Jackson reflects on Michael

Special coverage from Eagle partner - Urban CNY:

Any African-American who's at least 50 years old must remember the Jackson 5 and their lead singer Michael.

As a kid "Stop the Love You Save," "I want you back" and "ABC" became songs you sang into your make believe microphone. "Ben" a song about a rat had the sensitivity of a love ballad. We grew up with Michael Jackson and have the familiarity that one has with an entertainer they've listened to over the decades. Kinda like family.

So when word hit that Michael Jackson had collapsed and died at his home in California, denial and disbelief we're my first emotions as news crews gathered like vultures soaring over a dead celebrity corpse.

Immediately phones started to ring, I intentionally cut off all television and radio coverage thinking perhaps this was one of those news stories that got out of hand. I was in full denial I didn't want to know the fact that an American icon, the King of Pop, had passed away.

To understand the power of Michael Jackson, I have to go back to the early days when videos like Thriller were new. A friend's son who could barely walk or talk ran to the television almost knocking it over saying "Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson."

And as adults, when Thriller was first shown I remember being in a room full of people who were silent at the end until someone said," Dayum, He rocked the dead!."

The same person we'd grown up with had become a superstar making music that defied racial and music barriers.

Michael Jackson's music was the soundtrack of our lives.

A prominent Syracuse politician asked me, "Why did he do that to his skin?" Without missing a beat I told him, "because when we grew up, dark skin and big noses weren't cool. Besides, how many white folk lay out in the sun and get tans?" I think he got it.

Over the next few weeks Michael Jackson will be picked apart like celebrity road kill. But it doesn't take away from the fact that he was one of the most talented people of a generation.

Usher, Justin Timberlake, New Kids on the Block and all the boy bands were carbon copies of the Jackson 5 formula.

I used to look at tearful Elvis fans, and ask "why?" Tonight, on the day of Michael Jackson's death, I say, "why not?"

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