And the on-going trial to answer questions about his death also cast a long shadow.
But in the end it was a fabulous night of entertainment as several members of Michael Jackson's family joined famous singers to honour the music and the man.
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Guests of honour were his three children, Prince Michael, 14, Paris, 13, and Prince Michael II, known as Blanket who is nine.
Paris told the audience: "We're very happy to be here on this special night to honour our father."
The three youngsters were clad in his trademark showman style as listened to performers such as Christina Aguilera, JLS and Leona Lewis.
One of the highlights came when Beyonce played one of the Jackson Five's hits, Where You Are, saying it was the first song she had performed with her former group Destiny's Child.
La Toya Jackson had also come out of retirement to sing in memory of her legendary brother.
"I have put musical performance behind me for roughly two decades," she said.
"There will never be another magical moment such as this to celebrate Michael with his fans to perpetuate the importance of his legacy."