A gold-plated casket bearing Michael Jackson took center stage on Tuesday as hundreds of millions worldwide bade farewell to the King of Pop in the final curtain call of his glittering career.
Tears and tributes flowed as mourners gathered at Los Angeles's Staples Center for a star-studded but somber celebration of the music superstar's turbulent life and times.
Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris tearfully addressed mourners in the heart-breaking last act of a two-hour service.
"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," she said before dissolving into tears and being hugged by Jackson's sister, Janet.
Jackson's poignant journey began with a private service shortly after 8:15 am (1515 GMT) as family and friends gathered at the picturesque Forest Lawn mortuary high in the Hollywood Hills.
As the ceremony ended, pallbearers carrying Jackson's golden casket swathed with red flowers emerged and loaded it into a black hearse, under the watchful eye of mourners and around 20 media helicopters hovering overhead.
A motorcade of luxury vehicles then made a stately procession to the 20,000-capacity Staples Center, where family, friends and celebrities rubbed shoulders with ordinary fans who had won tickets via an online lottery.
Jackson's casket was placed at the front of the stage as the service began with Smokey Robinson reading letters of condolence from those unable to attend, including a tribute from former South African president Nelson Mandela.
"Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry. And we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide," Mandela's tribute read.Motown diva Diana Ross meanwhile -- named by Jackson in his will as an alternative guardian to his children -- said she had chosen to mourn privately.
"Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life," Ross's tribute said. "Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me."
Veteran poet and writer Maya Angelou paid tribute to Jackson in a moving elegy read by Queen Latifah. "Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon," Angelou wrote.
Tributes to Jackson from friends and associates were punctuated by performances from Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson as Jackson's family looked on approvingly. Jackson's brothers all wore matching suits and their sibling's signature solo sequined glove.
Jermaine Jackson later brought the house down with a rendition of Charlie Chaplin's classic ode to optimism, "Smile," a song covered by Michael Jackson on the 1995 "History" album.
One of the biggest ovations came after rousing comments remarks by reverend Al Sharpton who told Jackson's children to disregard the lurid stories that often swirled around their father.
"I want his three children to know -- there weren't nothing strange about your daddy," Sharpton said. "It was strange what your daddy had to deal with but he dealt with it."
The service drew to a close with a performance of Jackson's clarion call to end global suffering, "Heal the World," before members of the star's family offered individual tributes.
Streets surrounding the venue had been sealed off before dawn where thousands of police officers were deployed to guard against large crowds of ticketless fans.
A live feed of the service was made available free to television networks, while the event was being streamed via social networking websites Facebook and MySpace, officials said.
Fans gathered to sing Jackson's greatest hits and watch his videos ahead of the event in cities across the globe such as Tokyo and Hong Kong.
US President Barack Obama meanwhile told CNN in an interview from Russia said Jackson was "one of the greatest entertainers of our generation."
"I think like Elvis, like (Frank) Sinatra, like the Beatles, he became a core part of our culture," Obama said, acknowledging the "tragedy" that was a part of the singer's life.
Jackson sold more than 750 million albums during a four-decade career that was ultimately overshadowed by repeated allegations of child abuse, his startling physical transformation and eccentric behavior.
Local and federal law enforcement agencies continue to probe the circumstances of his death on June 25 at the age of 50.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office has said it will not issue a final cause of death for "several weeks" when the results of exhaustive toxicology tests are known.
Lawyers meanwhile are busy untangling the labyrinth of legal issues that have emerged in the aftermath of Jackson's death.
On Monday, a Los Angeles judge replaced Jackson's mother as temporary administrator of his estate with two of the pop icon's business associates, as instructed by a 2002 will.