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A sad farewell to the King of Pop

For all the millions in the world who watched yesterday’s farewell memorial service for pop star Michael Jackson, and especially those present in the packed Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, not shedding a tear or two for this truly musical genius would have definitely been out of place. The star studded extravaganza, lasting more than two hours, continued to build up momentum each time a music artist sang one of Michael’s songs, or a memorial testimonial was given. The mood seemed to grow more poignant, even though the 20,000 people in attendance (including more than 17,500 who received tickets via the internet) were remarkably well behaved; which added significantly to the tribute being given to Jackson.

Michael Jackson MemorialFollowing an introductory eulogy by Pastor Luther Smith, a long time friend of the Jackson family, recording artist Mariah Carey sang Jackson’s “I’ll Be There”; Lionel Richie followed with “Jesus is Love”; an emotionally wrought Usher sang “Gone Too Soon”; John Mayer did an instrumental version of “Human Nature”; and Stevie Wonder sang “I never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” as a personal tribute to a fellow “brother” and artist. “This is a moment that I wish I hadn’t lived to see” Wonder said, trying to hold back his tears. Jennifer Hudson, a former American Idol winner and one whom Jackson had personally admired, also sang one of Jackson’s former hits.

Many of the personal tributes given were as moving as the musical renditions, especially those by Brooke Shields, who had known Jackson since age 13 and said she and Jackson “formed an immediate bond as we both understood what it meant to achieve stardom at a very young age. We were considered by many as an ‘unordinary pair’, but we knew we could depend on each other”. She went on to call Michael Jackson “the sweetest and purest person I have ever known”.

But perhaps the greatest tribute, from a professional standpoint, came from Gary Gordy, whose Crown Record Company helped propel the Jackson Five singing group and Michael Jackson individually to stardom. Gordy said: “not only was Michael Jackson the undisputed King of Pop; he was much more than that – he was the greatest entertainer who ever lived!”

Of course there were other tributes, including those by basketball greats Kobi Bryant and Magic Johnson (who said he was most impressed when he shared a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with the pop star); the Reverend Al Sharpton, and both of Martin Luther King’s children Eunice King and Martin Luther King III, who said that “you have be the best at what you are, and that’s what Michal was”.

Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee, from the Houston Texas Congressional District, pointed out Jackson’s many good deeds, including his many charities (“he may go down in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of charities he was actively involved in”) and when he visited wounded US servicemen at Walter Reed Hospital, outside Washington D.C. “When he died on June 25th, we all stood in a moment of silence for the passing of a great American icon. Michael Jackson, I salute you!”

Other musical renditions were given in Jackson’s honor, including those by Motown great Smokey Robinson (of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) who wrote a number of songs that Jackson later turned into hits. But perhaps the most musical surprise of the evening came from 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, of Swansea Wales in the U.K, with an excellent rendition of Jackson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You.” The young singer had been picked by Jackson to appear in his “This is It” concert tour, which would have begun in London in a few days.

Jackson’s own family rounded out the celebrity and star-studded morning with his brother Jermaine Jackson singing a wonderful version of the Charley Chaplin song “Smile” which Michael made famous as young child. And Marlon Jackson, choked with emotion, said of his departed brother: “we will never understand what he had to endure. Maybe now, people will leave him alone”.

As a final musical tribute, everyone who participated came on stage for the finale musical number “We Are the World”, which Jackson made famous as a song of love and hope for all the world’s children.

What brought down the house, emotion-wise, however, came from his 11 year old daughter, Paris Katherine, who sobbed: “Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine – and I just want to say I love him so much!”

As his bronze and gold plated coffin was wheeled out, voices from the audience cried “Michael, Michael” in one last tribute as the dead King of Pop left for his final journey to his eternal resting place. And as it was with another King, Elvis Presley, only history will conclude how great Michael Jackson really was.

King of Pop Michael Jackson dead at 50

Michael Jackson Dead at 50

Pop star icon Michael Jackson died Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles of an apparent cardiac arrest. He was 50 years old. Jackson’s death was reported to the media by he brother Jermaine, who was at his side when he has taken to UCLA Medical Center hospital after apparently suffering a heart seizure. An emergency room team worked on him for over an hour trying to revive him but to no avail, and he was pronounced dad at 2:26 p.m. Pacific Time.

Jackson had been trying to make a music comeback and had several concerts scheduled for this summer with tickets for them virtually sold out. His recent concert in London had been received by a packed house, indicated that the King of Pop was still top billing despite not being actively involved in the music and entertainment business for some time. His sister Janet, who was in the midst of making a movie, went immediately to be with her family after hearing the tragic news.

Although Jackson had not personally appeared in Israel as a music artist, he had several close Israeli friends, most notably magician and surrealist effect artist Uri Geller, who said he was profoundly saddened to learn of Jackson’s death.

