Tributes to Michael Jackson flow in

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    Michael JacksonThe tributes have been flowing in upon the sad death of Michael Jackson. Here are some from SoulTracks writers and others:

    Michael JacksonThe tributes have been flowing in upon the sad death of Michael Jackson. Here are some from SoulTracks writers and others:

    "I am shocked beyond words. It's like a dream-a bad dream. This cannot be! How can Michael Jackson not be here? As a kid, Michael was always beyond his years. He had a knowingness about him that was incredible. When I first heard him sing Smokey's song, 'Who's Lovin' You' at 10 years' old, it felt like he had lived the song for 50 years. Somehow, even at that first meeting with him, he had a hunger to learn, a hunger to be the best and was willing to work as hard and as long as it took. I had no concern about his ability to go to the top. He was like my son. He had warmth, sensitivity and two personalities. When he was not on stage, he was loving, respectful and shy. When he WAS on stage, he was so in charge you would not believe he was the same person. Michael was and will remain one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived. He was exceptional, artistic and original. He gave the world his heart and soul through his music. I extend my sympathies to Joe, Katherine and the entire Jackson family. My prayers are with them." 
    Berry Gordy, Jr.

    "I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news. For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words. Divinity brought our souls together on The Wiz and allowed us to do what we were able to throughout the '80s. To this day, the music we created together on Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad and 'We Are The World' is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all...talent, grace, professionalism and dedication. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."
    Quincy Jones 

    "Michael was a great and wonderful artist and performer. We were privileged and honored to record him and his brothers here at Philadelphia International Records...We are very honored to have been a part of Michael Jackson's music and creative career in helping to write and produce his own music with his brothers. We know his music and legacy will live on for a very long time".
                       Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff

    "You can't talk about music without talking about Michael Jackson.  His music touched people around the world.  I have some personal memories of spending time with members of his family over the years and will continue to pray for his children, his brothers and sisters and his parents.  He will be missed." 
                       Charlie Wilson (The GAP Band)

    Our condolences go out to all of the Jackson Family - having worked with them in Century City in the 70's I was glad to have known Michael and the rest of his family. I remember one show when the press had said that the Tavares and Jackson families have so much energy on stage together they could light up all of LA! Fond memories that will last a lifetime. Michael has given so much to the world, what a performer, what an artist. He will be missed but never forgotten. He was one of a kind, very gifted, very talented. Rest in Peace Michael.
    Chubby Tavares & Family

    Michael Jackson was a trailblazer.  He blazed a path so new, for so many decades that his artistic influence is  heavily documented via nearly ever music video on MTV  and tens of hundreds of other music video and media outlets.   His style of choreography and dance moves are still often  imitated by current recording artists. As is his major  influence on street wear as well as high fashion,  which can be seen everywhere throughout the '80's and 90's.   And his obvious unique vocal and songwriting style, have set  him apart from the rest of us, mere mortals.  The man  was such a bright light, with so many gifts that he gave  willingly, happily, freely to the world.  I know I will miss him  for the rest of my life. 
    Siedah Garrett

    I loved Michael as a dear friend and was fortunate to be around in his "Golden Years". I just did an interview for CNN about Michael from an airport and in the moment I realized once again what an impact he had. But also he did everything to the max as many genius types do. In a sad but realistic way it's understandable that his light would go out in what we might see as premature.
    Patti Austin 

    You always remember your firsts. The first full album I ever bought, or rather I begged my mother to buy for me, was Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, back when I was six years old. The jewel was from a dusty old Mom and Pop record store in Chicago that I'm sure has become a casualty of the times. I sang and sang "I Want You Back," watched old re-runs of the Jackson 5 cartoons with gusto, spun around at the drop of a dime, and begged my mother for more Jackson 5 magic. What I got instead were Michael Jackson's first two solo albums, Got To Be There and Ben. I "rockin' robined" and "Maria'd" myself to death until I stumbled upon the ballad, "Ben." It was one of the few songs that Michael sang from beginning to end that comfortably fit my underdeveloped, prepubescent pipes, whose emotional hook spoke to my young awkwardness. Once my mother got wind of these earnest vocals, she carted me around to all her friends, everywhere we went and could be faithfully depended on to ask me on cue to sing Michael Jackson's "Ben." Fawning adults cooed over me and I beamed with self-satisfied pride. Filled with fantasies of becoming the next Michael Jackson, I ate up my first music video, "Can You Feel It," positively screeching on those high notes.

    After the debut of the moonwalk on Motown 25, I experienced my first failed attempts at dance, precursors of more "dancing don'ts." Around the same time, I rubbed in my elementary school friends face that not only were we one of the first in my hood to have a double-decker VHS player, but we also were the first to have "Thriller" and "Purple Rain" as our first home videos! I believe this was also the first time I exercised behavior that would later get me branded an "asshole" for decades to come. Michael Jackson was even part of my first real graduation, my 8th grade matriculation to high school, where we chose to sing the then uber-popular "Man In The Mirror" over the Cooley High standard for Chicago graduations, "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday." Such mavericks we were! So, you see Michael Jackson is inseparably part of my childhood: my very first creative accomplishments, my first failures, my first moments of hubris, and my first steps into adolescence. And now, Michael Jackson has managed to be another first in my life, the first superstar whose death actually moved me. You always remember your firsts. 
    L. Michael Gipson      

    As a child of the 70's, I'd always been exposed to the Motown sound and enjoyed a few Jackson 5 songs here and there, but it wasn't until a summer block party at my cousin's house that I heard the effortless blend of pop, funk and soul that was the newly-released Off The Wall. That angelic tenor, coupled with the picture of the smiling, brown-skinned brother on the album cover, touched my heart and became the soundtrack of my adolesence and adulthood.  

