribute read: "Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry. And we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide.
"We had great admiration for his talent and that he was able to triumph over tragedy on so many occasions in his life. My wife and I, our family, our friends, send you our condolences during this time of mourning. Be strong, Nelson Mandela."
Diana Ross - who was named as guardian of the singer's three children if his mother Katherine had passed away before his own death - pledged to look after his family in her message.
Smokey read out: "This feels right for me. Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life.
"Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me. I hope today brings closure for all those who loved him."
Following Smokey's tribute, there was a lengthy gap in proceedings, before a gospel choir took to the stage and sang 'Soon and Very Soon' - featuring the refrain "We are going to see the king" - as the singer's coffin was wheeled into the front and centre of the stage.
Another brief silence ensued, before mourners began to cheer and shout for the late singer before family friend Pastor Lucious Smith - who was expected to close the tribute - officially opened the service.
An emotional Mariah Carey then gave the first musical performance, a duet of 'I'll Be There' with Troy Lorenz.