Stephen Taylor / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
Tito, Marlon, Jackie Jackson and Ai pose with Katherine Jackson at a press
conference at Claridgea in London, announcing the Michael Jackson Tribute
Live event in Tokyo.
LONDON--With Michael Jackson's personal physician, Conrad Murray, due to be sentenced for involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles on Tuesday next week, the chance to focus on the King of Pop's music will come as a welcome relief for his fans around the world.
And what better way to honor Michael's legacy in Japan than next month's Michael Jackson Tribute Live? Three of Michael's brothers will celebrate the life of the entertainer at the event, with AI, Toshinobu Kubota, Tortoise Matsumoto, Macy Gray, a host of other big names. Eldest brother Jackie Jackson is enthusiastic at the prospect.
"I'm looking forward to coming to Japan and visiting all our fans there and putting on a great tribute show on behalf of my brother, with AI...so I'm very excited about that. It's gonna be something special," he said over the phone from his home in Las Vegas earlier this month.
For Jackie, it will be his first appearance on a Japanese stage for quite some time.
"Maybe in the early '80s--or it might have been the late '70s--that was the last time we performed, and it was a great show. But we felt something was wrong, because Japanese people are so kind and so quiet, and there was no screaming going on. It was applause after every song. We were used to screaming when we were doing a concert, and that was not taking place in Japan," he said with a laugh.
Jackie's forthcoming visit with brothers Marlon and Tito came about after promoters of Michael Jackson Tribute Live contacted their mother, Katherine Jackson.
"As my brother was such a big icon in Japan--and so were The Jacksons as well--they wanted to do something to celebrate everything [Michael] did in the music industry and for all the humanitarian work he's done for charity. They decided to do a tribute show to honor him and wanted us to be a part of it, so they contacted my mom, and my mom said, 'Yes, he would love that,' and that's how it all started," Jackie explained.
Michael Jackson Tribute Live had its official launch in London last month, the day after the Michael Forever concert in Cardiff, a show that featured The Jacksons among a glittering array of stars. Jackie has fond memories of the occasion.
"It was wonderful. We had Jamie Foxx hosting the show. There was Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera. And Michael's kids were there, and my mom was there. They came on the stage--it was unbelievable," he recalled.
The appearance of Michael's children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, at Cardiff came as a big surprise to the audience at the Millennium Stadium.
Joining The Jacksons on stage will be R&B singer AI, who was also at the launch in London, having recently released a single featuring The Jacksons. Jackie has fond memories of the recording.
"[AI] told us she'd got this number, 'Letter in the Sky,' and my brothers heard it and we thought it was a great song. She wanted us to be a part of it and they showed up right away. We went to the recording studio that Michael had always recorded in, called Westlake [in Los Angeles], and everything was set up, the cameras and everything, and we recorded the song in one day. We shot the video the same day, too," he said, adding he and his brothers were very pleased with the results. "We did a great job on the song with her and it turned out to be wonderful. We love the song. She's an incredible talent."
On the subject of talent, it's easy for people to forget that, for all his well-documented eccentricities, Michael was a phenomenal artist. Shortly before my interview with Jackie, the radio played "Hallellujah Day," one of the lesser-known Jackson 5 singles that a 14-year-old Michael sings on, and it struck me his voice is unmistakable. Jackie concurred.
"Yes, I noticed that when he was very, very young. He had a talent when he was very, very young. The group started with myself, Jermaine and Tito, and Michael and Marlon came in later. Michael was playing the bongos, but he started dancing and singing, so we decided to put him up front, and it was magic," he remembered.
Of all the magical moments that ended up on vinyl, Jackie's favorite Jackson 5 song goes way back to 1969.
"The very first one, 'I Want You Back,' that's the one that still means the most for me, because that was the very first hit. When we heard it for the first time on the radio, I was in the car with one of my friends. I had to pull in to the side of the road just to hear what it sounded like on the radio, and it sounded so good to me--I knew it was a hit," he said
It's appropriate Jackie will join thousands of others to celebrate Michael's life, though as the eldest Jackson son, Jackie had his own thoughts on how his younger brother will be remembered.
"He was a great father, he was a great humanitarian, he gave to so many charities around the world and he wanted to make the world a better place. If a kid needed something, a heart or something like that, he would try and find a donor for that heart, he would give up the money for it, no matter what it was. That was Michael Jackson."
Michael Jackson Tribute Live, featuring The Jacksons, AI and many more, will take place at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13-14 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. For more information, visit http://mjtribute.jp/
(Nov. 25, 2011)