    With the freakshow elements that have come to define him in recent years, it may seem hard for today's youngsters to understand how huge the Michael Jackson phenomenon became, but during his 80's heyday, he was The Man: girls wanted to date him, while guys imitated him. Everything about Michael, from his zippered leather jackets and jheri-curled locks to his lone white glove and sequined socks, became the fashion statement if you wanted to make it clear you were a fan. It seemed like everyone in my sixth grade class returned from Christmas vacation with the Thriller cassette that year, and after that lauded 1983 Motown 25 performance of "Billie Jean"? Trust me, everyone tried "moonwalking" to class. 

    Children of today, who have unfettered access to YouTube, iTunes and gossip sites, will also never feel the delicious anticipation that my friends and I did when we had to wait for magazines like Right On! and Black Beat to hit the shelves with the latest news and centerfolds. His music videos were more than diversions from cartoons and talk shows, the fact that they even existed made them events. "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" were great songs on their own, but it was their concepts and quicksilver choreography that burned them into our brains. 

    As a fan who collected every CD, sneaked into a TV dance show taping to meet his brothers and screamed herself hoarse from the nosebleed seats when he came to Dallas in 1988, the loss is a monumental one. Today, through my children, I marveled anew at his talents and wished that he could've regained the creative spark it took to set the music world afire one last time. And although it wasn't meant to be, I am so very, very thankful of the masterpieces that he did leave behind. And through it all, without apology, I've got to say that I love Michael Jackson, now and forever.  And that's a truth that no tawdry tabloid headline can take away. 
                   Melody Charles

    My impression [of Michael was] of a man who was quiet in demeanor, soft-spoken, smart and thoughtful. My encounters with Michael were brief and has often been the case, it was tough marrying the up-close persona with the artist. For that brief time while we met, it was hard to imagine that sitting in front of me was someone who had revolutionized the art of video, had created the best-selling album of all time and had emerged as one of the greatest entertainers we've ever seen.

    Now, with his unexpected passing, I'm left with those scant memories but more importantly a collection of music that speaks to his brilliance. "Human Nature" remains one of my all-time favorite recordings by anyone; tracks like "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Wanna Be Where You Are," "Lady In My Life" are gems. He may be 'out of our life' physically but Michael Jackson has left an immeasurable legacy of music. Peace be with you, Michael."
    David Nathan (for full reflection, click here)

    From the first time I saw Michael Jackson's highly energetic personality expressed through those rock-solid dance moves and heard his extremely soulful lead vocals with the Jackson 5, I knew a star was already born. Michael proved me right time and again straight into his solo career, giving way over 100% in nearly every performance, whether as an influential recording artist, a trailblazing video visionary, or as the consummate concert entertainer. From his lifetime of innumerable outstanding, internationally recognized achievements, there are two moving moments I have chosen to share with you: 

    The first has to be the first time I saw Michael's jaw-dropping "moonwalk," a moment I shared with over 47 million television viewers around the world in 1983 on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special. The music was the captivating, yet controversial "Billie Jean," one of Michael's greatest hits. This stunning performance was immediately compared to landmark appearances by The Beatles and Elvis Presley on the classic television variety hour, The Ed Sullivan Show

    The other sustaining Jackson moment for me is the first time I listened to Michael's best-selling album of all time - Thriller - a thrilling potpourri of rock, pop, R&B, and dance that brought us "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and other delights that was a breath of fresh air from the over-synthesized pop that dominated the eighties. Many of those hit songs from the 1982 release were also played on MTV, a phenomenon that broke the ‘color line' in the video music industry at that time, and opened the door to other groundbreaking urban artists like Prince.
                  By Peggy Oliver

    Being a product of Generation X, I must say witnessing Michael Jackson's career zenith was gratifying for me. I can easily recall seeing the full-length concept video of "Thriller" as a youngin' and realizing how afraid I was of those ghoulish, dark creatures spreading terror on top of Vincent Price's ominous narrations. The video for "Thriller" scared the daylights out of me, but the sharp choreography and brave choice of creating a long-form music video that extended beyond the conventional four-minute mark was epical. The pop king will forever be praised for his Thriller masterpiece. Almost every song on the album, done at a time when MTV catered so heavily to their rock-dominated format, ended up defining 80s pop music. The videos from Thriller ended up breaking the color barrier on the cable music network forever.

