LOS ANGELES, July 7 (UPI) -- Figures from the worlds of sports, entertainment, politics and activism honored Michael Jackson at a public memorial service in Los Angeles Tuesday.
Jackson died of cardiac arrest after a suspected prescription drug overdose June 25. He was 50.
Just days before his death, the pop star had rehearsed at the Staples Center for a planned London concert series.
Those who knew him and were touched by his music flocked to the Los Angeles arena Tuesday for an event billed as a final goodbye to the iconic performer as well as a celebration of his life and contributions to music history.
Although more than 1 million fans reportedly registered for a lottery distribution of tickets to the service, only several thousand devotees were granted admission to the event along with invited guests.
Singer Smokey Robinson opened the service by reading statements of condolence from recording artist Diana Ross and former South African President Nelson Mandela. The event then stalled for several minutes as Jackson's relatives took their seats in the arena and performers prepared to go on stage.
When the service resumed, Jackson's flower-covered, metallic casket was carried in front of the stage as a gospel hymn was sung and fans shouted: "Michael!" and "We love you!" Pallbearers wore dark suits, gold-hued ties, one sparkly glove apiece and sunglasses.
The Jackson family's friend, minister Lucious Smith, then addressed the crowd, after which Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz sang their emotional cover of The Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There" while photos of Jackson as a child flashed on a screen behind them.
Singer-actress Queen Latifah later recalled how Jackson had inspired her and her brother when they were kids. She then read a poem literary giant Maya Angelou had penned for the occasion.
Other luminaries who offered words of kindness about or fond memories of Jackson included Robinson, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King III, Bernice King, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Brooke Shields, Kenny Ortega and renowned Motown producer Berry Gordy, who declared the late singer the "greatest entertainer that ever lived." Jackson's 11-year-old daughter, Paris, as well as several of his siblings, including Jermaine and Marlon, also spoke at the service.
Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and John Mayer each performed a song and Jermaine Jackson performed "Smile," which was reputed to be his late brother's favorite tune.
Artists who had been set to perform with Michael Jackson during his scheduled comeback residency in London also performed a stirring rendition of the ensemble number "We are the World," a popular song Jackson collaborated on with Wonder, Richie and dozens of other musicians more than two decades ago to raise money for famine relief in Africa. Jackson's family and the other artists who performed at the memorial also joined in, then helped sing the event's finale "Heal the World."
A private wake was reportedly held for the recording artist Monday night and a funeral took place early Tuesday at California's Forest Lawn Cemetery before his body was transported to the public memorial, which began shortly after 10 a.m. PDT.
NBC estimated about 250,000 people without tickets to the public memorial gathered outside the Staples Center to pay tribute to their fallen hero.
The network also said between 750 million and 1 billion people worldwide were expected to watch the service on television.