Not surprisingly, stations targeting black listeners did wall-to-wall Michael Jackson coverage this morning.
V-103’s Frank & Wanda at just past 8 a.m. interviewed Atlanta R&B singer Keith Sweat. his favorite MJ song: “She’s Out of My Life.” “I was devastated. He opened a lot of doors… he set standards.”
Later, Atlanta’s R&B superstar Usher called in to V from Paris. His earliest memory of MJ is “ABC” but what connected with him was “Off the Wall.” “Michael Jackson inspired me through dance and inspired me through music and vocal ability,” he said. “I gotta say, I wouldn’t be who I am today without Michael’s influence. Being able to share the stage with him and just be part of that legacy, same way I felt about James [Brown.]… God is calling all his children home.
On Rickey Smiley’s syndicated show on Hot 107.9, at 8:33 a.m., co-host Ebony Steele was talking about how much she liked “Ebony & Ivory.” Smiley had to correct her: that was Stevie Wonder, not MJ. Awkward.
At 8:35 a.m., Al Sharpton was interviewed on Steve Harvey’s morning show on Majic 107.5. “On my Facebook page and Twitter, I have pictures of me and Michael from the 70s before the plastic surgery,” Sharpton said (yes, Sharpton is SO hip, eh?). “He had his own way to express his blackness… James Brown used to tease him that the moonwalk was the camel walk going backwards.”
Rock stations touched upon the topic but didn’t obsess over MJ. The Giant Show on Project 9-6-1 at 7:20 a.m. was playing a spoof interview with Gene Simmons. At 7:50 a.m., the Regular Guys spent time discussing cheating South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. And some listeners were not exactly rapturous of MJ. “He had a quest to be a white man,” said some non-fan on the Regular Guys F-U line. At 7:51 a.m., Q100’s Bert Show was debating men’s sexual peak age but the top 40 station did throw in “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” at 8:10 a.m. The bad stuff, Bert Weiss said at 8:23 a.m., is such an inextricable part of his life that it’s hard to separate it from his great music. “We could spend two hours playing 30 second clips of his hits. He’s had so many.”
Over at WABE-FM, “Morning Edition” did a nice summary of his life at 8:13 a.m., including his financial problems and clips of “I’ll Be There” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” Critic Margot Jefferson, who wrote a book about Michael Jackson, was interviewed. “He knew with his songwriters and the producers he chose how to take the best and hippest elements from everything around him,” she said. “Just with that song ["Wanna Be Startin' Something"], that driving funk, that Afro beat, that sweet but urgent voice and those lyrics that always suggests a little menacing emotionally.”
“He was used, worked, driven, externally and internally. There was huge psychic damage from many many many years back,” Jefferson said. “He loved symbolism. 50 shows. He was 50 years old. Then he was going to disappear in a blaze of glory. This is what we have instead. It’s kind of heartbreaking.”
Steve McCoy on the Steve & Vikki show on B98.5 at 8:19 a.m. noted how emotional everyone felt that morning, that MJ fan Jessica, the gal who answers the phones, had cried. “Same thing happened when John Lennon died,” McCoy said.
At 7:40 a.m., Kicks 101.5, the country station, played clips of “ABC,” “Ben” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” The station’s celebrity news correspondent Jimmy Carter (”Nitty Gritty from Music City”) noted nice words about Michael Jackson from country stars such as Jimmy Wayne, Josh Gracin, Joe Nichols and Luke Bryan. The station gabbed about Jackson’s prescription drug use.
True Oldies 106.7, at 8:26 a.m., actually dug out that less-than-popular duet “The Girl is Mine” between Paul McCartney and Jackson. I haven’t heard this song on the radio in… decades. And for good reason. “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” MJ emoted.
NBC’s “The Today Show” interviewed L.A. Reid and Akon about MJ. “There hasn’t been an artist that had this impact on musical culture or pop culture,” Reid said. Akon has met him before and recorded with him. “From my experience, he was one of the healthiest guys I’ve ever known.” (huh?)
On Monday, Fox will re-air the “American Idol” earlier this year that was themed to Michael Jackson. (This unfortunately also means watching Anoop Desai maul “Beat It.”) VH1 Classic will air non-stop MJ videos today and tomorrow.
Sirius XM has a bevy of Michael Jackson tributes on several of its channels, from former MTV hosts Alan Hunter and Nina Blackwood doing a special at 7 p.m. on 80s on 8. The top 40 station Sirius XM Hits 1 is playing his music from 6 a.m. to noon today. The Groove, Heart & Soul and Hip-Hop Nation will all play MJ songs at the top of each hour today. MJ tributes hosted by music journalist Dave Harsh will be heard on Classic Vinyl, Classic Rewind, Alt-Nation, the Spectrum and the Loft.