    While the world celebrates Thriller, for me, Off the Wall is where Michael Jackson's brilliance as a songwriter, vocalist and producer-along with Quincy Jones' creative vision-peaked at full throttle. The album is a delicious stroke of genius wrapped up in funky disco, innocent balladry and magical soul-pop, while layered with some of the greatest instrumentation ever assembled by Jones. Each layer-from the Brothers' Johnson killer guitar lines to the most perfect duet with Patti Austin on "It's the Falling in Love," even Jerry Hey's pristine horn arrangements-ushered in a new wave of doing records for both R&B and pop. As a child, I could never get enough of listening to "Working Day and Night" or Rod Temperton's "Burn This Disco Out." Even to this day, those 30 year-old songs sound as good as anything in modern music today. While Thriller will go down in history for being a strategic barrier breaker in pop culture, Off the Wall possessed a potent quality in redefining R&B as being more than just a "black radio thing" or something organic for underground discos. Who else could have masterfully pulled off one of the tightest disco records since Saturday Night Fever without being stoned by Comiskey Park's anti-disco protesters during disco's last hurrah, landing four Top 10 singles to boot? Only the King of Pop.
                   J. Matthew Cobb

    Being that we are of similar age,  I (like many others) feel like I actually grew up with Michael Jackson.  I remember listening with excitement whenever one of the disc jockeys on our local New York AM radio station WWRL, New York would loudly proclaim "This is Number One,One,One!!!" and then blast "I Want You Back" out to the masses. Five teenage black young men with nicely cropped afros.  They could have easily been my brothers but "opps" I don't have any brothers.  So the Jackson Five became sort of surrogate brothers and I identified with them.  Michael was a star from day one.  He wasn't the one I most  identified with  (that would be Jermaine since he like me was a Sagitarian.) but it was clear to me even in my pre music industry executive days of youth that Michael was the star of the show and the Jackson brothers were top of the line talents.  Thinking back it was the excitement I felt listening to songs by artists such as The Jackson Five, Sly and The Family Stone, James Brown, Steve Wonder,Marvin Gaye and others that led me toward pursuing a career in the music industry in the first place.

    As I grew into adulthood and with that into a career in the music industry I came to a place where I witnessed Michael Jackson from a totally different vantage point.  First and foremost it is truly astonishing that he was able to make the transition from child superstar to adult mega star.  The transition from viable child star to viable working adult entity is one that most child stars are not able to negotiate.  Think about it , What are Macauley Culkin, Gary Coleman, Urkel and many others doing today?  Many have gone on to successful lives but not many have gone on to bigger versions of success doing the same endeavors. If Michael Jackson had not recorded "Off the Wall" and anything after it he still would have had a Hall of Fame career due to efforts with his brothers.

    There are two first hand observations that continue to be stamped into my memory that exhibit the depth of Michael Jackson's influence. Ironically both are tied to my involvement in the career of another Jackson -- that being Singer Freddie Jackson.  A testimony to Michael Jackson's totally encompassing appeal is the fact they happened on totally opposite sides of the world.  In 1987 through 1988 Freddie Jackson was touring in support of his own chart topping album "Tasty Love."  I was a part of his management team and the tour took us to places like the United Kingdom, Japan and Jamaica in addition to various American cities.  In London, England we happened to be staying at the same hotel as the Michael Jackson aggregation which was on tour at the same time doing shows at such venues as London's Wembley Stadium.  No matter what time you would come in to the hotel a sizable crowd would be gathered outside of the hotel that Jackson was staying with hopes of him coming to the window to wave his hand.  Jackson would not come to the hotel lobby to meet the ever present throng but would send his pet monkey Bubbles down to the lobby.  People of all ages would be ecstatic to get a quick glance at the monkey.  This was fan hysteria on an order I had only read about with such acts as the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Even though I was now fully "in the business" I was truly amazed and stunned that adults would partake in such hero worship.

    Later on the same "Tasty Love" tour we were in Osaka, Japan.  I went by a shopping mall where no one spoke English.  It was a real adventure trying to shop with the language barrier and even the simplest endeavor such as getting directions was a chore.  At the corner of this mall where no one spoke English a shop was "blasting" Michael Jackson's "Bad" out of a boom box.  The patrons were "head nodding" with the same vigor as would have been witnessed in an American shop even though they couldn't understand a word he was saying.

    Michael Jackson a global phenomenon and truly The Greatest of All Time.
    Kevin Harewood

    My favorite Michael Jackson song: I am about to clearly cheat on this question, and give you two songs. My first choice is "P.Y.T."  I could be in the most melancholy of moods, even with tears streaming down my face and the simple intro of Michael's voice cooing over the melody about how the young lady in question makes him feel, always makes me smile from the inside out. Unless you don't have a pulse, you can't help but shake something to the infectious and jovial track of "P.Y.T." My tied choice is "Smooth Criminal" which has become a sentimental favorite over the years. Not to mention, I always thought MJ wrote the song for me. My Father, recently deceased, used to sing this song to me all the time! He would sneak up behind me and whisper in my ear, "Annie are you okay?" in his best MJ tone. He got me every single time, and it still stays with me today. 
    Ann Marie Collymore

    To read Howard Dukes' brilliant reflection on Michael as a child of Gary, Indiana, CLICK HERE

    Please leave us your thoughts on Michael Jackson in the Comment section below