Michael Jackson praises James Brown as inspiration

By Matthew Bigg
Saturday, December 30, 2006; 5:48 PM

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Pop star Michael Jackson, rarely seen in the United States since being acquitted of child molestation charges, came out of seclusion on Saturday to attend James Brown's funeral and won a vote of confidence from civil rights leader Al Sharpton.

Jackson praised Brown as an inspiration after being invited to the stage by Sharpton during his eulogy of "the godfather of soul."

"I don't care what the media says tonight, James Brown wanted Michael Jackson with him here today," Sharpton said in a booming voice.

"He said ... 'I love Michael.' He said, 'Tell him don't worry about coming home. They always scandalize those that have the talent. But tell him we need to clean up the music and I want Michael and all of them that imitated me to come back and lift the music back."'

Jackson, who has been living abroad since being found not guilty of molestation charges in California in June 2005, called Brown "my greatest inspiration." He told the audience of 9,000 at the James Brown Arena that from the age of 6 his mother would make him watch television whenever Brown came on to perform.

"When I saw him move I was mesmerized," Jackson, 48, said. "I've never seen a performer perform like James Brown and right then and there I knew that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

"James Brown, I shall miss you and I love you so much. Thank you for everything," said Jackson, who wore a black leather jacket, black pants and sunglasses.

Jackson was a child star with the Jackson 5 on the Motown record label and achieved global fame as a solo artist. His "Thriller" album in 1982 became a smash hit selling 27 million units worldwide and yielding seven top-ten singles. The next year he unveiled his signature "moonwalk" -- a dance move similar to one of Brown's -- while performing "Billie Jean" during an NBC special.

Since the molestation case ended, Jackson has spent time in Bahrain, Ireland and France and has said he planned to move to Europe in a bid to resurrect his career. Earlier this month he reportedly had been discussing a comeback in Las Vegas.

He made a musical appearance in November in London, his first since his acquittal, but fans said he looked uncomfortable and struggled with high notes.

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