Saturday, June 27, 2009



By Maseme Machuka, Caroline Nyanga and Agencies
June 27 2009

The crowns fit: Michael Jackson was the King of Pop; Elvis Presley was the King of Rock N Roll.

Both men commanded the pop-culture landscape, as much as the charts. Both men influenced their industry, as well as scores of artistes.

And both men died suddenly and barely into middle age.

Jackson died Friday morning at University of California at Los Angles Medical Centre, US, after being stricken at his rented home in Holmby Hills. He was 51.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate him at home for nearly 45 minutes, then rushed him to hospital. His brother, Mr Jermaine Jackson, said: "It is believed he suffered a cardiac arrest in his home. However, the cause of his death is unknown until results of the autopsy are known."

His Kenyan fans joined the world in mourning the ‘King of Pop’ who died as he prepared for a comeback to vanquish nightmare years of sexual scandal and financial calamity. They expressed shock at the sudden death of a music icon and recalled his influence during their youth.

Influenced Young And Old

Cabinet Ministers William Ruto and Amason Kingi said Jackson’s death was "tragic to the world", adding he had influenced the young and old of his generation.

MPs Simon Mbugua (Kamukunji), Joyce Laboso (Sotik), Joshua Kutuny (Cherang’any), Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i) and Danson Mungatana (Garsen) showered praise on the musical icon, who touched "many hearts throughout the world".

And local musicians and artistes were not left behind in paying tribute to a man they agree was a phenomenon. Emcee Big Ted says: "When all is said and done, I do not think it is right for any of us to pass judgement on him. Nobody knows what drove him to do what he did in changing his skin colour."

Musician Wahu Kagwi said: "My mum told me that MJ’s death reminds her of the day Elvis Presley died — the same euphoria around the world. I’m honoured to have experienced MJ and I shall try and share it with my daughter."

Revolutionised Music

Genge rapper Nonini credits Jackson with revolutionising music across the world: "As a boy I recall trying to emulate his moves to win over girls in my school."

Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier performer who united black and white music, shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled on stage.

His 1982 album Thriller — which included the blockbuster hits Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller — is the best-selling album of all time, with about 50 million copies sold worldwide.

At the time of his death, Jackson was rehearsing for what was to be his greatest comeback: He was scheduled for unprecedented 50 shows at a London arena, with the first set for July 13. As word of his death spread, MTV stopped programming to play videos from Jackson’s heyday. Radio stations began playing marathons of his hits. Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital.

In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cellphone.

"No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow," Mr Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend had sent him. "It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died."

Jackson Five

The public first knew him as a boy in the late 1960s, when he was the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson Five, the singing group he formed with four older brothers in Gary, Indiana. Among their lead hits were I Want You Back, ABC and I’ll Be There.

He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his backward-gliding moonwalk, his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and his high-pitched singing, punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasses were trademarks as was his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.

"For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words. 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," said Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller.

Jackson ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as the biggest pop sensation of all time. He united two of music’s biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. His death evoked comparisons to that of Presley himself, who died at age 42 in 1977.