Mourning the death of Michael Jackson
The sights and sounds of mourning in New York and Detroit, as people gathered to pay tribute to Michael Jackson.
After the news of Michael Jackson’s death, his fans went out into the streets and to the places that he was associated with in their cities. In New York, people gravitated to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where Jackson had his first big break. And in Detroit, people found themselves standing on the steps of the Motown Historical Museum. Together, they shared memories, listened to Jackson's music—and sang along.
On "The Takeaway," two people who joined the vigils in New York and Detroit -- Terrance McKnight, WNYC’s Music Host; and Amanda Le Claire , a producer at WDET in Detroit -- talked about what they saw and heard in the crowds of mourners.
McKnight: "Some of the conversation dealt with Michael's legacy and what would be his legacy. I heard conversations about his skin, conversations about his nose, conversations about his hair, conversations about the children and the lovers and the music. And there were very heated discussions about that. As I mentioned there were people out their selling T-shirts, but there were people out there, but I think it was more celebratory than anything, even though there were heated discussions. People were just really celebrating this guy's music and they were standing in front of the Apollo, almost expecting something to happen. I don't know if we were expecting Michael to walk out of the Apollo and say it was a hoax. People were just standing and waiting and watching and singing. It was a huge celebration for him last night."
Le Claire: "In Detroit, the difference was that, what I kept hearing was people saying that despite whatever controversy he had in his life they were remembering him for the music. And that was what it was all about, the music that touched so many people."
The generational differences impressed McKnight: "I saw probably kids as young as 15 up to 60, 65 so there were people who probably remember Michael and his brothers from the 60s. And there were young people that really impressed me. You know who couldn't have been around when his music was written and yet knew so many of the words and if they didn't know the words they knew the tunes. So when the words faded people were just hummin' and yellin' 'we love you, Michael.' I was really moved by the fact that he inspired so many people from so many different generations and so many different ethnicities. Whoever lived in that neighborhood, near the Apollo, came out so you saw a diverse crowd. "
In Detroit, Delores Brown, a fan said: "There will never be another Michael Jackson. There'll never be another king of pop like him because he was Michael in his own right. He was natural, he was gifted and all I want to say is God bless his family. My prayers are with his family and his children and it's just a great loss for us today."
Le Claire: "I think people felt that connection to him through Motown. The Jackson 5 being one of the groups that really cemented Motown as the legendary label that it was. Dolores was one of the people there. She was a little bit older and she looked like she was in shock. She definitely seemed like she was going through a stage of grief. There were other people there who were younger who were just, they had grown up on his music, through his parents and they were celebrating how he influenced the music that they were listening to now. "
Jackson's music revolutionized pop, says McKnight: "The thing about Michael's music was, as we heard from someone in Detroit, he was so original. I think about a tune, "She's Out of My Life," Michael sang this tune and it was almost like a lament and he sang and at the end of the song he almost sounds as if he's crying. I think that was revolutionary in pop music and with his music, with his originality I think he really inspired a whole group of musicians to find their own voice and to look for that originality. "
He says Michael's legacy will not include the eccentricity of his later years: "I think in the end, in the final analysis what people will remember are these tunes. People will be able to separate the man from, or his lifestyle from the music, but there were so many positive things that he did. Think about all charities that Michael supported. He supported as many charities as he had hits almost. But this thing of skin color came up last night. I think that goes back to how Michael and his brothers came up. They came up in the late 60s when we saw black power movements and shouts of black is beautiful. And they had these afros and they could sing and they could dance. And it really seemed like they were dead center and all of what it meant to be black in the late 60s and early 70s. I think as Michael's skin problem developed, particularly in the black community, there was some suspicion about was he trying to get away from his culture, from his heritage, from who he was as a black man. And so that was what the discussion was about last night in regards to his skin color."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.