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    ?uestLove Remembers MJ


    Shocking Info! ?uestLove Remembers MJ

    Post by Snowbunny on Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:52 am

    ?uestLove talks about MJ in his new book, "Mo' Beta Blues: The World According to Questlove"

    ?uestLove Remembers MJ Questlove

    Where were you when Michael Jackson died?

    I was in the commercial break of the second segment of the Fallon show. We were about to introduce Tiger Woods, when my road manager, Keith, ran on stage. He had a look on his face. He came right up to me and said, “Yo, Michael Jackson just died.” It was a shock to the system. It was still the first year of the show, and once you drop a bomb like that, there is no going back to the silliness and lightheartedness that is Jimmy Fallon. That’s over. You’re in another space. At first, I wasn’t sure whether to believe Keith. Who believes something like that the first time they hear it? Because my computer was next to me I went on CNN. (The rule with black people is that it’s not legit news until a legit white news source confirms it.) I was probably looking at the GlobalGrind website, and they were reporting it, but I thought no, that can’t be true. But CNN was saying the same thing and that eliminated any doubt. I was so overcome with misery that we just stopped playing the song. My face went numb. It was as if I had been told that both my parents had died in a fire. People in the audience, some of whom hadn’t heard what Keith said, didn’t understand.

    I had heard the news earlier that day that Michael Jackson was headed to the hospital, but it was murky at best. And I had a theory about it that I was telling people all afternoon. When Michael announced his run of fifty shows, I had made a plan with a girl to go see one of them. We were trying to decide which one. Did we want to see a performance in the first half of the run? The finale? As a performer, I knew that other performers really get in their zone in the exact middle. Catch them too early, and they’re still working out the kinks. Catch them in the second half of the run, and you might get a bored superstar. But then it occurred to me that maybe the whole thing was more tenuous than that. The Jacksons had a history of scheduling shows and tours and not quite making good on them— I had never heard the word exhaustion until the Jacksons came along. I had seen some Janet shows on a tour that was later canceled due to exhaustion, and it turned out the presales were too small. Michael had pulled the exhaustion trick at the Beacon Theater in 1995; he was supposed to do an intimate HBO special, and at the last minute—exhaustion. When he entered the hospital this time, I figured he was trying to find a way out of the grueling fifty-show commitment because he just wasn’t ready. I took a hard-line, disappointed-fan stance: “Come on, Mike, I knew you were going to pull this shit. Exhaustion, here we go.”

    But then it wasn’t exhaustion at all. He was dead. I went home that night to Philadelphia. At that time my trainer and my engineer, Steve, were in my house, and I sensed something coming on, something inside me, a welling up of grief. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I had a loud, screaming breakdown. And so I went and got in my car. I didn’t have tinted windows, so I didn’t stay out on the street. I drove around until I found a parking lot that spiraled all the way to the basement. I parked there and wept uncontrollably for ten or twelve minutes. I remembered first encounter with Off the Wall at the Carlton House in Pittsburgh, in the winter of 1979, when I was wearing a worn-out Fish That Saved Pittsburgh T-shirt that I got for free and spent my evenings recording TV shows on a Realistic tape recorder so I could play them back and memorize them. I remembered first encountering Thriller in Puerto Rico in 1982, where my parents did a four-month residency, where there was summery, tropical weather in the winter and posters of these young guys named Menudo, whom I had never heard of but who drove the girls crazy, and where my dad made me go to the outside bar and sit by the drummer to learn samba and bossa nova rhythms. I didn’t have a record player there so I just spent a month studying the Thriller disc and wondering why “Human Nature” had all these weird ridges in the groove— the shaker parts. It was psychic tunneling, a way of going back in time, a way of reliving my own childhood through those songs and those records. And you know in Goodfellas, how Robert De Niro beats the phone in the phone booth? I beat the shit out of the back of the front seat. I cried until I had a massive headache.

    We went back to work the next day. We asked permission not to wear our suits, to wear Michael Jackson-related stuff instead. I got my T-shirt company to make me a quickie shirt, what I call Helvetica in Harlem, that had the six names of all the brothers. Other members of the band wore leather jackets and studs. Erykah Badu joined us in New York to sit in with us and we spent the day making sandwiches and trying to come to terms with Michael’s death. And we played his songs on the air. Usually, they would be too expensive to use, but there is a special stipulation, a death memorandum, that grants a 48-hour grace period where songs can be used for a standard rate for news purposes. I don’t know if the full weight of the loss hit me then, or later, or if it has hit me yet. It wasn’t that I expected him to make more great music, necessarily. I figure that with everyone who’s designated a genius, especially people of color, has an expiration date. But Michael was so woven into the fabric of my life that it was painful and also unthinkable to have him suddenly gone.

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