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David Wild

David Wild

Posted: July 7, 2009 05:56 PM

Sending Off Somebody's Brother -- Thoughts from Backstage at the Staples Center


I come from the world of journalism, but in recent years I've fallen into television and I can't get up. But when my friend Ken Ehrlich, who I've worked with on the Grammy Awards for many years, called and asked me to help put together today's Michael Jackson Memorial at the Staples Center along with Kenny Ortega, Randy Phillips and first and foremost the Jackson family, I had absolutely no idea what to expect -- which was okay because too often in television you know exactly what to expect, and you end up being right.

I had spent the previous few days helping Rolling Stone with the special Michael Jackson tribute issue that just came out. Speaking to Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie and yes, Donny Osmond on behalf of the magazine reminded me of something that journalism often makes us forget: that there are actual people on the other side of what we write about and what we do. Imperfect and even deeply flawed people, sure -- do you know any other kind? All of these men knew Michael, and they loved him not as a king but as a man.

But spending some time these past few days with Michael's brother Randy Jackson and the other Jacksons really brought home the truth of this very human experience to me. See I have an older brother too, and together this year we buried our beloved father. My loss didn't make headlines, but he was my first idol -- our personal King of Pop.

Unlike celebrity, death is real. Celebrity -- which Michael Jackson experienced in its purest and perhaps most dangerous form -- may be the dominant religion of our times, but it is one that openly sells false gods and offers little lasting solace. Celebrity helps sell lots of magazines and commercial time, but celebrity does not trump blood. Michael Jackson was not just a great artist. He was somebody's brother, and as such, he deserved a proper send-off.