Remembering Michael

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Fri, 07/10/2009 - 15:24

album promo image for Remembering Michael

A Bible open to Psalms outside the childhood home of Michael Jackson, Gary, Ind.

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

First things first. What I'm about to write isn't an attempt to tag Michael Jackson as a Christian artist, endorse his lifestyle choices or even try to identify what faith he ascribed to during his 50 years on earth. But after a quick scan of my massive Christian CD collection, I can't help but notice countless artists who've been influenced by the undisputed King of Pop, including the early days of dc talk, tobyMac's more recent solo material, gospel superstar Kirk Franklin, hip-hop troupe Group 1 Crew and literally everyone in between.

As the Jackson family laid to rest their son, brother and father last week with a public memorial service, I don't think any of us could have predicted that faith in Jesus would have been so readily displayed in front of billions of people across the world. GospelMusicChannel.com got an up-close view of reactions to the memorial from Jackson's boyhood home in Gary, Ind.

As I, like millions of others, tuned into the recent Michael Jackson memorial service (which I caught on a standing room only simulcast at the Harold Washington Cultural Center just minutes away from Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana), where it was impossible not to notice the spiritual nature of the grand send off. From the Andrae Crouch Choir's opener "Soon and Very Soon" to Mariah Carey's poignant 'Thank you Jesus' ending of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" to Lionel Richie's overt Commodores' classic "Jesus Is Love" and even prayers from Pastor Lucious Smith of Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena, God was unquestionably in the house.

The overtly spiritual tone of the service, which was characterized by several spoken word segments honoring Jackson's humanitarian efforts, seemed to even out the often outlandish headlines that surrounded the pop star's turbulent life. "There wasn't nothing strange about your daddy," Reverend Al Sharpton pointed out to Jackson's three children. "What was strange was what your daddy had to deal with."

Of course, the late great entertainer will still prove polarizing to some, but the memorial helped paint one of the planet's famous people in his most personal light to date. And by the end of the two and a half hour experience, it was impossible for anyone's heart not to melt as his 11-year-old daughter Paris Katherine tearfully proclaimed: "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine...I just wanted to say I love him so much."

Jackson's premature passing is particularly poignant considering he was on the verge of a comeback that included 50 sold out shows at London's O2 Arena. As a member of the press slated to cover opening night and a longtime fan of Michael's music, I'm amongst the throngs of disappointed people who won't ever get to see those shows.

Disappointment, yes, but it goes deeper than that.

Michael's comeback was more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear him perform his plethora of hits. Or watch is signature moonwalk. This 'comeback' was, at least for me, about hope. The hopeful anticipation of the possibility for a full-fledged redemption in the often controversial superstar's life. The fact he could sell out that many dates and rekindle a previously fractured family life gave every indication that he was on his way back, personally and professionally. Who knows how much more impact he might have had, had those faith inquiries come full circle?

Nonetheless, as I watched the Christ-centered memorial with a standing room only crowd in his very neighborhood and then made the pilgrimage to the nearby 2300 Jackson Street in Gary (with countless flowers, vigils and Bibles strewn in Jackson's former front yard), I felt a peace that perhaps Michael was well on his way to filling the void that no amount of fame or success could ever fill.

If there was a primary message to take away from what very well could've been the most moving celebrity sendoff in history, it was, for me, that the Lord can always heal even the most broken hearted, simultaneously showering His grace and comfort upon us all, even upon the world's most peculiar superstar. And as Jackson's socially conscious words of "We Are the World/Heal the World" closed out the tribute concert, it was clear his artistic legacy will be just as indelible as his humanitarian contributions.

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About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).


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