When the Essence Music Festival kicks off in New Orleans on Friday, singer Lionel Richie says the celebration of black music and culture will provide some comfort following Michael Jackson’s death.

Richie, a longtime friend of the pop superstar, says going to New Orleans for Essence is a homecoming of sorts that will give him and others comfort and a chance to regroup.

The festival, held at the Louisiana Superdome and Morial Convention Center beginning Friday, will include a tribute to Jackson, as well as performances by Richie, Beyonce, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Anita Baker and others.

Organizers say they are still planning the tribute, so details were not immediately available. The festival runs through Sunday.

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On the Net:

Essence Music Fest, http://www.essencemusicfestival.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.