Writing this now even as it runs live on TV, I can already say that the Shrine memorial event for Michael Jackson defended his legacy in ways MJ himself could not.
Stevie Wonder, himself an ex-child star rising through the Motown system, sang the best and truest response to those who would still ridicule and belittle Michael’s achievements.
“They Won’t Go When I Go” was written back when Stevie was feeling himself attacked and undermined by those he trusted, and remains an eloquent cry-from-the-heart from someone who’s learned the hard way that fame and worldly power (with all it’s material benefits) won’t ever protect its owner from worldly tragedy, failure or heartbreak.
Even Rev. Al Sharpton, frequently a controversial public crusader, hit the right notes when speaking of Michael. “You’re daddy wasn’t strange,” he affirmed to M.J.’s kids in the front row, “what he had to *deal with* was strange!” Sharpton intoned to spontaneous applause. Growing up in public, a black boy when America still segregated and limited black aspirations, working class and under pressure from within and without to excell and succeed in a game rigged against him from the beginning, Michael coped with adversity as best he could–and better than most.
“Thank you, Michael,” Sharpton added at the end of his testimony, “Thank you because broke barriers for all the rest of us, and thank you because you never gave up. “