The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music - By Mark Jor­dan/

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

COREY DAVIS, WHOSE Mem­phis Re­birth En­ter­tain­ment has over two years pre­sented a se­ries of con­certs pay­ing trib­ute to in­flu­en­tial African-Amer­i­can mu­sic stars, had long planned to stage one hon­or­ing Michael Jack­son.

“At the end of last year I took a sur­vey of which artists peo­ple would like to see, and I had an over­whelm­ing re­sponse for Michael Jack­son,” says Davis, who adds that he was al­ready plan­ning the event for Jack­son’s birth­day, Aug. 29, when the singer died on June 25. “Once I found out of his pass­ing, I thought it would be only fit­ting to move ahead.”

On Satur­day, the day that Jack­son would have turned 51 years old, Mem­phis Re­birth will present “Mem­phis Re­mem­bers Michael,” a mu­si­cal trib­ute to the singer at the New Daisy The­ater on Beale Street. Among the per­form­ers slated to ap­pear are Eric Cross and Karen Brown, both vet­er­ans of Davis’ “Re­birth of Soul” con­cert se­ries, along with new­comer D. Monet.

The strange saga that was the fi­nal years of Michael Jack­son’s life has un­spooled into his death, with his per­sonal physi­cian un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for man­slaugh­ter and his three chil­dren un­der the care of his 79-year-old mother.

But even with all the tabloid head­lines, his le­gions of fans have largely cho­sen to fo­cus on Jack­son’s mu­si­cal legacy, which — from his days as the 6-year-old front­man for the Jack­son 5 through the mega-suc­cess of Thriller and even his un­justly ma­ligned fi­nal records — is con­sid­er­able. True to his record-break­ing ways, even in death, Jack­son has ex­pe­ri­enced an un­par­al­leled post­hu­mous resur­gence.

He has had at least two re­leases in the Top 10 of the com­pre­hen­sive al­bum charts for the past eight weeks and holds nine of the Top 10 spots on the cat­a­log al­bum charts.

With Jack­son fans clam­or­ing, Davis says he had a tough time whit­tling his lineup down, hav­ing to choose from some 50 artists who asked to be a part of the show.

“I chose artists that No. 1, were very pas­sion­ate about Michael’s mu­sic,” says Davis. “No. 2, was to be able to cap­ture the essence of Michael without fall­ing into mock­ery. That’s a big thing, not be­ing an im­per­son­ator but be­ing an artist and a fan. A lot of artists I had com­ing to me were im­per­son­ators. They were try­ing to do ev­ery­thing just like Michael. And the whole pur­pose was to give honor and trib­ute to Michael in the artist’s own way.”

In some re­spects, that was a no-brainer for Brown.

“I can say that I won’t be do­ing any danc­ing,” jokes the Jack­son, Miss., na­tive, who oth­er­wise doesn’t want to re­veal what songs she will be per­form­ing.

Brown, who is a fan dat­ing back to the rise of the Jack­son 5 in the ’60s and ’70s, says that the key things that at­tracted her to Jack­son’s work were the words, and that as she at­tempts to honor him they will re­main her fo­cus.

“His lyrics had mean­ing, not just a bunch of crazi­ness like a lot of the mu­sic th­ese days,” she says. “I’m just go­ing to ap­proach it with a lot of his fla­vor but then some of my own.”

Cross, the son of Stax record­ing artistWendy Rene, sees the chal­lenge in much the same light, key­ing in on the thing that made Jack­son a star, his re­mark­ably ex­pres­sive voice.

“I have his range,” says Cross, who has stud­ied Jack­son’s mu­sic lead­ing up to the show. “But I’m just try­ing to hear what he was try­ing to put across in the stu­dio. Some songs, his fast songs, some of the words you can’t tell what Michael is ac­tu­ally singing be­cause he’s do­ing a lot of rhyth­mic things with his voice. He’s do­ing a lot with his breath­ing.”

But Cross is not deaf to the other things — the ground­break­ing danc­ing abil­ity and keen sense of show­man­ship — that made Jack­son such an ef­fec­tive en­ter­tainer. As part of his set, which will in­clude some of Cross’ per­sonal fa­vorites, in­clud­ing “Hu­man Na­ture” and “P.Y.T.,” he will bring out his son, 12-year-old Khari, to dance to “Bil­lie Jean.”

“He’s a phe­nom­e­nal dancer; he came out of the womb danc­ing,” says Cross. “He re­minds me so much of Michael. His fa­vorite artists are Michael Jack­son and James Brown. He cried when both of them died, even though he’s not re­ally old enough to have a per­sonal con­nec­tion to them. But he’s seen them so many times on DVD. I guess in that way Michael Jack­son will live for­ever.”

Karen Brown and Eric Cross were cho­sen by pro­moter Corey Davis for the Michael Jack­son trib­ute be­cause Davis sought “to cap­ture the essence of Michael without fall­ing into mock­ery.”

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