Welcome to the Michael Jackson memorial service live blog. Don’t forget you can watch the full event on a live stream here and you can follow on Twitter here. We’re expecting a memorable afternoon featuring Mariah Carey, Usher, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder and a host of other guests and surprises in celebration of Jackson’s life and career.
All times are Eastern.
11:32 – The family is currently unloading at the private ceremony at Forest Lawn Cemetery, while fans are filing into the Staples Center. Several outlets are reporting that Jackson’s body will be transported via helicopter from the cemetery to the public memorial.
11:47 – Though the crowds continue to grow outside the Staples Center, everything appears to be running smoothly and orderly.
12:01 – Sway is live outside the Staples Center. The crowd looks big but controlled. Jackson has surpassed President Obama in Facebook fans — over 7 million! The other amazing number: Over a billion people worldwide will probably watch this memorial today.
12:05 – Former MTV VJ Mark Goodman, who premiered the the “Thriller” video on MTV: “It was so immense for us, and he was the quintessential star.”
12:11 – The Jackson family has wrapped up their service at Forest Lawn and is headed towards the Staples Center.
12:12 – President Obama on Michael Jackson: “I still have all his stuff on my iPod.”
12:19 – Jackson’s casket is also currently on its way to the public memorial.
12:21 – MTV News’ Katie Byrne is inside the Staples Center. She says that though the mood outside the building is festive, the tone inside is more somber.
12:24 – Currently playing inside Staples Center: “Smile While Your Heart Is Breaking”
12:27 – Members of Earth, Wind & Fire have arrived at the venue. Reports are saying that most of the stars are getting into the building through a private entrance.
12:34 – The Jackson family actually has the entire highway to themselves — amazing considering it’s rush hour in Southern California.
12:37 – Mark Goodman and Tim Kash agree that Jackson’s funeral is probably the last one of this size we’ll ever see.
12:41 – Though the ceremony will be starting a little late, the Staples Center is still nowhere close to full. The giant screens inside the arena are now broadcasting the crowds outside.
12:43 – Another statistic: LAPD officials estimate that this is the largest event the police have handled since the Olympics were in Los Angeles in 1984.
12:49 – From the MTV News Twitter feed: “Example of what some of the fans are wearing: vintage Thriller jackets. Tons of gloves on hands. And a lot of fedoras.”
12:51 – The Jackson family has just arrived at the Staples Center, so it looks like the memorial is going to start on time.
12:59 – The body of Michael Jackson has arrived at the Staples Center.
1:01 – MTV News’ Jayson Rodriguez says Kobe Bryant got a standing ovation when he entered, and that they just announced that the memorial would begin shortly.
1:04 – Sway estimates there must be over 100 media outlets from around the world covering the memorial — more than he’s ever seen at an event.
1:11 – The crowd outside is starting to disperse as the last of the stragglers move into the Staples Center.
1:12 – Smokey Robinson begins the memorial by reading letters to the Jackson family. Diana Ross regrets that she could not attend today.
1:13 – Via a letter, Nelson Mandela sends his condolences and urges the family to “be strong.”
1:17 – Fans have also gathered by the thousands in Times Square in New York to watch the memorial service.
1:20 – There is currently a prolonged pause in the action at the Staples Center, and it’s mostly quiet in there — an incredible show of respect.
1:24 – John Norris tells Tim Kash that he was once in a Conga line with Jackson while on the set of the video for “In the Closet.”
1:33 – The event officially opens with the Andrae Crouch Choir singing the hymn “We Are Going to See the King” as Jackson’s casket is brought out onto the stage.
1:37 – Pastor Lucious Smith welcomes the crowd, noting that only days ago Jackson was in the same space rehearsing for a tour. He references a number of Jackson song titles, including “Remember the Time,” “Gone Too Soon” and “Heal the World.”
1:40 – Mariah Carey enters to sing the Jackson 5 classic “I’ll Be There,” which was a chart-topping hit for her. She also welcomes singer Trey Lorenz, who was her duet partner on “MTV Unplugged” in 1992.
