By Pamela Gentry, BET News
June 26, 2009 – The sudden death of Michael Jackson sadden me more than I expected. As a native of Detroit, the pop star always reminded me of the early days in the music business and the tradition of great music from my hometown, the place where Motown began.
Like everyone who ever saw Jackson perform live, the first experience is often the most memorable. For me, it was in the late 1970s when he was still touring with his brothers. Through the concert MJ broke away from the pack for several solo numbers and it was evident he was becoming a solo act right before our eyes.
Jackson’s last performance in Detroit was in October of 1988, white glove and all, in The Palace of Auburn Hills, an arena just north of Detroit. During the three-night stand on the singer’s “Bad” World Tour, the sold out crowds were treated with a great concert and given a night to remember.
As a native of the city that created the Motown sound, I know Jackson was always a favorite there. He had friends from the early Motown days like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy who were his mentors. The Jackson Five recorded at Hitsville USA on Detroit’s west side.
With word of Jackson’s death on Thursday, mourners gathered outside of the Motown Museum to pay their respects at the passing of the pop legend.
I know the City of Detroit is mourning deeply because Jackson’s music was such a big part of the Motor City’s spirit and heart. Founder of Motown, Gordy released the following statement:
“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 that 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 “