Usher: What Michael Jackson Means to Me

Grammy winner talks about difficulty performing at Michael Jackson's funeral.

February 26, 2010, 4:37 PM

March 26, 2010— -- In anticipation of his new studio album, "Raymond v. Raymond," five-time Grammy winner Usher sat down with "Nightline" to share personal reminiscences and talk about musical influences.

And for the first time, Usher opened up about how hard it was emotionally to sing at Michael Jackson's funeral.

Usher will perform in front of a live audience on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, March 30, the same day his new album is released. CLICK HERE to find out how you can attend!

Here are some thoughts he had about his life.

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

"I think some of my early musical memories would have to be in the church. 'We Made It,' that was a song that my mother would always sing on Sundays, every other Sunday she would perform. I'd watch her sing in the choir, and eventually I decided to join her youth choir.

"I'd sing in the choir, understanding how working with other singers would work from unison to drop notes, and understanding sustained notes and understanding harmonies. I'd have solo moments within songs because I would choose to, because I choose to just kinda run."

"L.A. Reid definitely wanted the world to know who I was, and wanted me to work with the best. He sent me to NYC and I moved there for a year. Having been around that lifestyle of hip-hop and that energy, it just gave me a different understanding of music.

"I'd hear songs from Al Green like 'Love and Happiness.' Some of the most incredible moments of my life were in those clubs, believe it or not. Here I am 15 years old in nightclubs and having that experience, and that's just a different movement and different energy. I was like 'Wow, I can barely even have parties at my house and I'm now at a nightclub?!'"

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, 'Before I Let Go'

"I had Maze featuring Frankie Beverly perform at my mother's birthday celebration. "Before I Let Go" is by far one of the most invigorating songs in history. When you hear that song, no matter what your song it puts a smile on your face. No matter what age you are.

"And him as a performer, Frankie Beverly is right now probably somewhere in some incredible weather or cold weather making everybody feel super warm with you know happy feelings. These are incredible songs. I can remember hearing them as a kid. I play them for my children. And I try to do that I try to give them and instill true classic music into them as they are little so they have an alternate set of values."

"You had artists like Prince who kind of created the standard for what R&B slow classics was, and there were songs like 'Adore You,' that was a staple. And even to this day, every album, I always create a record just like that, because that, to me, represents R&B history.

"He exemplifies the true sense of R&B, not only in the way he sings but also in the emotion. There's something about the falsetto that I think women go crazy over. If you're able to hit that high, high note, they go crazy."

"'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' -- that was the first time I had heard Michael Jackson's voice. That's when I began to study and inquire about Michael. I began to know the type of performer he was, and there were programs I had seen, and just the fanfare on television -- you admired him.

"I was very, very young, but I can still remember looking at the screen and seeing it. Michael, you know, the greatest entertainer to ever live simply. All of these songs became inspirations for me, and all of what he is became an inspiration for me.

"Upon his untimely death I was invited to perform at his memorial. This, I knew, was going to be one of the hardest moments of my musical career, to stand in front of the world, everybody's watching, as well as the thousands of people who were in the room. I didn't know if I was going to make it. I didn't make it through rehearsal because I really got choked up. But I knew this was an opportunity to pay tribute to Michael in a way that was very helpful.

"There will never be another Michael Jackson in this lifetime. What he did in music, what he did as a philanthropist, what he did as an individual stands to be some of the greatest work ever, and only to be inspirational because there just aren't many people who can live up to what Michael was. He strived for excellence, and in entertainment he was that."

"I can remember as a kid attending a New Edition concert. Of course I sat in the nosebleed section, we weren't rich, but it was an incredible experience being able to be in the same room and enjoy the show.

"Years later, one of the greatest moments in my performance history was in D.C. at a performance New Edition put on. I was standing on the side of the stage, and we're all good friends now, but I know all the choreography to the song, so they're going through N.E. Heartbreak, and they look over to the left and they're all waving me on to the stage, so I walk out onto the stage and of course they're missing one tick, one move you do where you put your leg in and drop your leg, there's one person missing.

"So I run out there and do that one little moment. And the crowd went crazy. It was a genuine moment. ... From the nosebleeds, to actually being on the stage!"

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