Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Michael Jackson one year on... remembered

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

It seems incredible, I know, but this week marks the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. A lot has happened in that short year – films, exhibitions, music, memorabilia, countless books and magazines – and an influx of money.

Michael died with a reputed £340 million debt but his earnings have wiped out that and added millions more to a trust fund opened for his three children. But, I tell you it’s not all about money. It’s not the dollar sign that signifies the importance of a person. It’s the person himself. Michael Jackson was a part of our lives for nearly forty years. His madcap schemes kept us amused, and he was generous to a fault, extravagant, outrageous yet humble. We lapped up his performances and videos and simply adored his music that to date has passed 750 million in world sales. He was a living phenomenon; a child star who never really grew up. He was also a son, brother, husband and father.

We’ll never know the likes of his immense and spectacular talent again - the world is definitely a poorer place without him. And as plans are being made for ten new projects to be developed over the ensuing years, including unreleased material, a permanent Las Vegas show and of course the Cirque du Soleil experience, a handful of his and our friends would like to share their thoughts with you at this time.

Leee John, lead singer of the group Imagination and solo artist in his own right. “MJ, Michael Jackson, what can I say? My childhood , my teens , my growing youth into manhood. Michael and the Jackson brothers were a part of my growing life, through the music, choreography, the lyrics to the songs, which set my tapestry to be an artist in a very strong visual, as well as musical sense. I met Michael and the Jacksons on a few occasions in the late 70s and 80s, and Michael (again) in the 90s. Each time very courteous, polite, and interested in my various projects. Though Michael departed last year on June 25th, three days after my birthday which is the 23rd , it does not feel like he is gone, as I’m still listening to his wealth of music. Just yesterday from the “Maybe Tomorrow” (a J5 album), the tracks “Petals” and “It’s Great To Be Here” were replayed over and over on my ipod . Also last week, because I’m part of an MJ tribute show, which features other well known artists and which is going to be performed in Paris in September, I was setting choreography for the MJ song 'The Way You Make Me Feel', and tried my hardest not to imitate but add my own feel to his classic moves. His music has embraced not just the world but the universe - everyone somewhere, sometime in their life has been affected by an MJ song, dance step, the sequinned glove and socks; the hat, rolled up sleeves - the list is endless . Just as I’m writing this, there are so many memories like - where were you when you first saw “Thriller”, the video, and the album that changed the whole music industry? I want to remember the good and positive times, and always will because Michael Jackson - the man and his music are with us always. Forever!”

Paul McCartney - “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever.” *

The Velvelettes’ Cal Street – “I was overwhelmed by the death of Michael Jackson. I couldn’t stop crying. My eyes still swell with tears at the thought of him being deceased. Having met Michael at a very young age (I believe he was about nine when I first met him in Chicago), I felt connected even though it had been years since I last saw him up close and personal. I remember looking into his innocent eyes and I said to his mother as I held his hands . . . ‘he has such angelic eyes – I could swear that I’m looking into the eyes of an angel’. Katherine just smiled as Michael went and laid in his mother’s lap saying that he was tired. He was very quiet and simply adorable, and more or less a mama’s boy, as he clung to his mom backstage, which was understandable by him being so young. I would see Michael and his brothers periodically at Motown’s Hitsville USA studio A in Detroit; out on the road when they were opening for the Temptations; then again in California when the Jacksons relocated. I remember Richard Street, my husband at the time, and I flying with our son, Ricky (who was maybe two at the time), from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to see the Jacksons’ show at the (then) MGM Grand Hotel. I recall walking into the green room (backstage) with Mrs Katherine Jackson and I complimented her on her family every step of the way into the hotel. I told her that I came from a large family and was very familiar with living with lots of people! She smiled, and we chatted as we walked inside. When we got inside, Michael was standing behind a bar-like area drinking a Coca Cola. I walkd up to him and asked him if he remembered me. Then I reminded him that I was Richard’s wife – ‘Richard in the Temptations’. He hugged me and said ‘it’s nice to see you again.’ I knew he didn’t necessarily remember me, but he was so polite and humble, and said that to appease me, I’m sure, as it had been at least five years since I had seen him up close and personal. The Temptations played competitive basketball with the Jackson brothers at their home in Encino, California. So, I got a chance to visit with Michael and talk to him on a few more occasions when he was a teenager. I tell you, to know Michael was to love him. When I was around him, I felt as though I was in the presence of greatness! He emitted a special aura, and he was very aware that all eyes were upon him in certain settings. He bowed (like the Asian culture) when he held your hand to say “hi, it’s good to see you’, or ‘it’s good to meet you.’ The world lost one precious soul when Michael Jackson died, but I can’t help but think that our loss was God’s gain. I cried myself to sleep the first night of his passing, and I talked to God through heavy tears saying . . . You told him (MJ), ‘well done my son, you’ve done what I put you on earth to do, now it’s time for you to rest and come home to live with Me. You’ve worked hard most of your life since you were five years old, and now it’s your turn to come home and rest.’ I couldn’t believe Michael was dead, even though in my mind I was aware that it was a reality, and had actually happened. I cried for him, his children, his mom and his entire family. I had to leave a meeting that I was attending when I received a text message from my son, Ricky, saying .. . “mom, Michael Jackson has passed away –yes he did, Mom. I’m sorry.” Ricky knew how much I loved him and he understood my overwhelming sadness. Then, I had to take a day off work on the day of his funeral. I just sat on my couch watching the home going services on tv, in my family room at home with a box of Kleenex and a glass of wine. It pleases me very much to see how much love Michael had for others and the great love that people/fans in America and around the world have for him. All I can say is - long live the King of Pop. Michael Jackson’s music will go on forever, into infinity. “

