Motown founder Berry Gordy fought back tears as he paid tribute to Michael Jackson at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Rhythm & Soul Music Awards on Friday (26Jun09), calling the King of Pop a "vital member" of the revered record label's family.
Before presenting the night's Heritage Award to soul man Smokey Robinson, a visibly upset Gordy took a moment to honour Jackson, who had died the day before.
He told the ASCAP audience, "I stand here today still in a state of shock from the news of his death. At home last night, I was looking at some of my old pictures of him, from his early rehearsals to ones with him and my son on the baseball field as we played our weekly Gordy-Jackson baseball games.
"For the world, Michael’s legacy will always be his music and his artistry. But for me, it will be so much more. The memories of watching him grow from a mere nine year old kid with boundless determination and talent to become perhaps the greatest entertainer of all time... It is a bittersweet moment for all of us.
"Even as we celebrate Motown’s 50th year, we have to say goodbye to yet another vital member of our family."
And as Robinson accepted his award, he acknowledged his sadness over Jackson’s death: "I miss him so much. My heart is heavy, of course."
The 2009 Rhythm & Soul Awards ceremony was dedicated to Jackson, and R&B star Ne-Yo performed a heartfelt rendition of the late star's ballad Lady in My Life to open the show after a minute's silence.