When a pop culture icon passes, it's never a happy thing. The death of Michael Jackson has definitely sent shivers through the urban community, most of whom revered MJ's music, which was an essential soundtrack for most of their lives. Well, up until Bad, at least.
But this is no time for humor. This is a time for remembrance.
When ASD heard about Jackson's passing, we quickly asked local DJs, label owners, artists, and authors for their reactions. Sterling James, KBLX's afternoon drive-time DJ, had to break the news on the air to listeners. "The outpouring of phone calls and disbelief was heartwrenching," she says.
Lyrics Born echoed what was surely in the minds of many when he said, "It was too soon. I always felt like he had a 4th wave in him. I was looking forward to hearing more output." (Jackson had reportedly relocated to LA in the hopes of recording a comeback album.)
To DJ Sake 1, "Michael Jackson is the embodiment of an energy that can never, EVER die. His body may no longer breathe but his music, his style, his legacy will continue to live and grow stronger."
Vegan soul food chef and author Bryant Terry reminisced on seeing the Jackson 5 as a young child: "I remember seeing Michael Jackson and his brothers performing on the roof of K-Mart as a child in Memphis. Thousands of people filled the parking lot. It was as if Jesus had descended from the heavens."
Hip-Hop Chess Federation founder Adisa Banjoko had this to share: "The first concert I went to was the Jackson Five at the Circle Star Theater. That venue doesn't exist anymore. All I remember is everyone there had an Afro at least as big as Boots Riley's. Everyone knew all the words to every single song. It's not something you can easily forget. My entire family went. Not just my mom and dad. My entire family. It was outrageous. I remember the whole event feeling bigger than life...when it was over, everyone was talking about what an amazing performance it was. Everybody."
DJ Motion Potion ruminated on MJ's cultural impact--and on how fame and the media influenced our perceptions of him. "As a DJ, there are really only 5 artists you can count on in a time of need: Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Prince, James Brown, and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson was his generation's James Brown, its greatest single talent, and the person to which we, as a culture did the greatest injustice of unnecessary scorn and scrutiny. To the news-starved media, the focus was always on the negative, the absurd, the surreal, the innuendo. 'Was he gay? Did he like little boys? What's up with his face? His plastic surgery? Was he abused as a child? His hair on fire? Did he really own 2 alligators and an ostrich?'"Instead, he says, "our focus should have been on the fact that by all he actually said and did, Michael Jackson was an extremely positive force for our culture. As a person, what came out of HIS mouth (when he was not being hounded by rumors and innuendo) were always words of peace, love, and tolerance. As a singer and dancer, he was as fine a live performer as our culture has produced. As a musician he was the focal point for a melding of disco, soul, pop, and world music into the most easily agreed upon dance music of all time. And this is the central point. No one remembers that Mozart was by most accounts, an immature, obnoxious drunkard. No one remembers that Beethoven was a physically afflicted curmudgeon. In time, all we will remember about Michael Jackson was the sheer genius of his work, and the sweetness of his soul."