The King is Dead. That was the headline of the one of the major Ugandan papers today. The front pages of all of the other daily Ugandan papers were also dedicated to the story of Michael Jackson’s death. Many radio stations here are playing his music all day and local Ugandan politicians and celebrities are speaking out about his death.
Although, my Fulbright is not directly related to pop music or Michael Jackson, I wanted to briefly comment on this. Like many people, I grew up listening to Michael and was very saddened to hear about his death. He was truly an amazing entertainer. While watching and reading about the worldwide reaction to his death, what fascinates me the most is that he was genuinely a global “household name.” I can’t think of any other artist of my generation that is as well known as Michael Jackson. Just a month ago, I was speaking to the guardian of one of the young people in the Hip Hop Therapy Project and I asked him how he felt about his nephew winning the popping competition at the Breakdance Challenge I recently organized and he responded “I’m so happy and proud of him and I hope that one day he will be able to dance like Michael Jackson. Yes, one day he will dance like Michael Jackson.” I remember thinking at the time how interesting it was that I was sitting in front of a mud hut in a very rural part of Uganda and someone was talking to me about Michael Jackson. I see kids in Gulu doing the moonwalk and trying to dance like him and am again amazed at how far-reaching his influence was. I think that despite the controversies and eccentricities that often dominated news coverage about him, he has obviously left an imprint on the world and will be missed. RIP MJ.