Michael Jackson was born in Indiana in 1958 and his early talent as a singer and performer was seized upon by his father who featured his six year old son in a family singing group that became known as the Jackson Five. It was no turning back after that, and the young pop star led the group to win Grammy after Grammy until he finally “went solo” as a teenager during the 1970’s. During his music career, Jackson achieved fame that few musicians ever have and was indicted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Once with the Jackson Five and once as a solo singer. He won more than 12 Grammies in all as well as numerous musical awards. His pop movie, Thriller, won 8 Grammies on it’s own.

Jackson’s personal life was as news worthy as well as it was tragic, and was often filled with controversy. His strange and often eccentric life style, included being married to Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of music legend Elvis Presley. That marriage, in which it was often queried if the couple actually lived together, lasted less then two years. He then married Debbie Rowe, and had two children with her before the marriage dissolved in 1999. Jackson made headlines when he was photographed dangling one of his children off a balcony of a hotel the family was staying in while visiting Berlin.

Jackson love for young children, especially young boys, was also mixed with controversy; and while many said it was due to his lost childhood by being thrust into the entertainment world at such an early age, there were also rumors that he had more than a fond relationship with them. He often brought hundreds of young children to his extravagant Neverland Ranch where he set up an almost Disneyland type of atmosphere, complete with a large zoo. He also established his Heal the World Foundation to help better the lives of underprivileged children, one of whom, a 13 year boy, accused Jackson of molesting him. That court case, which was literally plastered on the world media, cost the singer his career, and he never really recovered from it, even though he was eventually acquitted. He also have a strange skin problem that caused him to literally “turn white”, which was coupled with being burned once during a singing performance (he lost most of his nose during that accident). He also became the victim of ridicule and off-beat humor by numerous talk show hosts, who appeared to enjoy capitalizing on his misfortunes.

Jackson had amassed a fortune during his music and entertainment career, but didn’t have the ability to hold on to most of it, as he spent millions on his Neverland Ranch, and his numerous legal defenses, including several financial settlements with his ex-wives and with children who has accused him of sexual misconduct. He also traveled to several world locations, including the Persian Gulf Emirate of Dubai, to try to find “a haven form the world” for himself and his children. Some people who knew him well say that he was in a bad financial situation, which is what may have prompted him to return to the public concert scene and even to consider making new pop music recordings.

Tributes have been coming in from all over the world, and the noisy atmosphere of New York City’s Times Square and Los Angeles’s Chinese Theater (where Jackson’s celebrity “star” is included along with other entertainment celebs) seemed gripped in moments of silence when word of Jackson’s death was broadcast by the media. “I was really saddened to hear of Michael’s death – he was a true friend and co-worker” said actress Brooke Shields, who had known Jackson during his career. “Learning of Michael’s death was almost like hearing about (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy’s assassination” a fan noted.

Remembering Meir Ariel

By Raz Koller

Meir ArielIt’s been seven years since we said our farewells to Meir Ariel, Who died suddenly from a grave disease at the early age of 57. Meir Ariel was one of Israel’s most popular and creative song writers and poets. He wrote and performed his songs himself, but also wrote many songs for the cream of Israeli culture, with such figures as Shalom Hanoch, Arik Ainstein, David Brozza, Gidi Gov and more. He also published books of poetry, and was known to be influence by Jewish poet such as Natan Alterman and Haim Nachman Bialik, and also the American Jewish singer Bob Dylan.

Ever since he died, memorial concerts have been performed each year in his memory. Most of them took place in the kibbutz Mishmarot, where he used to live with his family. However, this year it was decided to move the main event
to the amphitheater in Cesarea . That decision was made by Terza Ariel, his widow, and Yehuda Eder, a dear friend of Meir who worked with him on many albums and projects and he’s also the artistic manager of the show.
The concert will contain new artists next to old who will perform some of Ariel’s classic song. The band “The Doll House” will perform “Mode Ani” (I Give Thanks) and “Zirey Kaitz” (Seeds Of Summer). Arcadi Duchin will perform “Omrim SheBli” (They Say That Without…) and Ehud Banai will sing “Canaan Blues”, which appeared in his last album and was written in the momery of Ariel. David Brozza will perform “Lyla Shaket” (Quiet Night) and “Mitachat Lashamaim” (Beneath the Sky). Yehuda Eder will preform “Agadat Deshe” (A Grass Legend) alongside with his wife, the actress Miki Kam.

Other musicians that will perform in the show includ Aviv Geffen (who’ll perform “Neshel Hanachash” [The Snake’s Slough]), Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi, Efrat Gosh, Ronit Shachar, Dori Ben-Zeev and Meir Swisa.

The concert will take place on the anniversary of his death, July 18th.

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