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Michael Jackson appears at James Brown's funeral

The singer pays a special tribute to the Godfather Of Soul

Michael Jackson made a rare public appearance at James Brown's funeral today (December 30).

The singer paid a special tribute to the Godfather Of Soul as civil rights leaders, fans and a host of stars turned out to pay their respects in front of 8,500 mourners at the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.

Speaking onstage Jackson described the legendary showman as his "greatest inspiration" and he told the crowd how his mother would wake him up to watch Brown on TV.

“Ever since I was a small child - no more than six-years-old - my mother would wake me no matter what time it was to watch the television to see the master at work," he said. "Every time I saw him move I was mesmerized. I’ve never seen a performer like JB and right then and there, I knew that was exactly what wanted I to do with my life. James Brown, I shall miss you and I love you so much. Thank you for everything.”

Jackson, who was greeted with huge cheers when he arrived at the funeral, spoke as Brown lay in an open top gold coffin in his third outfit - a black suit and gloves, red shirt and sequined shoes - in three days.

Earlier, the singer was invited to take to the stage for a version of 'Sex Machine' but he decided to stay seated. Sat at the front of the stage Jackson also leaned forward to kiss Brown's forehead before he returned to his seat.

As the service began shortly after 1pm (6pm GMT), friends and relatives filed past Brown's funeral before a video of his recent performances in London were projected in front of the crowd.

This was followed by a performance from ex-Temptations member Ollie Woodson before Brown's current partner Tomi Rae Hynie sang an emotional 'Hold On I'm Coming'.

Later civil rights leader and close friend, Reverend Al Sharpton made a special tribute to the Godfather Of Soul explaining that Brown “was the star for the common people. He looked like us and he performed for us.”

He then sent out a message to St Peter asking him to “open up the gates of heaven wide because James Brown likes a lot of room to swagger”.

Long-time friend and manager Charles Bobbit recalled the Godfather of Soul's final hours in hospital describing how he heard him whisper that he was “going away tonight” before sighing three times and dying quietly.

Also at the ceremony, which saw thousands of fans queuing outside the stadium from 9pm on Friday (December 29), were civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who along with Sharpton, read out the last rites during the ceremony. MC Hammer and comedian Dick Gregory were also in attendance.

Many fans had gathered on the streets to listen to the service over a public address system.

The ceremony marked the singer's final day of mourning after Brown died unexpectadly of heart failure caused by severe pneumonia on Christmas Day (December 25).

Yesterday a private memorial was held at the Carpentersville Baptist Church in the legendary showman's hometown after fans had paid their respects at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in New York, the night before.

Brown, who was known as the hardest working man in show business, had been due to play in New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Read more on James Brown's life now.

Access NME.COM James Brown Blog now.

And have your say on Brown by posting your tributes and memories below.

--By our New York staff.
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