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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 22:42 GMT
Stars turn out for Brown funeral
Michael Jackson at James Brown's funeral
The 'King of Pop' hailed the 'Godfather of Soul'
Thousands of fans, friends and celebrities have paid final tributes to soul star James Brown at an emotional public funeral in his Georgia hometown.

He lay in an open golden coffin in the packed James Brown Arena in Augusta.

Singer Michael Jackson kissed Brown's forehead and called him "my greatest inspiration". Black rights activist Al Sharpton delivered the main eulogy.

Famous for hits like Sex Machine, Brown died suddenly on Monday in hospital after suffering pneumonia. He was 73.

He was a God-sent person - almost like an angel
Vickie Greene, James Brown fan

The Augusta funeral was the third memorial event in as many days for the musician known as the Godfather of Soul.

On Thursday, thousands of fans poured into the Apollo Theatre in New York, where Brown made his stage debut in 1956 and recorded several live albums.

A private service for family and close friends was held in South Carolina on Friday, with mourners including boxing promoter Don King, rapper MC Hammer and comedian Dick Gregory.

'Master at work'

After friends and relatives filed past the coffin, a video of Brown's last performance in Augusta and final concert in London were played and tributes were performed.

Despite several requests for the capacity crowd to behave as if they were at any other funeral, the funky rhythms that characterised the singer's sound and life soon had everyone on their feet, reports the BBC's Matt Wells from the stadium.

James Brown.
Brown was in his third costume change in as many days

But for many, the highlight of Saturday's ceremony was a rare public appearance by the controversial pop star Michael Jackson.

"Ever since I was a small child, no more than like six years old, my mother would wake me no matter what time it was, if I was sleeping, no matter what I was doing, to watch the television to see the master at work," Jackson said.

"And when I saw him move, I was mesmerised. I had never seen a performer perform like James Brown, and right then and there I knew that that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown."

Reverend Al Sharpton said the singer had made an advance request for Jackson to be at his funeral in Augusta.

The whole world, he said, changed its beat because of James Brown.

Known for his frequent costume changes, Brown was in his third wardrobe change in three days - a black jacket and gloves, with a ruby red shirt.

Mourners file past James Brown's coffin
Earlier fans filed past Brown's coffin

Before the funeral started in earnest, fans queued in the rain to file past his coffin.

"He was a God-sent person - almost like an angel," said Vickie Greene, who had come to view Brown's body with her husband and grandson.

"He was so inspirational to people about sharing and helping and giving."

Atlanta resident Maynard Eaton, who organised a bus to carry 20 people to the funeral, said it was Brown's political message he valued.

"'I'm black and I'm proud' was the most influential black slogan of the 1960s," he said, referring to the refrain of Brown's song Say It Loud.

Adopted home

Brown was born in 1933 in Barnwell, South Carolina. He spent much of his childhood in Augusta, and adopted the town as his home.

He remained involved with the city throughout his stardom, handing out Thanksgiving turkeys every year, providing meals for more than 1,000 families.

The singer had also participated in an annual toy drive in the city just three days before his death.

As well as the auditorium named in his honour, the town renamed one of its streets James Brown Boulevard, and erected a statue to the singer last year.

Since his death, fans have flocked to the statue, leaving flowers, records and messages at its feet.

Michael Jackson pays tribute to James Brown


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