Singer will be focal point of awards show

Leaping into the 3-D game in the season of “Avatar,” the 2010 Grammy Awards will present a 3-D tribute to Michael Jackson at the Jan. 31 Staples Center ceremony.

Event, which will air live on CBS in the East, will mark the first time a televised awards show has employed 3-D footage.

Special segment will unspool 3-D footage for Jackson’s “Earth Song” that was created as a centerpiece for the late superstar’s “This Is It” dates, which had been set for London’s O2 Arena last year. The performer had been rehearsing for the unprecedented run of 50 shows when he died on June 25.

Earth Song” was first heard on “HIStory” in 1995 and was included on the posthumous “This Is It” album. But just a brief clip of the new video for the track appeared in Sony Pictures like-titled 2-D theatrical doc (which arrives on DVD next Tuesday).

Jackson was an early adopter of the 3-D medium: His fanciful short film “Captain EO”,” executive produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, bowed as a Disneyland and Epcot Center attraction in September 1986. Unseen domestically since 1997, it will return to Disney’s Anaheim theme park in February.

Jackson approached his appearances at the Grammy Awards with a similar dedication to innovation, the show’s longtime co-executive producer Ken Ehrlich said Wednesday.

Whenever we would do a show with (Jackson), the first thing he would say to me was, ‘How can we do something that we (have) never done before?’ And now we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before,” Ehrlich said.

Last year, as the Grammys were approaching, Ehrlich was in frequent talks with Jackson to appear on the telecast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Thriller.” He had presented several ideas for performers, including Justin Timberlake and Usher, all of which excited Jackson. But in the end, he declined the show’s invitation.

He just wasn’t ready for it,” Ehrlich said.

The “Earth Song” segment promises to be dramatic, the producer said.

There are these incredible images of the beauties of nature, and then they are seen through the eyes of a little girl, and that girl falls asleep and when she wakes up, she is witness to the destruction of nature,” said Ehrlich. “It’s all about questioning what our values are.”

On viewing the clip during the “This Is It” rehearsal, Jackson was moved to tears, according to Ehrlich, who added, “Afterward he said to me that that song and that piece and that portion of the concert was as important to him than anything else in the show.”

Beginning Friday, Target will be the exclusive supplier of free 3-D glasses for Grammys home viewers. Attendees at the Staples Center awards show will also be provided with glasses.

Grammy winners Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Usher will appear in the award show tribute segment.

Jackson – who received 13 Grammy Awards during his career (including eight for “Thriller” at the 1984 ceremony) — will also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy during the show.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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