Stevie Wonder has honoured Michael Jackson by tinkering with the words of one of his biggest hits at Montreal's international jazz festival.

Ahead of performing a rendition of I Just Called to Say I Love You, Wonder said the king of pop should be remembered for his musical greatness and not the darker twists of his life.

The 59-year-old singer went on to describe Jackson as "someone very, very special to the world, his family and his friends".

Wonder was performaing at a massive outdoor concert on Tuesday to kick off the Montreal's 30th annual international jazz festival.

He was clearly moved when talking about his old friend, and his voice broke several times.

"Michael knows that I'm here and I love you," Wonder crooned, his voice wavering slightly as he slowed down the song's tempo and brought tears to some eyes in the room.

"We're all here and we'll never show how much we care," he sang. "By playing and buying your music to show your family we mean it from the bottom of our hearts. Sure, we mean it from the bottom of our hearts."