Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson: From ABC to the King of Shock, as Easy as 1-2-3
Michael Jackson was only 50 when he died, but his success spanned several half-generations. And each decade of his career left a distinctly different impression on his newest fans.

In the '60s and '70s, when he was with the Jackson 5, reciting his ABCs was as easy as 1-2-3. In the '80s, he thrilled the masses with "Thriller," the highest-grossing album ever, and countless millions of his adoring fans learned how to moonwalk. In the '90s and into the third millennium, the King of Pop became the King of Shock, alarming the world with allegations of child molestation, questionable marriages and the dangling of his baby from a hotel balcony.

"If you are 50 or below, you can't remember a time that Michael Jackson wasn't here," said freelance journalist Melinda Newman, a contributor to the entertainment Web site

"He was always coming out with something new. But what was new never took away what he'd already done, so he was building a legacy of pop."

That legacy began in the Sixties, with the Jackson 5. The band of brothers — hailing from Gary, Ind. — got their big break in 1968 when they signed a record deal with Motown and one of the label's superstars, Diana Ross, took them under her wing.

"The appeal was the whole package of the five boys," said Newman. "From the start, he [Jackson] was front and center; there was a sweetness to his voice."

The boy band appeal quickly shifted to Jackson's talents as a stand-alone artist when he showed his clout as an actor in The Wiz. The following year, Jackson released his first solo album, "Off The Wall," but it wasn't until the 1983 release of "Thriller" that his solo career exploded.

Jackson was most prolific in the '80s: landing a Pepsi endorsement, fusing elements of rock and pop, and of course, doing his signature moonwalk, which he unveiled at the 25th anniversary celebration of Motown. The dance was mesmerizing. "No one had ever done something like that," explained Newman. "It was like watching someone do a trick that no one had ever seen before."

But toward the end of the '80s, Jackson's quirky lifestyle choices began to bewilder the public. He adopted a pet monkey named Bubbles, along with a variety of other exotic animals, and he also began a series of plastic surgeries. "He was like a big kid," Bryan Michael Stoller, Jackson's longtime friend and L.A. film director, told "He's always been like a big kid, very curious, very alive."

Newman said that Jackson's career appeared to be in a holding pattern in the '90s. "I think he was chasing the success that Thriller brought him, but couldn't duplicate," she said. "His popularity didn't wane, but he didn't have an album with as much success as Thriller had."

The '90s were filled with extravagant and lucrative world tours, and they also brought Jackson romance — or so he said — with the made-in-heaven marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, the megastar to whom Jackson was often compared. Jackson divorced Lisa Marie quickly and went on to become the father of three children — two with his second wife, Debbie Rowe, and the youngest with an unnamed surrogate.

Jackson's personal life became notorious in 1993, when he settled out of court with the family of a 13-year-old boy who accused him of molesting him.

"After the child molestation charges he became more of a recluse," said Newman. "I think he just needed to take himself out of the public eye ... he couldn't understand why people couldn't just be nice to him."

Although Jackson evolved throughout the decades, all generations could easily spot his humanitarian efforts. His close friend, Stoller, told that Jackson would want to be remembered for making a difference in the world. "He started a lot of charities," Stoller said. "He was always thinking about others and the less fortunate."

Newman predicted that Jackson will likely be remembered for his contributions to music: "Much of the music was timeless," she explained. "It wasn't so much that he didn't age, it was the music that didn't age."

Dick Clark, a long-time friend of Jackson, released a statement Thursday about the King of Pop: "I knew Michael as a child and watched him grow over the years. Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was THE most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched. He was truly one-of-a-kind."

No matter what age his fans are, each generation can identify with this: "He let a lot of people know that their dreams could come true," Stoller said. "It could happen to anyone."

Michael Jackson Made his Mark in Pakistan

Pakistani fans of Michael Jackson say they are shocked and saddened by the news of his sudden death. Jackson, who was often described as the most popular musician in the world, made his mark here in Pakistan, too.

Michael Jackson's death led many of Pakistan's local television channels Friday morning, knocking the near constant coverage of the military campaign against Taliban militants off the top of the news lineup, if only for a few hours.

At Illusions CD shop in downtown Islamabad, employee Irfan says, even today, years after the height of Jackson's career, people still come to buy his music.

"It's very popular," said Irfan. "Every single person knows Michael Jackson's name. He's very popular. Still, people like [him]. He's the legend."

Another employee, Haris, says he does not feel strongly about Jackson's death, although he loved listening to his music during his childhood.

"I don't feel that much, because he had dropped out of the music scene a lot," he said. "He was trying to make a comeback, from what I heard. But I hadn't heard any of his songs in the past couple of years."

In a nearby outdoor café, 21-year-old Maryam Malik sat with a friend in the scorching heat. She described herself as a "big time" fan of Jackson's music.

"We are really sad that he is no more with us," said Malik. "Many pop singers, like all our pop singers, they have some kind of influence and they, to some extent, have followed his ideas and compositions, and so it's a big time loss."

