Central Oregon musicians pay tribute to Michael Jackson (Part II)

Monday, July 6th, 2009, 11:17 am by Ben Salmon


It’s been more than a week now since the unexpected death of Michael Jackson, and the man, his life and his legacy is still a hot topic of conversation. Whether you think he should be remembered as a pop-culture icon or that his latter-day legal troubles overshadowed his chart success (or both), there’s no question the guy had an enormous influence on music.

To get an idea of the influence he had on Central Oregon’s music scene, Frequency asked a bunch of local musicians to talk about Michael Jackson’s role in their development as artists, to reflect on his life, or just to share their memories of his music, and so many responded, I split them up into two posts. You can read the first one by clicking here, and the second batch begins just after the jump.

Local rapper The Dirtball
I don’t normally talk about many other artists unless they have had some sort of impact on my life, and Michael Jackson has had a huge impact on many of us, no matter what age you are. I remember receiving the “Thriller” cassette for Christmas in my stocking, and not really caring about anything else that morning other than those songs. I even went out and bought the vinyl that next week. I kept it around, and in 1999, when my old group, Chola, recorded our second full-length album, I sampled in some different cuts from that record. It only took about four weeks for one of the copies to hit a roadblock with legalities regarding those samples I used, and a lawsuit was in our face. Ha. I laugh now, but I was thoroughly bummed we had to re-press that CD. It goes to show how amazing and prized those songs are!

Now, as I produce more and more rap tracks, and Dirtball Productions begins to take shape, Michael Jackson’s songs are still an integral part of my music. I often use his tracks for reference to my own, to make sure I am not only keeping the soul of my music intact, but I also strive to match the clarity and the mastering of his records. M.J. will be missed on this end, but we will always have his extensive catalog to groove to. R.I.P.

Canaan Canaan, local singer-songwriter
I just added my version of Michael Jackson’s “Ben” on YouTube and MySpace. There are quite few reasons why I made a remix version of this song. I got a phone call from my family in Japan after I learned Michael Jackson had died. Because of Michael’s death, my family has decided to tell me a little story about my older brother which I didn’t know before. Actually, my brother passed away because of leukemia before I was born, and he was a big fan of Michael Jackson and loved to listen to his songs all the time. I was little shocked, but at the same time I understood why they wanted to tell me the story now.

Michael’s death has a big impact on us. It’s not only people in the U.S. but in Japan as well. After I finished the conversation with my family, I decided to sing Michael’s song. My aunt picked one of his songs, “Ben,” which would suit my voice perfectly. I haven’t had enough time to practice, but I really like this song and enjoyed a lot for the recording. So I dedicate this version of “Ben” to both Michael Jackson and my older brother.

Mindscape of Person People
When I was about 3, “Thriller” was on TV one night. I’m guessing it was on MTV, and I don’t know if it was the debut or what, but the whole family was there watching. When it started getting scary, I ran out of the room and was hiding in the hallway, all the while peeking around the corner in fear. When the music started, it must have caught my attention in a different way, because by the time the scene where all the zombies and monsters were dancing in street came on, I was back in the middle of the living room with my older brother and sister, with my mom and dad watching me try to copy their dances. I hadn’t seen anything like it in all my three years.

Don Hoxie of The Substitutes
Living in Central Oregon during the late 1970s-1988, we really only had one Top 40 radio station called KXIQ 94. Whoever the program director was during that time had a fair amount of control over what we got to hear as a community. Boy, did he like Michael Jackson. I remember “Off the Wall” having several singles, but it was nothing like the success of “Thriller.” One hit after another — boom, boom, boom. You really couldn’t escape hearing those tunes. In fact, I don’t remember any album before that (or after) having that many big hit singles. You could argue that Madonna or Prince were the reigning champs during that time. You would be wrong. Michael Jackson owned the ’80s.

Tyler Rouse of The Roe
He was a very important part of every dance party that we ever had.

Chris Soliz of The Roe
The sheer brilliance of the “Thriller” album makes me want to become a better musician every day. His songs opened the door for all the pop music of this generation!

Ben Mann of Necktie Killer
Michael Jackson had some role in most people’s experience with music, I think, whether they like to admit it or not. The “Free Willy” song was taught to us on piano in elementary school music class.

“Thriller” was obviously the big one that you still hear out at the clubs from time to time, but I think the Jackson 5 was soooo underrated! “Give Me One More Chance” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” are two of my favorites.

Most of all, I remember the M.J. songs that they would play at school dances. People would always do their best Michael Jackson dance, and I was always super envious of that. I still can’t dance!

It is sad, him passing away. But I hope he has finally found peace and can be left alone. It’s difficult for people to empathize with a life such as his, I think.

Local singer-songwriter Leif James
I can remember the exact moment I heard Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” You see, I was an aspiring guitar player and way into Eddie Van Halen at the time. So naturally I followed everything Eddie did. Then I heard the solo from “Beat It” and went nuts! A rock lead in a Motown/pop song? What a crossover! From that day on I was officially an M.J. fan.

M.J. was responsible for erasing color boundaries in popular music, fusing Motown, disco, rock and pop — virtually unheard of with African-American musicians. With Eddie Van Halen ripping a killer lead on “Beat It,” it changed the face of music forever.

As far as the molestation charges against M.J., I’m not really sure he was ever guilty of anything but trying to recreate and live in a world where children, youth, playfulness and desperation thrive just in order to try and recapture his childhood.

It’s a damn shame that a genius, ambitious icon will only be remembered for “Thriller” and Neverland. It’s a sad day.

Jay Tablet of Cloaked Characters
I used to listen to M.J. religiously. The voice, dancing and outfits were the reason people would pay thousands of dollars to go see him. As a youngster, his way of life was a dream for me. I never tried to sing like M.J., but I was definitely inspired by his passion for the music. As a musician you have to respect M.J.’s work ethic and commitment to his art. Past all the personal problems that arose, M.J. still was one of the most influential musicians to ever live. Don’t forget that. R.I.P. to the “King of Pop.”

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