Michael Jackson's poignant final journey got under way as around 200 family and close friends gathered for the music icon's funeral at a star-studded Los Angeles cemetery.
Unpredictable to the last, Jackson was late for his own funeral, his gold-plated casket being brought before mourners more than 90 minutes after the service had been scheduled to start at 7:00 pm Thursday local time (0200 GMT).
Jackson's brothers -- all dressed identically in black suits and each wearing a solitary white glove in tribute to the "King on Pop" -- were on hand to act as pallbearers as the coffin was removed from the hearse.
Jackson's children were reported to have left notes in their late father's coffin reading "Daddy we love you, we miss you."
Other guests who had arrived earlier included Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, actor Macaulay Culkin, and outspoken rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, who posted on micro-blogging site Twitter during the service.
"What MJ went through was so unfair, yet he succeeded. In the end, he was the biggest artist ever. He faced the headwinds but he made it," Sharpton wrote revealing soul legend Gladys Knight "sang her heart out" at the ceremony.
Invites to the ceremony from Jackson's family urged mourners to celebrate the singer's life. "We loved him, we laughed with him, we sang with him. We danced with him. But on this day, we celebrate him," the invite read.
Jackson was to be interred within Forest Lawn's Great Mausoleum, an elaborate neo-classical building inspired by Genoa's Campo Santo.
Thursday's service contrasted with the lavish public memorial held at Los Angeles's Staples Center in July, which was attended by 20,000 fans and beamed live around the world to an estimated audience of one billion.
A pooled live television feed of Thursday's event showed an aerial shot of family and mourners gathering before being discontinued shortly after Jackson's coffin had been removed from a hearse at around 8:30 pm (0330 GMT).
Police had cordoned off the neighborhood surrounding the cemetery after earlier urging fans to stay away from the event.
Police helicopters, sniffer dogs and plain-clothes officers were patrolling the 300-acre (120-hectare) cemetery, on the lookout for any fans trying to gatecrash the service.
However the law enforcement presence did not deter pockets of fans who gathered at the police perimeter on Thursday, carrying posters of Jackson and playing the singer's music on a stereo. "Anything is worth it for Michael," said one woman carrying a "Thriller" poster.
Jackson's delayed funeral comes after months of speculation about the exact cause of his death and reports of divisions within the singer's family about where he should be buried.
His elder brother Jermaine had said he wanted the star to be interred at his Neverland Ranch estate north of Los Angeles. Jackson fled the property in 2005 following his acquittal on child molestation charges.
Los Angeles coroners said last week that Jackson's death was being treated as a homicide and revealed that he had six drugs in his body when he died, including propofol, a powerful anesthetic.
Propofol is used to induce unconsciousness in patients undergoing major surgery in hospital. Medical professionals say it should never be used by private individuals at home.
The coroner's announcement fueled speculation that authorities may charge Jackson's personal physician, Conrad Murray, in connection with the death.
Jackson, one of the most influential figures in pop music history whose four-decade career included the highest-selling album of all-time -- "Thriller" -- had been preparing for a July concert comeback at the time of his death.
Source: AFP Global Edition