1:43 – “I’ll Be There” is accompanied by images of the Jackson 5 and of Michael in his youth. Carey ends the song by improvising with Lorenz a capella, singing “We’ll never say goodbye.”
1:45 – Queen Latifah comes to the podium to talk about loving Michael from afar. She calls Jackson “the biggest star on Earth,” and says he reminded her that there was a world outside America.
1:48 – Latifah reads a poem called “We Had Him,” written for this occasion by Maya Angelou. It contains an apt line: “He was ours and we were his.”
1:50 – Lionel Richie takes the stage, accompanied by a fantastic photo of him and Jackson from the “We Are the World” sessions (Richie co-wrote the song). He sings the Commodores’ classic “Jesus Is Love,” aided by the choir.
1:54 – Berry Gordy talks about Jackson as an innovator. He says that Jackson was like a son to him and that “he raised the bar, then broke the bar.”
1:55 – Gordy talks about the day the Jackson 5 auditioned for him at Motown Records, and said that Michael “had a quality we couldn’t completely understand, but we knew he was special.”
1:58 – Gordy: “When Michael sang his songs, you could feel the happiness in his soul.” He mentions the Jackson 5 being the only group in history to have their first four records go to the top of the charts. He then talks about the legendary Moonwalk at the Motown anniversary show: “It was magic. Michael Jackson went into orbit and never came down.”
2:02 – Gordy: “Michael was a master — a take-no-prisoners showman. I feel that the ‘King of Pop’ is not big enough for him — I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that has ever lived.” That moving speech nets Gordy a raucous standing ovation.
2:04 – Next up is a video montage, featuring performance footage, music video clips, awards show appearances and all his classic dance moves. Footage from appearances worldwide really drives home the fact that Jackson was not just a singer but a beloved global phenomenon.
2:07 – Stevie Wonder takes the stage and sits at the piano. “As much as we may feel that we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more,” he says. “We can’t help but love you forever, Michael.” He then performs a fabulously moving rendition of “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.”
2:12 – Stevie seamlessly transitions into “They Won’t Go When I Go.” He’s genuinely moved by everything, and he absolutely tore the house down.
2:15 – Kobe Bryan and Magic Johnson step to the microphone to talk about Jackson’s philanthropy. Bryant mentions Jackson’s Guiness World Record for most charities supported by a single person.
2:17 – Johnson, who appears in the video for Michael’s “Remember the Time,” talks about hanging out with the family while playing with the Lakers. “I truly believe Michael made me a better basketball player as I watched him become the greatest entertainer ever,” Johnson says. He tells a hilarious story about having dinner at Michael’s house to discuss the “Remember the Time” video and eating a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the floor of the dining room.
2:21 – Jennifer Hudson takes the stage to sing “Say You’ll Be There.”
2:25 – Al Shapton talks about meeting Jackson at a young age and being inspired by his barrier-breaking career.
2:28 – Sharpton credits Michael with the rise of Oprah, Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, because he broke down racial barriers and made people feel comfortable with people of color. “As you climb up steep mountains, sometimes you scar your knee. But don’t focus on the scars — focus on the journey. Michael never stopped!”
2:31 – Sharpton tells Michael’s children that there wasn’t anything strange about their dad, but what he had to deal with was strange.
2:32 – Sharpton stirs the crowd with a simple message: “Thank you, Michael!”
2:33 – The message on the video screen: “There’s nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voices as one.”
2:34 – John Mayer straps on a guitar to play a bluesy version of “Human Nature.” It’s a dreamy performance with a sweet solo, recalling Jackson’s collaborations with great axemen like Eddie Van Halen and Slash.
2:38 – Mayer closes by embracing Michael’s brothers, all of whom are sitting in the front row.
2:39 – Brooke Shields, a longtime friend of Jackson’s, talks about living in the spotlight with Michael. Shields was 13 years old when they met, and she says they had a bond because they both understood what it was like to be famous when they were both so young.
2:41 – Shields says Jackson once tried to teach her the Moonwalk, which she could never nail down.
2:43 – Choking back tears, Shields talks about all the times she got to laugh with Jackson. “He was a lover of life. He cared so deeply for his family and his friends and his fans,” she says. She has always thought of him as main character from “The Little Prince,” so she reads a passage from the book.
