Reactions to Michael Jackson's Sudden Death Vary From Sadness to Anger

Family, friends and fans around the world react to the death of music icon Michael Jackson.
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 26, 2009; 11:34 AM

In the weeks before his death, we might have said we didn't know how we felt about Michael Jackson. He'd become so bizarre, so pale, so foreign and different from the musical genius some of us once worshipped. We thought that we hardly thought about him, except perhaps as a punch line. We felt that we felt nothing. But when news of Jackson's death broke yesterday, it turned out that we were wrong. Fans and unfans alike, all around the world, all felt something, and sometimes very deeply.

"He was my first love," said Alesia Crawford, 48, a dentist who lives in Wheaton. "I used to sleep with his album covers." She had come to the FYE music store in Wheaton Mall to buy his music, as had many other fans. By 7 p.m. all that was left in the Jackson section was a black music divider reading "Top Selling Artists of All Time."

"I'm crushed," said Jordan Lloyd, 18, also shopping at FYE. "I watched all his videos: 'Thriller,' 'Beat It.' 'Dangerous' was the best."

The music types always respected him, always appreciated what he'd brought to their world. "You know, in a generation of completely, almost 100 percent disposable music and disposable artists, he definitely defines the true artist in the music industry," said John Sproul, who works for CD Warehouse in Georgetown.

"I have played a Michael Jackson song every day for the last 20 years," said Memphis radio announcer Leon Gray. "He leaves behind the best music ever recorded in the industry."

On the other side of the world, in Japan, Iran and South Korea, people woke up to the news that Jackson was gone and immediately shared their feelings. Chatters on one popular Japanese Web site called him "the greatest entertainer in the 20th century." One user called his reign as the King of Pop "a page in our youth filled with shine and hope."

At traditional Friday lunches in Tehran, the stress of a post-election crackdown was forgotten for some minutes as young fans reminisced over plates of rice and ground meat. Western music is officially illegal in Iran, but it remains widely available, and Jackson is a particular favorite.

"People in Iran get really happy when I danced on songs off albums like 'Off the Wall' and 'Bad,' " said 29-year-old Ali, who did not want his family name to be published but frequently uses the moniker Ali Jackson because of his spot-on imitations of his idol. "It would give them energy and show that we are also a part of the world, in our isolated country."

Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, whose inauguration Jackson attended in 1998, said that with the singer's death, "the world has lost a hero . . . and Korea also lost a beloved friend, who showed continued interest and supported unification of Korean peninsula. Korean people are sad."

Jackson visited South Korea four times, performing on stage during two of the visits, and reportedly wanted to travel to communist North Korea as well. He is being mourned in Seoul by citizens as well as pop stars, who lamented what many called his "addiction to cosmetic surgery" even as they praised his talents.

"I started dancing because of Michael Jackson," star Koo Jung-yeop told the Korean press. "It is not only I, but he was the motivation point for so many South Korean singers. I cannot believe that he is dead. It feels like that he is still dancing."

In New York City, a crowd of people assembled in Times Square last night to watch news unfold on large screens, audibly reacting when his death was announced. The ABC news ticker at Times Square repeated the shocking news in a continuous loop; "Michael Jackson, King of Pop, Dead at 50." And tourists took photos of the announcement with cellphones and digital cameras.

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