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Michael Jackson passes | public opinion: "We Are The World"



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Michael Jackson's passing is still a shock to me. The very idea that someone I feel like I grew up with left us at the age of 50 is just not right at all. I first saw Michael perform when I was 10 years old at the old Chicago International Amphitheatre in 1972; the Campbell family, who babysat me, took me and I remember it like it was yesterday. The Jackson Five was then the must see event and Michael was the star.

Michael was like my brother. In a way for many African Americans he was just that, a sibling. I knew him as the guy who grew up in Gary, Indiana. We knew people who knew them in Chicago, so I felt close to him long ago. I think it's for that reason so many African Americans were on Michael's side during the years when it seems he was kind of flying the coup: changing his skin color from brown to near white; narrowing his nose, and basically seeming to channel his best friend the legendary singer Diana Ross. Then, of course, there were the claims that he "liked boys" which we figured wasn't the case, and was more a byproduct of the money and attention seeking people who surrounded him. Michael was a person with an arrested development: he never had a childhood so to escape the trappings of a constant adult life, he created a childhood for himself.

I think being an adult just literally killed Michael.

For me, Michael Jackson was the person who wanted to bring us all together, as shown in his "We Are The World" effort. That amazing production and song, created with a group of the World's best known music talents, with Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Steve Perry, Bob Dylan, the late Ray Charles, and a host of others and to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, was just amazing. Amazing. I loved that song then; I still do today and I cry every time I hear it. (the lyrics and video are at the end of this post).


Talking with people About Michael's passing


The death of Michael Jackson is one of those events that will cause you to remember where you were when you learned of it. In my case I'd just emerged from a private movie screening at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in West Berkeley, CA. My Mom just happened to call with the news as I was walking to my car; I was stunned. Just stunned. So I took my Flip Video Camera and set out to talk to people about what happened to Michael. I had plenty of places to do this: the BART train station, the San Francisco Magazine "Best of The Bay" party, and all points in between.

What's amazing is the sheer number of people who were immediately informed via text messages and the reactions: shock, sadness, but not joy. No. No one expressed anything close to that at all, even given the part of his life where it seemed he was overwhelmed with "kid" issues. Nothing.

Dominic Phillips, the master of event planning in San Francisco, and who produced last night's "San Francisco Magazine Best of The Bay" party said "It's horrible. First and formost, anybody dying is horrible. There are so many family members that are just gonna be torn apart. But also Michael Jackson; on the one hand he was a very maverick person. But on the other hand he was part of my generation's life. He was like part of my experience, my growing up and I feel a little robbed that he's not there anymore. Like whether you thought his experience was your experience,that doesn't really come into it for me. I just sort of bonded with him in my youth and now he's gone."

Another woman I talked to on Howard Street in San Francisco said "I was just walking and three people got text messages (that he died)...just terrible. My friend Beth Schnitzer, who's the Director of Sponsorship Marketing at Pier 39 said "I can't believe it. Every time I listen to his music, it brings back a great memory from growing up somehow, some way. You know, it really hasn't hit me. He was too young; way too young." Jerusha, "The Last Single Girl In The World" said, as only she can, "We all have to go sometime and boy did he have a fabulous life before he went. He did it up and he did it up right. You know what they say, you only live once and that's all you need if you do it right!"

I talked to a lot of people, and if you see my video there are more than what's presented here, but all just variations on what was expressed. People loved Michael, warts and all. The "Best of The Bay" event turned into a kind of tribute to Michael, with his music playing continuously through the evening, and people danced, especially to "Thriller" which is a modern classic.

Sad day it was to have this happen. Michael, the world will miss you.

We Are The World - Lyrics and video:

Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones.



There comes a time
When we head a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can't go on
Pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We are all a part of
God's great big family
And the truth, you know love is all we need

[Chorus]
We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart
So they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand

[Chorus]
We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

When you're down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe
There's no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well, let us realize
That a change will only come
When we stand together as one

[Chorus]
We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

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