Stars Salute Michael Jackson At Essence Festival

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Brass band musicians on trumpet, trombone and tuba belted out "A Closer Walk With Thee" as the Essence Music Festival gave a salute to Michael Jackson befitting a New Orleans jazz funeral procession.

At a concert featuring performances by Beyonce, John Legend, Ne-Yo and Salt-n-Pepa in the Louisiana Superdome, the festival paid homage to Jackson with a picture and video montage and the New Orleans-styled tribute.

With heads bowed, the brass band musicians played before a recording of Jackson's voice wafted throughout the arena. Photos flashed on screen of the late pop star as a young boy singing with his brothers.

The festival continues Saturday with more tributes to Jackson, who died June 25.

Queen Latifah said Jackson's unexpected death left many in the music world scrambling to pay proper respects.

"He was the greatest entertainer of all time, bottom line," she said. "There's no one who can compare to him. There's no one who's had over 40 years of music in them from a child on up to being a 50-year-old and about to go on a world tour."

Legend, when asked about Jackson's death, said "he's the true definition of what it means to be a 'pop star' and no one else has reached that."

"I was looking forward to a comeback, planning to go see him in London and it's sad that we won't be able to see that," Legend said.

Friday marked the festival's highest attendance in its 15-year history, said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc. She wouldn't provide figures, but reported a first-night sellout at the Superdome, which can seat about 85,000 people for football games.

Essence began selling tickets in January and launched a promotional concert series called the Road to Essence Music Festival, which hit major cities such as Orlando, Fla.; Cleveland; Chicago; and Houston. The tour ended Thursday in New Orleans at the House of Blues in the French Quarter with performances by R&B singers Joe and Chico DeBarge.

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