2:46 – Shields says Michael’s favorite song was “Smile,” from the Charlie Chaplin movie “Modern Times.” “We need to look up, and we need to smile,” she says in closing.
2:48 – Jermaine Jackson, wearing a single sequined glove, takes the stage for an a capella rendition of “Smile,” which also appeared on Michael’s HIStory album.
2:51 – A very emotional Jermaine makes it through the song, saying “I love you Michael” at the conclusion.
2:53 – Martin Luther King III speaks about Michael’s greatness. Bernice King talks about Michael’s life in public, just like her parents. “He epitomized the words of our father, that an individual hasn’t started living until he rises above his own personal concerns to the broader concerns of humanity,” she says.
2:59 – Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee speaks on behalf of the United States Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus. She drives home Jackson’s innocence in legal matters, and talks about how Jackson called the world into public service with his music.
3:03 – The Congresswoman tells a story about Jackson visiting a veterans’ hospital to talk to soldiers who were injured during the Iraq War. “Michael fought for the tolerance of all people,” she says. “Michael fought the good fight.”
3:06 – Lee says that Congress stopped and had a moment of silence for Jackson when he passed away. She also adds that she is introducing a resolution in the House of Representatives that acknowledges Michael as a legend and a humanitarian. “Michael Jackson, I salute you,” she says.
3:08 – It’s Usher’s turn now, and he sings the Michael ballad “Gone Too Soon.”
3:10 – Usher walks towards the casket during the lyric “Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight/ Here one day, gone one night.” Like many of today’s performers, he delivers his final line through tears.
3:12 – They’re playing footage from a Jackson 5 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1969.
3:14 – Smokey Robinson is up now, talking about meeting Michael when he was 10 years old, and how incredibly impressed he was with his talent and his ability to express himself. Robinson says he was amazed that Michael sang “Who’s Loving You” (written by Robinson) better than him.
3:17 – Robinson: “He has made an enormous impact all over the world. I’m glad that I live in this era, that I was able to see the greatest entertainer of all time.”
3:19 – Next up is Shaheen Jafargholi, a singer who made a name for himself on “Britain’s Got Talent.” The 12-year-old sings “Who’s Loving You” and is amazingly accomplished for his age.
3:21 – Jafargholi closes by thanking Michael Jackson “for blessing me and everybody on this Earth with his incredible music.”
3:22 – “This Is It” tour director Kenny Ortega (he also of the “High School Musical” films) comes out to introduce Jafargholi (he was going to join Michael on stage in London) and to talk about the rehearsals for the concerts.
3:24 – Ortega introduces a piece that would have appeared in the “This Is It” shows in London. It’s a performance of “We Are the World,” featuring a group of singers who would have backed up Jackson during the tour.
3:27 – For the finale of the song, the singers are joined by Jackson’s children, Smokey Robinson, Usher, Brooke Shields and a host of others to sing the chorus.
3:29 – Following another standing ovation, everyone stays on stage for a performance of “Heal the World.”
3:33 – They’re joined by a large chorus of kids, recalling Jackson’s iconic Super Bowl performance in 1993.
3:34 – Jermaine returns to the microphone to thank everybody for coming out. He’s followed by Marlon, who tells a handful of stories about growing up with Michael (including watching “The Three Stooges” with him). “I have one request, Michael: I would like for you to give our brother Brandon a hug for me.”
3:40 – Jackson’s daughter Paris takes the microphone and talks about what a great father Michael was, saying “I love him so much” before breaking down in tears. Jermaine says “Thank you and good night” to send everybody home from a moving, emotional ceremony.
3:42 – As the family carries Michael’s casket off the stage, “Man in the Mirror” plays over the PA and a single empty spotlight shines down on a microphone, leaving a final poetic reminder that a great artist is no longer with us.
3:44 – Pastor Smith returns one last time, encouraging everybody to follow the message of “Man in the Mirror” to go out and inspire change. “The music of Michael Jackson brings us together around the world,” he says. He closes the memorial with a prayer, asking everybody to hold the hand of the person next to them.