Michael Jackson's death last week was a shock that has not yet subsided across our city or across our country. Here in Upper Manhattan, the Apollo Theater is the epicenter of our celebration of the life of the greatest entertainer of our time, while other parts of Manhattan play supporting roles.
Touching Us With His Talents
Michael Jackson became a superstar before I was born, but I was introduced to him at an early age. Off the Wall was the first album I ever remember claiming for myself in my parents' home, and I still sing along to any of the songs from that album when they are played; my memories of my early years have Michael Jackson songs playing in the background along with Stevie Wonder and the Commodores.
At age 12, I earned extra credit points in my sixth grade class when I played a recording of a song called, "Read It" for Mr. Delmuto, my teacher. "Read It" was inspired by "Beat It" from the Thriller album, and I had used the instrumental sections of the song as background for my own recording. When I received my report card, I was grateful to Michael for the extra credit points he earned me with his music, and I remember thinking that writing lyrics for Michael's songs would be a nice occupation.
The previous year, Michael Jackson's appearance at the 25th Anniversary of Motown introduced the moonwalk and made him the King.
The following year, Michael Jackson collaborated with Lionel Ritchie and Quincy Jones to create the once-in-a-lifetime song "We Are the World" featuring nearly 50 music artists. Ten years later, he would speak for himself without music at the 1994 NAACP Awards as he faced criminal charges, and once again, his performance stole the show.
As Michael's image became more associated with strange behavior, his music remained enormously popular, and his success remains the standard by which all others are judged.
Remembering and Celebrating At the Apollo
Immediately after news of Michael Jackson's death became public (even during the time between the announcement that he had suffered cardiac arrest and the time that his death was confirmed), the Apollo Theater in Harlem became the unofficial East Coast headquarters of the remembrance of the King.
Tomorrow, from 2pm to 9pm EDT, the Apollo Theater will be the center of the Michael Jackson tribute universe. Reverend Al Sharpton will give a eulogy at 5:26pm.
Legacy of Love and Peace
Michael Jackson is best remembered as the peaceful and gentle entertainer whose talent and hard work made him the best entertainer in the world. For those of us who believed that Michael Jackson had further triumphs in his future, his life came to an end too early. But, he lived long enough to touch billions of his fellow human beings.