Rakae Jamil, a musicologist with the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts in Lahore, says there is no doubt that Michael Jackson influenced the pop scene in Pakistan.

"You can find elements of his music in some of the pop songs in Pakistan, whether it concerns rhythmic structures or even melodies," said Jamil. "You know, there's a lot of adrenlin rushed, adrelin-pumped songs such as 'Beat It,' such as 'Bad,' - mostly tracks from the 1980s. Basically, Michael Jackson's music probably went beyond his music videos, and that's why it connected with people over here."

Jamil also says Jackson's talent as a singer, dancer, songwriter was so unique that it transcends time and will continue to inspire Pakistani pop artists.

In Times Square, fans stunned by Jackson's death

NEW YORK:Their idol is dead, but for Michael Jackson's fans, the King of Pop is a legend that will live on forever.

With tears running down her cheeks, Chantal de Roy van Zuydewijn watched in disbelief at the giant screen overlooking New York's Times Square where she, like other fans, tourists and passersby, read the inexorable news: "Michael Jackson dies at age 50."

"He is a legend. He is a genius," said the 28-year-old Dutch tourist, who had a ticket to the pop legend's scheduled comeback tour in July. "He was part of my life," she said, adding she had admired him since she was three years old.

When Solenne Amanda, an African-American from Long Island, east of Manhattan, learned that Jackson had suffered from cardiac arrest, she headed to Times Square with two friends.

"We were in Central Park when I got a phone call and decided to come here immediately to see what happened. We didn't cry, but it is depressing," said Amanda, 16.

"I don't think that he is gonna die," she insisted, even after news broke that her idol had died. "I wanted to buy tickets for his comeback tour," Amanda added, almost incredulous.

The first of four London concerts for the tour had been set for July 13. The kickoff concert was pushed back from July 8 because of the "sheer magnitude" of the show, promoters and producers AEG Live said.

"Getting ready for a show like this was very stressful," said producer Jay Coleman, who represented the artist in the 1980s, especially for his well-known Pepsi advertisements.

The artist's return to the stage had been widely publicized after the pop icon had lived in virtual recluse since 2005, when he was acquitted on charges of child molestation and plotting to kidnap his young accuser.

"No matter how psycho he was, we love him," said Amanda, who insisted that controversies swirling around Jackson in recent years had not made him fall from his pedestal. "He was the most successful entertainer of all times."

Coleman also acknowledged that the star had "a very eccentric personality."

Fans, the producer said, had expected that Jackson "would be as great as he was in the past."

In his artistic work, Jackson "was a perfectionist and very involved in the preparation, every detail was very important," Coleman said.

The World Mourns Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s brand of pop knew no borders and needed no translation, linking listeners around the world through the accessible corridors of rhythm, beat, and dance. And as reaction to his sudden death began to pour in Friday, its extent underscored how far his influence had spread.

From Sydney to Hong Kong, China to Los Angeles, fans spoke of their shock and sadness. His music echoed from cafes and car speakers, and everyone from national leaders on down seemed to weigh in.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called the star’s death “lamentable news,” though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Mr. Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of the world.”

In Paris, fans planned a memorial moonwalk at the Eiffel Tower for Sunday, and a ceremony in his honor to be held at the 13th-century Notre Dame cathedral Friday night.

Fans lit candles at a spontaneous gathering in Hong Kong, while in the Philippines, a dance tribute was planned for a prison in Cebu, where Byron Garcia, a security consultant, had 1,500 inmates join in a synchronized dance to the “Thriller” video.

“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” he said.Online, the traffic was so thick with people sharing news of his death that the microblogging service Twitter crashed, and even Google, the search giant, believed it may have been under service attack, the BBC reported.

The former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, said she cried on hearing the news.

“Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy,” she said in a statement. “The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us.”Quincy Jones, who worked closely with Jackson on some of his most successful recordings, led tributes from the music world.

“I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” he said of one of the first black entertainers of the MTV generation to gain a big crossover following.

The film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg also paid tribute. Mr. Scorsese told “Michael Jackson was extraordinary. When we worked together on Bad, I was in awe of his absolute mastery of movement on the one hand, and of the music on the other. Every step he took was absolutely precise and fluid at the same time. It was like watching quicksilver in motion.

“He was wonderful to work with, an absolute professional at all times, and — it really goes without saying — a true artist. It will be a while before I can get used to the idea that he’s no longer with us.”

Mr. Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly: “Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson. His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make him legend.”

Fellow singer Celine Dion said in a statement, “I am shocked. I am overwhelmed by this tragedy. Michael Jackson has been an idol for me all my life.”

Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to begin a comeback tour in London next month, and fans there gathered to mourn. Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, issued a statement to announce his grief in which he said he was “a long-time fan of Michael Jackson and had Billie Jean played as the first dance at his civil partnership,” the Guardian reported.

Bands playing at the open-air Glastonbury Festival this weekend were expected to pay homage to Jackson’s musical achievements, and a tribute show featuring Mr. Jackson’s songs, Thriller Live, was to go forward as planned on London’s West End.

