He had the funeral of a king, and to many of Michael Jackson’s fans that’s exactly what he was.

To some Americans, both black and white, Jackson was their hero – an electrifying entertainer who wrote, produced and danced like no one else.

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To others he was a gifted musician who exhibited bizarre and erratic behavior: a savvy businessman who could make money fast yet lose it just as quickly; a phobia of the press that didn’t stop him from public stunts for attention; a childlike character who surrounded himself with children yet insisted there was nothing sinister about inviting them to his bed.

Jackson grew up in a poor family in Gary, Ind., but with his brothers managed to hit it big in the ‘60s and ‘70s after winning “Amateur Night” at the Apollo Theater. 

It has been said he had “demons” all his life, going far back to those childhood years.

While it rained much of Tuesday in this part of the country, it was sunny in California, as it is most of the time in what the natives there call “The Southland.” 

The Staples Center in Los Angeles, once the scene of an unrestful gathering during the Rodney King riots, became a scene of peace as a gospel choir began to sing. Pastor Lucious Smith presented opening remarks.

Fans “twittered” and blogged, many from inside the auditorium, carried on CNN, Yahoo and other Web sites. One read, “Whenever Brooke Shields cries someone in my section shouts, ‘Michael you are going to heaven!’”

Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz sang a duet on “I’ll Be There,” followed by Queen Latifah reading a poem by Maya Angelou, “We Had Him.” It contained the line, “He slipped away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.”

Lionel Richie followed with “Jesus is Love,” and Berry Gordy, founder of the Motown label which produced many Jackson songs, said, “Michael Jackson went into orbit and never came down.”

Other tributes followed by Stevie Wonder and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Jennifer Hudson sang, “Will You Be There?”

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Jackson, “ … taught the world how to love. He never gave up dreaming, and it was that dream that changed culture all over the world. He put on a glove, pulled up his pants and broke color barriers.” 

Sharpton added, “I want his three children to know – there wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with.”

John Mayer performed a guitar-laden, instrumental version of “Human Nature.” Brooke Shields, his sometime companion for many years, called Jackson “one of a kind,” and humorously remembered the time he tried in vain to teach her his famous moonwalk. 

“He just shook his head,” she said. 

Brother Jermaine Jackson sang a version of “Smile,” Michael Jackson’s favorite song, written by Charlie Chaplin, who often played the childlike “Little Tramp” in films. 

Although Chaplin only wrote the music, it contains the lines, “Smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow; you’ll see the sun come shining through – for you.”

Following remarks by Martin Luther King III, a performance by Usher and a filmed clip of the Jackson 5 on Ed Sullivan’s show, singer and fellow Motown associate Smokey Robinson told the crowd, “He will never really be gone.” All the singers returned for a final tribute, “We Are The World,” before the Jackson family took the stage.

“I just wanted to say ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine,” said daughter Paris Jackson, 11. “And I just wanted to say I love him so much.”