The way he knocked us off our feet

The King of Pop lives on in his enor­mous in­flu­ence and in the hearts of his fans, writes KIM NOWACKI

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

To­day, much of the world’s at­ten­tion is fo­cused on a cel­e­bra­tion of sport. A year ago the world was also fo­cused on a sin­gle event: the un­ex­pected death of global pop star Michael Jack­son.

It was a day when Twit­ter showed its so­cial net­work­ing might by quickly spread­ing the news of Jack­son’s death af­ter the story broke on the Amer­i­can celebrity gos­sip and news site TMZ.com. Legacy news out­lets scram­bled to con­firm the re­port.

By the af­ter­noon of June 25, 2009, it was of­fi­cial. Jack­son, 50, had died.

In the wake of the news, web­sites crashed un­der the on­line traf­fic, news­pa­pers ran the story on the front page, Amer­i­can ra­dio sta­tions played Bil­lie Jean hourly and even US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama felt com­pelled to com­ment,while across the world, peo­ple grieved.

“His un­timely pass­ing was felt glob­ally. In Cape Town that too was keenly felt,” says Ben­ito Vergotine, long-time DJ on 94.5FM. “Ra­dio, print, tele­vi­sion all car­ried the news as lead for the en­tire day. The im­pact of his pass­ing was ev­i­dent across many gen­er­a­tions. That in one sense is why he re­mains the King of Pop – his abil­ity to bring gen­er­a­tions of fans to­gether, all with one thing in com­mon, the love of MJ.”

Jack­son’s count­less fans grieved for the loss of an icon, of a man who had an in­ex­pli­ca­ble golden touch when it came to mak­ing hit af­ter hit, af­ter hit, the in­ven­tor of the moon­walk, pi­o­neer of the must-see mu­sic video and an am­bas­sador of global good­will. They also mourned Jack­son’s ever-chang­ing looks, his bizarre fam­ily life, the al­le­ga­tions of child mo­lesta­tion and ev­ery­thing else that lent to his “Wacko Jacko” per­sona.

And, they grieved over a come­back tour, an­nounced just months ear­lier, which would now never hap­pen.

It wasn’t un­til Seth Rother­ham got a mid­dle-of-the-night text mes­sage about Jack­son’s death that he un­der­stood how much the mys­te­ri­ous and mes­meris­ing en­ter­tainer meant to him.

“My big al­bum was Bad which I still have on vinyl,” says Rother­ham, the early30-some­thing man-about-town and edi­tor of the pop­u­lar, booze-fu­elled blog www.2oceansvibe.com, which reg­u­larly gen­u­flects to Michael Jack­son.

Af­ter Rother­ham got the news, he grabbed his lap­top and be­gan a blog post, tears stream­ing down his face.

“I didn’t re­alise I’d be that af­fected by it,” says Rother­ham.

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, mourn­ers flooded Nev­er­land Ranch, Jack­son’s lav­ish for­mer es­tate, and flocked to his star along Los An­ge­les’s famed Hollywood Boule­vard.

“Michael Jack­son cared about his fans. Un­like many bands and artists, he adored his fans and thanked them each and ev­ery day for al­low­ing him to be a star,” says 22-year-old Christo­pher Fan, an Amer­i­can liv­ing in Cape Town who works with an NGO called Ikamva Youth that fo­cuses on stu­dents in the town­ships.

“If you could in­ter­view al­most ev­ery new pop sen­sa­tion, ev­ery R&B artist, I would say all would thank Michael Jack­son for what he did for the mu­sic in­dus­try, for so­ci­ety and for peo­ple around the world,” adds Fan, a re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in com­par­a­tive cul­tures and pol­i­tics.

“To start a revo­lu­tion, to ig­nite that much pas­sion and hope for chil­dren to be­come pop idols and leg­ends is some­thing very few could say they did. Think of your favourite pop artist or R&B artist, male or fe­male, and lis­ten to the mu­sic, watch the mu­sic video, watch the danc­ing – it’s all at­trib­ut­able to what Michael Jack­son did.”

The first time Rother­ham saw Jack­son do his trade­mark moon­walk: “I ac­tu­ally couldn’t get my head around it. I thought it was some kind of magic show. I still have some Michael Jack­son dance moves that I pull,” notes Rother­ham, who wore white socks yes­ter­day in a silent per­sonal trib­ute to Jack­son. “He’s still the King of Pop, no­body can take that away.”

The ceme­tery where Jack­son is buried opened its gates to fans yes­ter­day and there were trib­utes, large and small, across the globe.

In Septem­ber, the mu­si­cal stage-show trib­ute Thriller Live comes to Cape Town’s Grand Arena at GrandWest Casino. The two-and-a-half hour show fea­tures the biggest hits off Jack­son’s ground­break­ing al­bum Thriller. Ra­dio sta­tion 94.5 FM is one of the spon­sors of the show.

“It is go­ing to be a won­der­ful trib­ute to the King and will show­case his skill, dex­ter­ity and his kind heart, which has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of mil­lions around the world,” says disk jockey Vergotine.

“In South Africa, at the time when he was grow­ing as an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star he pro­vided black fans with the truth that they too could fol­low their dreams, re­gard­less of cir­cum­stance.

“I am truly grate­ful he was around in my life­time and will con­tinue to en­joy (and cel­e­brate) all the hits, from Off the Wall to This Is It.”

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