Zardari meets Governor NWFP

ISLAMABAD----President Asif Ali Zardari meets Governor NWFP Owais Ahmed Ghani on Friday President said the government was determined to pursue the ongoing drive to its logical end. He further said the militants had to give up militancy and submit to state authority or be prepared for physical extermination."The charade cannot be allowed to go on".The Governor apprised the President with the latest update on the relief and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).The President reiterating government's determination to the return and rehabilitation of IDPs stressed that all necessary measures be taken to ensure that they do not face any difficulty when they return to their homes. He also appreciated the Provincial government's contribution in relief efforts.Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that matters pertaining to the on going drive against the militants in Waziristan, relief and rehabilitation of displaced persons and the plans for the return of Swat IDPs were discussed in the meeting.

7,000-strong special police force soon: Hoti

PESHAWAR: NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haidar Khan Hoti has claimed that conditions in the Malakand division are fast becoming normal, where the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation will be enforced after establishment of civil and judicial setups.

He said the strength of the police force would be doubled and a special force would be formed that would have 7,000 personnel. He said local people would be appointed in the force on merit and non-political basis.

He said an additional police force of 2,500 comprising former army personnel would also be formed.

The chief minister expressed these views during weekly meeting with MPAs at his office here on Thursday.

He said the increase in salaries of government employees, notwithstanding the financial crisis, reflected the government’s resolve to work for the welfare of the people of the province.

Citing the targets set in the budget, the chief minister said more funds had been allocated for ongoing schemes under the Annual Development Programme in order to complete the same within the stipulated time.

He said Rs4.66 billion had been allocated for poverty alleviation, Rs50 billion for the Public Sector Development Programme and Rs3 billion for the security of the Malakand division.

The MPAs appreciated the government for steps being taken to strengthen law-enforcement agencies and to increase the revenue of the province.

The chief minister also informed the lawmakers about the arrangements being made for return of the internally displaced persons to their hometowns.

Operation created goodwill for Pakistan in US: Jones

ISLAMABAD: US National Security Adviser Gen (retd) James L. Jones exchanged views with the Pakistani civilian and military leadership on Thursday on operational details and timing of the intensified counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan and its synchronisation with the military offensive against extremists in Pakistan.

‘Gen Jones’ visit was for discussing current challenges confronting Pakistan and coordinating efforts with the Pakistan government in implementing the new shared comprehensive strategy,’ said a statement issued by the US embassy on the conclusion of his two-day visit during which he met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other government officials.

Apart from Washington’s keenness to engage with Islamabad, sources said, Gen Jones’ visit bore all marks of a ‘micro-management model’ which hitherto was missing from the relationship between the two allies.

The top US security official praised Pakistan’s military operation against militants as ‘tremendous confidence-builder for the future’. He indicated that Pakistan’s renewed resolve against militancy infused great optimism in Washington about the success of the fight against militancy.

He said the action had generated goodwill for Pakistan in the US, adding that terrorism was a shared threat.

‘Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America — it is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people,’ he said.

President Obama’s Af-Pak strategy attaches immense importance to Islamabad’s role in the fight against extremism as it deploys additional 21,000 troops in Afghanistan in a bid to quell the Taliban insurgency.

The troop build-up is feared to have a fallout on Pakistan, particularly in the restive region of Balochistan.

The sources privy to Gen Jones’ discussions in Islamabad say the intensified US offensive is likely to get into full swing by August-September and the Americans are of the opinion that the next 12-18 months will determine the fate of the new strategy.

From Gen Jones’ talks in Islamabad, it appears that Washington has agreed to the Pakistani demand to deploy its troops along the Afghan border to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists and spill-over of refugees.

The issue of displaced persons also came up for discussion and Gen Jones assured that the US administration would provide all possible assistance to Pakistan in handling the crisis.

Gen Jones, who later left for New Delhi, said in a TV interview the US wanted to be of help in the process of normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. He said he would be carrying a message of equality, fairness and reason for the Indian leadership.

In his meeting with Gen Jones, Prime Minister Gilani urged the US to play its role in resolving the Kashmir and water disputes with India.

He emphasised that normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India was necessary for the stability of the region and would be of great help by allowing Pakistan to focus its efforts against militants and extremists.

Mr Gilani appealed to the US to write off its debt to help Pakistan overcome the economic crisis and make up for the losses it suffered because of the war on terror.

During his meeting with Gen Jones, President Zardari sought drone technology from the US to boost Pakistan’s capacity to hit high-value targets in specific areas of the tribal belt which were difficult to access by ground forces, spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The president thanked the US administration for its efforts in the adoption of the Kerry-Lugar Bill to provide $1.5 billion of annual assistance to Pakistan over a period of five years.

Mr Zardari said: ‘Pakistan needs much more assistance to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons and embark upon a massive socio economic development programme of the area to banish poverty and thereby the forces of militancy.’

He said: ‘I am looking forward to the materialisation soon of the building of reconstruction opportunity zones to help build the underdeveloped areas economically and provide jobs to the people.’