Diana Ross - “Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can’t seem to find words to express…(He) wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if ever they need me”. *

Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer – “Pamela and I were young mothers at the time when we met Michael and his family. Mr and Mrs Jackson embraced us in their home off Sunset Boulevard. Michael was a child who had fun teasing adults, and was very honest with his thoughts, and was very special and wise for his age. I can remember when he ask if wanted to meet his pets. Pamela and I responded as any parents would do ‘oh yes Michael’. When we entered his room he introduced us to his snakes. Well, I nearly fainted, but Pam held me up because this was very important for him. We always had fun in their home. In fact, we can remember meeting with Mr. Jackson to present ‘One Day I'll Marry You’, a song written for Michael, and Mr Jackson thought it was a great idea because he was always treated like a child - and who would think of him being married? During that time, Weldon Arthur McDougal III had bought new cameras, and Michael became very interested in film. When they would visit Weldon in PA, he’d introduce Michael to his dark room. Rene Tenner ( who wrote with Marvin Gaye, Ron Miller and Hal Davis) can remember meeting Michael in Hal Davis’ office on Sunset and Vine. He told her he had a secret and she ask what was it? He said ‘I'm really eleven years of age but I'm told to say that I'm eight.’ He was such a delightful child. We were also a family with Michael and his brothers at Motown Records. ‘2 4 6 8’ - another song for the brothers was written (specifically) for Jermaine, but Hal Davis thought it might be too young for him. So the song was given to Michael to lead, and that was actually their first duet in recording song together. … That was a special time for us at the Crystal Recording Studios, Hollywood. Michael was running and playing in the hallway with a big and appreciative smile. His eyes had seen the future. He always had the magic in a sincere and honest way in his approach to adults and children his own age. He performed those words with power - and he was ready for the world…. . Mr Jackson brought them over to my humble home, and they would shoot a few baskets in the backyard. Then Mr Jackson , Pam and I would meet and we would encourage him to keep his dream alive for his family - and he did!”

Smokey Robinson – “I loved Michael very much. Michael was my brother.”*

Susaye Greene – “I was stunned and still am. I use the word ‘stunned’ because it was like a cattle prod across the world and it affected everybody. I’m a bit of a news junkie and ever since 9/11 I need to know what’s going on around the world, either on the computer or tv. Michael’s death was like a story unfolding before you and everyone watched in total disbelief….It was hard to shift your focus. …Everything is paraded on US tv because they love to do the discussions and break everything down. Look there’s Jermaine, and you can see the whole family going to the hospital, you can see that announcement but we can’t wish it away. We can’t pretend it’s not happening. Even though everyone knew whatever the strange life Michael lived, we knew that he was vital enough as a spirit that he would continue…. I have had so many associations with him from being a fan, growing up in America, watching him become such a phenomenon. Then him stepping away from the group, and becoming the so-manipulated phenomenon that he orchestrated. His image, his creation. Yes, he created himself, but that’s how the business is. So there’s that side of it – that tremendous loss of some of his childhood. Then the other side, there’s my mom who was a tremendous musician in her own right. As she got older she trained a lot of young people like Janet (Jackson) who was ready to record. She worked with most of them. She coached them, so we went to their house many times to see how she was developing. She would take me along – after all she was my mom and it was an opportunity and a delight. They all walked around in robes all the time,. Y’know, it’s hot out here, and you have your bathing suit on and they’d have these robes, and it’s almost unreal to see all of them and you know who they are. I had met them, and seen them, at different times through the years. When I was with The Supremes we lived in similar neighbourhoods and my mom’s house was on the same street as Michael’s. And you’d see him out walking the llamas around the neighbourhood. He was just a kid. Then to have Stevie Wonder come to me and say ‘I’ve got this song for Michael’ - we’ve always had a special writing relationship and could write over the phone, in an airport, whatever – and when he presented it to me I knew the words would just come. When Michael came to the studio I was there when Stevie gave him the song called ‘I Can’t Help It’.. He had attached this long external studio to his studio – like a big semi-truck – and he was playing ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and different things. I sat there for an hour with Michael, and everything’s so loud, and you can’t talk except during the breaks. I go over in my mind again and again how delighted I was when Stevie told me Michael was actually going to do the song. I now think of the things I’d wished I said to Michael at the time. But I can remember every time I’ve ever been around him. I’ve a very strange kind of memory. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday but I can see hotels I’ve been in, in minute details. Anyway, I can remember what Michael had on – red shirt, black jeans and no socks. And some kind of velvet shoes that had a crest on them. And his hair was short. He was the cutest boy, almost unworldly. How you’d imagine an elf to be. And he was just magic. He affected me so tremendously – and still does. I can’t get over it.”

Michael Jackson – “To me, nothing is more important than making people happy, giving them a release from their problems and worries, helping to lighten their load. I want them to walk away from a performance I’ve done, saying ‘that was great. I want to go back there again. I had a great time’. To me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s wonderful.”**

Written with love.


* unknown webpages

** extract from “Moonwalk” by Michael Jackson published in 1988 by Mandarin

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