Family members turn out for BET Jackson tribute

Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:25am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Top black performers paid high tribute to fallen pop star Michael Jackson at Sunday's BET Awards where his sister Janet Jackson and father Joe Jackson made their first public appearances since the singer's death.

The show's most moving moment came in a final tribute when Janet, a pop star in her own right, took the stage to thank the audience for turning out to honor her dead brother.

"To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family, and he will forever live in all of our hearts," said Jackson, her voice choking as she held back tears. "On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love. Thank you for all of your support, we miss him so much."

She was followed by host Jamie Foxx and R&B singer Ne-Yo singing a tender duet of Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There," while pictures of Jackson were displayed on a giant video screen.

A member of 1970s brother band the Jackson 5 and a musical sensation, Jackson's 1982 smash "Thriller" is the best-selling album of all time, and Jackson was a major influence on R&B, hip hop and many other forms of music for 40 years.

Jackson died suddenly from cardiac arrest at age 50 in his Los Angeles home on Thursday. The BET Awards, which annually honor African American singers, actors, actresses and athletes, transformed into a tribute to the pop superstar.

In the front row, Joe Jackson watched performances by the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and the O'Jays, most of whom either gave testimonials to Jackson or in some way highlighted his influence on their own careers.

"HE BELONGS TO US"   Continued...

<p>Host Jamie Foxx (C) and dancers perform to Michael Jackson's "Beat IT" at the BET Awards '09 in Los Angeles June 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>