, Brian Muhammad
and Charlene Muhammad

The life and legacy of a global music icon (FCN, 06-30-2009)

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – News of the death of music legend Michael Jackson, 50, caused a worldwide reaction from people gathering in front of New York City’s famed Apollo Theater to a prison in the Philippines and other points around the world.

Within hours of the news of his death, fans gathered under the famous Apollo marquee where the Jackson 5 first appeared for an Amateur Night competition on Aug. 13, 1967, taking first prize.

Miguel Vazquez painted this mural in the heart of a Latino neighborhood. He could hardly speak English, but he could say “Michael Jackson.” Photo: Charlene Muhammad

The outpouring of grief and celebration at the Apollo was spontaneous as fans holding photos and flowers danced to his music. If there was no music playing the crowd would sing one of Mr. Jackson’s hits, belting out songs like “The Girl Is Mine.”

“I am a big fan,” Chris Thomas, 25, told The Final Call. “These are classics from the coolest group we ever had,” Mr. Thomas added. “I’m a dancer, and Michael Jackson has been a big influence on the dancers of my generation.”

John Bright, 44, stood under the marquee with his 13-year-old daughter Kendra. “My father has always told me about Michael Jackson’s music,” she said. “Michael’s music has brought happiness to so many of us,” her father added.

“He was one of a kind,” said Troy Griffin, 47. “He was my man!”

Despite all of the good he did, one fan said, the media and the world just ate him up.

In Los Angeles, Scorpio, a longtime Michael Jackson impersonator and “friend,” told The Final Call it was tragic to hear that the entertainer was in the hospital.

“My whole world, everything, adrenalin just went to my feet. I kind of collapsed myself on the floor in my living room. It was unbelievable. I was thinking it was another joke about Michael Jackson, but it was real and I was sick to my stomach that that happened to him because it wasn’t his time to go, but I guess when God says it’s time to go, it is,” Scorpio said.

He began performing as Michael Jackson when the “Bad” album came out in 1987. “I give all my blessings to the family and I hope they’re taking it ok, but I know they’re not because he was their golden child … I just want this world to really come together now because we lost our king,” he said tearfully.

Leroy Clavon joined a gathering in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park, where fans sang, danced and remembered Michael Jackson. “He is beyond anything that’s ever happened to the world in music. He’s reached out and touched so many people. Yeah, he had a troubled life. He couldn’t be who he wanted to be. He had a difficult life coming up as a kid, but look at what he did with his music, he touched all ethnic backgrounds,” said Mr. Clavon. “People who don’t even have a radio station know Michael. How are you going to be in a third world country and know Michael Jackson? Come on.”

“I love Mike! We know he was eccentric, but he was not a sex offender. I was devastated when I heard the news in the doctor’s office. Everybody has their day and we don’t know when it’s our time, but I’m glad he’s resting in peace because the world tore him up! We lost a legend,” said fan Ebla Shabazz.

In the Philippines, hundreds of prisoners at the provincial jail in Cebu, the nation’s second largest city, performed their version of the video “Thriller” June 27, which had been shown earlier in the year on YouTube.com. The dance by some 1,400 prisoners has reportedly generated 23 million hits on the Internet site.

So profound was Mr. Jackson’s worldwide legacy that, in Germany, the visit to Washington by Chancellor Angela Merkel June 26 was overshadowed in the headlines.

“Pop-Legende Michael Jackson ist tot” dominated the German media landscape. The pop star had appeared on the German entertainment show “Wetten dass” in 1995.

The French newspapers, La Parisian and Le Figaro dedicated most of their front pages and headlines to Mr. Jackson maintaining his King of Pop moniker: “Le roi de la pop, Michael Jackson, est mort,” translated it means “The King of Pop, Michael Jackson is dead.”

From Spain to Russia, the media devoted much of its coverage to the untimely death of the mega star from Gary, Indiana.

Russian bloggers writing on the Internet portal Yandex reportedly overwhelmed the site with over 1,095 blogs by midday on June 26, causing it to crash.

In Sydney, Australia, Michael Jackson CDs had sold out by the end of the day on June 26.

Mr. Jackson was one of the few foreign pop stars to penetrate the Japanese market and one major record store outlet reported that it had received orders for 150,000 of the star’s CDs.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called MJ “a singer with a definite presence.”

The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon said an entire generation or more of Lebanese “would feel a sense of loss at his passing.”

A permanent shrine is being considered in Durban, South Africa at the King’s Park Stadium where Mr. Jackson performed in Oct. 1997.

South Africa media was full of the testimonials, tributes, and recounts of Mr. Jackson’s visit to South Africa as part of his “History Tour” during the 1990s.

“The Nelson Mandela Foundation regrets the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. His loss will be felt by his fans worldwide,” said the organization founded by the first Black president of South Africa. Mr. Jackson sang at Mr. Mandela’s birthday anniversary in 1998, met him again in 1999 and made a donation to the Nelson Mandela Fund for children.

Shock and disbelief reverberated across the globe with the news about the world-renowned performer’s passing. On the streets of London–where a some 750 million tickets had already sold for his 50 night “comeback” tour–the iconic singer’s music filled the streets with impromptu celebrations of his life that mirrored gatherings all over the planet.

AP reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez simply said that it’s “lamentable news,” when responding to the death.

“He was a beautiful human being. If not for him, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” said recording artist Lenny Kravitz from London.

“Michael Jackson has been ordained by God to revolutionize pop culture in a way that would never, ever be duplicated,” said Bruce George, co-founder of Def Poetry Jam to The Final Call.

In Romania, where a Jackson concert in 1992 helped mark the country’s new freedoms after the fall of the Soviet bloc, singer Lucian Viziru told AP, he was stunned by the death.

“I grew up with him, I learned his dances, his songs, everything. My first ever cassette was ‘Thriller.’ ”

“Michael Jackson has become part of the planet. The people of the world have been affected by Michael Jackson,” Imotep Gary Byrd, legendary disc jockey and New York City radio talk show host, explained to The Final Call. “What we are seeing is an outpouring of affection by those who have grown up with him.

“What so many around the world have come to appreciate was Michael’s dedication to a standard of perfection–his dedication to excellence–when he performed on the stages around the globe.”

“Michael Jackson was a very unique spirit,” Mr. Byrd said.