Locals remember Jackson: He’s more than King of Pop

Scores of celebrities who knew or worked with Michael Jackson have issued statements of mourning. As grief for the King of Pop poured out around the world, local heartbroken fans also share their opinions.

THOMASVILLE — It was a “Thriller” career, one that ended too soon for Michael Jackson and his fans, including some local residents who shared their memories of the late “King of Pop.”

The singer died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. An autopsy was to be performed Friday, but many are attributing his death to cardiac arrest.

“I was shocked,” fan Glynda Tonkin, who heard the news on television Thursday evening, said. “To me, he was awesome. I feel sure he would have come up with new songs. I think all of his fans and the music world is suffering a big loss.”

C. Michial Mayhall, band director for Thomas County Central High School, said Jackson’s death is unfortunate.

“He was only 50, but with the stress in his life from all the gossip and the significant financial losses, I’m not surprised. I am saddened; I really enjoyed his music.”

On iTunes, the popular multi-media download program, six of the Top 10 songs and nine of the Top 10 albums were Jackson’s on Friday afternoon. These included songs like “Man in the Mirror” and albums such as “Thriller.”

Fan Gwen Williams said listening to Jackson’s songs Thursday night made it hard to deal with the news.

“‘Do You Remember?’, ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ were my favorites,” she said. “Songs like ‘Beat It,’ ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ will forever hold their worth.”

Roosevelt Andrews, 54, remembers Jackson as a youth performer with his family’s group, The Jackson 5.

“He was a self-made star,” Andrews said. “He got all different kinds of music. I think ‘I Want You Back’ is my favorite. I used to do the moonwalk, but I doubt I could now.”

Tonkin, 53, thought it was amazing that a young person like herself had a voice like Jackson’s and, as he got older, his dancing and singing only got better.

“He had some killer moves. Any time you think about the moonwalk you associate it with him.”

Her favorite Jackson song is “Thriller.”

“I like the beat and the video was awesome,” she said. “I liked all the moves on it and, when I think about him, that song sticks out more than the others. I did do the moves ... or honestly tried. I had the glove and the socks.”

Williams, 38, still cannot watch the “Thriller” video because it is “too creepy.” She grew up with older brothers who were all fans of Jackson’s music and moves.

“Mom did not really like his music, but she once bought the red leather jacket like the one he wore,” Williams said. “She had no idea but we did. The eight of us tried to share that one jacket.”

Fan Herbert Brinson started watching Jackson on Saturday night television and liked the way he sang and danced.

“‘Thriller’ was the first of his albums I bought, but I have the majority of his music. That album was great and I loved the song ‘Billy Jean.’ He had the choreography, the moves and the voice, all at the same time: the total package.”

Brinson, 41, even toyed with the idea of trying to be a singer because of Jackson’s influence, but said he did not have the vocals or the moves for it.

Mayhall, 57, has used some of the Jackson 5’s songs in past half-time shows.

“I think it was done very tastefully and very professionally,” he said of Jackson’s music. “I think the album ‘Thriller’ was a landmark album and really set the standard for pop music.”

Mayhall’s favorite tune of Jackson’s is “We Are the World.”

“I think that was a great fund-raiser to help feed hungry people,” he said. “My memory of him will be of him helping the charity.”

Tonkin said she never really believed all the negative press about her childhood idol.

“I felt like it was not the way it seemed. I think he got a lot of bad publicity, but you just cannot top ‘Thriller;’ it’s still here.”

Williams also did not believe the rumors.

“I take child molestation very seriously — I’m an advocate here in Thomasville — and he was found not guilty,” she said. “I do think he overstepped his boundaries and made some poor choices.”

Brinson said it took him a while to get adjusted to the “new Michael,” due to his skin changing colors because of the sickness Jackson had, but he never stopped being a fan.

“It was hard for me to believe all the rumors and I think probably what was happening there is he did not have a whole lot of childhood. I think he wanted to go back and do some of the things he never had the chance to experience as a child.”

Andrews never believed the gossip.

“Sometimes, when a person Michael’s age carries a torch that big, people are always trying to put it out. I think he was still like a little child when he died.”

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