Tributes continued to pour in for Michael Jackson during the weekend following his death June 25. Before officially launching the 22nd annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards (June 26, Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles), president/chairman Paul Williams asked for a moment of silence in tribute to the singer/songwriter. Following a photo/video montage chronicling Jackson’s career, Ne-Yo performed a poignant version of the late artist’s "Lady in My Life."

"My first instinct was to maybe postpone this event," Williams told the audience. "But Nicole George [asst. VP, ASCAP Rhythm & Soul/Urban] said no, we don’t want to postpone. We want to celebrate Michael and music. The last time I saw Michael was at Liza Minnelli’s wedding. I was stunned by his gentle spirit. When I first heard his ‘Man in the Mirror,’ I wrote him a letter saying I’d never heard a song like this … about a man who wanted to be a better man than he was today. Michael, that’s my remembrance of you."

Alicia Keys, a recipient of ASCAP’s Golden Note Award that evening also paid homage to Jackson. "There’s a somber feeling in the air. But I feel so inspired by him. Everywhere you go, you’re hearing his music and seeing his videos playing. This man really broke all the rules and did it from his heart. You have to break the rules to make great records."

Before co-presenting the ASCAP Heritage Award to legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy paid his own salute to Jackson. "I stand here today still in a state of shock. Michael’s legacy will always be his music and artistry. But for me, it will be so much more: memories of watching him grow from a nine-year-old with boundless energy and talent into perhaps the greatest entertainer of all time. It’s a bittersweet moment for all of us as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown to have to say goodbye to a vital member of our family."

Telling the audience that "I miss Michael so much," Robinson also declared to the young songwriters in the room that "people try to get me to put down today’s music. But with no success. I’m your defense attorney. There’s Alicia and so many other young songwriters who are writing strong songs today. To know that music has a future through you is a wonderful thing to know."

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