Around the World, Shock and Grief Over Jackson

Written by Sharon Otterman
June 26th 2009

   Michael Jackson’s brand of pop knew no borders and needed no translation, linking listeners around the world through the accessible corridors of rhythm, beat and dance. And as reaction to his sudden death began to pour in Friday, its extent underscored how far his influence had spread.

   From Sydney to Hong Kong, China to Los Angeles, fans, officials and fellow entertainers spoke of their shock and sadness. His music echoed from cafes and car speakers, and everyone from national leaders on down seemed to weigh in.

   President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela called the star’s death “lamentable news,” though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. The former president of South Korea Kim Dae-jung, who had met Mr. Jackson, said: “We lost a hero of the world.”

   In Paris, fans held a ceremony in his honor in front of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame Friday night and planned a memorial moonwalk at the Eiffel Tower for Sunday.

   Huge crowds gathered in the shadow of Notre-Dame, linking hands and chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, cheering and sometimes breaking into song. Some held flags adorned with images of Mr. Jackson, and others held up signs.

   Charles Dali, an 18-year-old student in the city, too young to remember Mr. Jackson in his recording heyday, nevertheless said that for him, “The Prince of Pop will forever be an icon and a true genius.”

   Isidorae Costade, a 35-year-old lawyer from Paris, said: “He was the first musical artist to truly go beyond race. For this reason he means a great deal to the French.”

   Fans lighted candles at an spontaneous gathering in Hong Kong, while in the Philippines, a dance tribute was planned for a prison in Cebu, where Byron Garcia, a security consultant, had 1,500 inmates join in a synchronized dance to the “Thriller” video.

   “My heart is heavy because my idol died,” he said.

   “Growing up in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, music was Michael Jackson,” wrote Kofi Agadzi from Vakpo, Ghana, in a comment on The New York Times Web site. “We will miss you.”

   The former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, said she cried on hearing the news.

   “Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy,” she said in a statement. “The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us.”

   Quincy Jones, who worked closely with Mr. Jackson on some of his most successful recordings, led tributes from the music world.

   “I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news,” he said of one of the first black entertainers of the MTV generation to gain a big crossover following.

   Paul McCartney told Reuters: “It’s so sad and shocking. I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever.”

   The film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg also paid tribute. Mr. Scorsese told “Michael Jackson was extraordinary. When we worked together on ‘Bad,’ I was in awe of his absolute mastery of movement on the one hand, and of the music on the other. Every step he took was absolutely precise and fluid at the same time. It was like watching quicksilver in motion.

   “He was wonderful to work with, an absolute professional at all times, and — it really goes without saying — a true artist. It will be a while before I can get used to the idea that he’s no longer with us.”

   Mr. Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly: “Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson. His talent, his wonderment and his mystery make him legend.”

   The singer Celine Dion said in a statement, “I am shocked. I am overwhelmed by this tragedy. Michael Jackson has been an idol for me all my life.”

   Mr. Jackson had been scheduled to begin a comeback tour in London next month, and fans there gathered to mourn. Ben Bradshaw, the British culture secretary, issued a statement to announce his grief in which he said he was “a long-time fan of Michael Jackson and had ‘Billie Jean’ played as the first dance at his civil partnership,” The Guardian reported.

   Fans in London danced and sang to Mr. Jackson’s greatest hits Friday night. At Glastonbury, where hundreds were camping in the fields for the annual rock festival in the southwest of England, the news of Mr. Jackson’s death spread quickly and people began sporadically playing his songs at food stalls and in tents. Some bands played tributes to the singer.

   The producers and cast of “Thriller — Live,” a tribute show about Mr. Jackson’s life currently in London’s West End, said they had decided to go ahead with Friday’s performance.

   In Italy, Friday’s papers carried front-page tributes to the “King of Pop.” La Repubblica called the trajectory of Mr. Jackson’s life “a fairy tale that turned into a nightmare.” Readers sent in notes of thanks, grief and disbelief to the Web site of the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

   “Thank you for the emotions you conveyed,” wrote one reader. Another added, “This splendid lonely angel, I love you.”

   “The brightest star ever in music history has fallen, leaving the fascinating memory in peoples’ minds,” Yi Quan wrote from Beijing on the Times’s Web site. “Michael, because of you, I am not alone.”