Remembering Michael Jackson

Remembering Michael Jackson

Story tools

A A AResize


LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jackson, the King of Pop to many, died on June 25, 2009 — a year ago this week. His death stunned the world, leaving family, friends, colleagues and fans saddened and in disbelief.

Jackson's death has been attributed to an overdose of sedatives, including propofol. His personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter for administering the drugs.

The unexpected death of Jackson was especially shocking to many because the showman, who hadn't performed on the road since the 1996 HIStory Tour, was in the midst of a comeback with "This Is It," a schedule of 50 set for the O2 Stadium in London.

Jackson had declared that it would be the big-stage engagement of his career.

With concerts cancelled and fans left unable to see the megastar perform one last time, a "This Is It" documentary concert film was released showcasing Jackson's behind-the-scenes rehearsals and methodical preparations for his highly anticipated shows.

In light of Jackson's death one year ago, the L.A. Watts Times asked some of his friends and colleagues to reflect on the influence the star had on their lives, their fondest memories, and what they miss most about him.

Dorian Holley ("This Is It" vocal coach, backup singer)

"I look at my time with MJ as this incredible gift. There was nothing I did to deserve it. It wasn't because I was so cute, or brilliant, or talented. Out of the sky fell an opportunity to work for and learn from one of the greatest entertainers the world will ever know. So, I ate it up. I tried to do a fantastic job. Took it very, very seriously. So, in my mind there is this beautiful landscape; this film reel of singing before oceans of fans, amusement parks reserved for the band only, watching Michael dance from a couple feet away, and this burning, glowing, nova-like intensity. MJ was the most incredibly polite and tender human being I have ever met."

Marva Hicks (HIStory Tour, backup singer)

"My fondest memory of MJ is when my mother became really ill and (was) in intensive care. We were performing in Sydney, Australia. At that evening's performance on the day that I found out she was sick, MJ pulled me aside after our prayer circle. He always joined us for prayer circle. He thanked me for doing the show that night considering how worried I was about my mother. And he assured me they would get me home ASAP. I left on a flight the next morning. And the next day, flowers arrived at the hospital for my mother — from Michael Jackson. I am loyal to him to this day because of his kindness.

"What I will miss most about him is the dynamics of his creativity. Being around him was electric! It was exciting to be a part of building this show."

Michael Bearden ("This Is It" musical director)

"One of my fondest memories of MJ is the first time he and I sat down to write out a set list for the show. He showed me a computer print out of what the fans voted as the songs they most wanted to hear, and then he showed me his own handwritten list of what he wanted based on that information. He asked me my opinion and I told him I liked it so far, but he didn't have any J5 or "Off The Wall" stuff on the list. He said, 'I don't?'and grabbed it, looked at it and then balled it up. We had a very difficult time trying to get that list together. If we did all of his hits, he would have been on the stage for about two weeks.

"What was great about the time we had together that day was seeing firsthand the love and passion he had for pleasing his fans and wanting to make sure they were getting what they wanted from our show. I don't think I've ever worked with an artist that loved his fans more!"

Darryl Phinnessee (Bad, Dangerous, HIStory tours)

"One of my fondest memories of Michael is sitting under the stage with him at rehearsal and hearing the account of the Motown 25th Anniversary performance of Billie Jean from him, in his own words. Another is watching Michael ride the "Tilt-a-Whirl" at Tokyo Disneyland with my daughter Darylynn when she was 8 years old.

"His compassion and enthusiasm are two things I will miss"

Freddie Washington (HIStory Tour bass player)

"The fondest memory I have of Michael Jackson was when we were on the 1996 HIStory Tour in Australia, we all had Thanksgiving dinner together and my 5-year-old son went up to him and took a photo of Michael. He thought it was so funny and just cracked up.

"I will mostly miss his bigger-than-life heart."

Benny Collins (production manager on Bad Tour, Dangerous Tour and first part of the HIStory Tour)

"My fondest memory is just watching him be himself and seeing the energy and love that he brought to the rehearsals and show, and to have been a part of a time of wonder and beauty that may never come again. He truly was one of a kind. Also, I have a picture from Christmas in Japan when I was dressed up as Santa Claus, and he sat on my lap and took a picture pulling down my beard. Michael just being Michael and doing the things he loved to do with an energy that was uplifting and energizing. It still makes me very sad to realize he is no longer with us on this planet, and yet he will forever be in our hearts."

Akasha Richmond (Personal Chef - Bad Tour and HIStory Tour)

"My fondest memory would be living in NYC with him (1995) while he made the HIStory album, especially the night he played the piano for me and sang while I cooked him dinner. I met Michael for the first time at the Golden Temple when I was the chef there. We were both shy. He came in everyday."

"What I'll miss most is the laugh, the love and fun that I have never seen since."

Darlene Donloe served as publicist on the first half of Jackson's HIStory Tour.