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"Thanks Michael"

Of course, we're all as stunned as the rest of the world is right now over the recent and sudden death of superstar Michael Jackson. There's very little we can offer that hasn't already been conveyed ad nauseum elsewhere. Despite what one thought of him personally, there was no denying that artistically he was a true innovator and did more for popular music than perhaps any other artist of the last three decades.

Two years ago, we were knee-deep in a massive petition drive to get Al into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, during which Greg made a determined effort to get Michael involved.

Naturally, that was easier said than done, as this was during the height of Michael's financial troubles. People were suing him left and right, he was reported as living anywhere from Las Vegas to the Middle East to an uncharted desert isle, and he was generally the least accessible celebrity in all the world. Greg came close, though, thanks to a couple of extremely helpful Michael fans, and he eventually got a representative's name and address and sent a couple of feelers out. But unfortunately, it ultimately came down to too many people out there representing themselves as "handling" Michael and jobs such as his press agent changing hands on an almost daily basis, so by the time he kept reaching someone new along the chain they had already severed their ties with Michael. After a while, our request just got lost in the shuffle.

Trying to get Michael on board was a no-brainer for the simple reason that he had always been a big supporter of Al's. He was, of course, the first truly major rock star to okay an Al parody. It can't be overstated how much the permission to record "Eat It" boosted Al's career. Record sales aside, it gave a certain credibility to what Al was doing. Though the parody targets of the first album were pop stars in their own right, this was Michael Jackson, unquestionably the biggest music personality in the world at the time. If he got the joke, then what excuse could any other artist possibly have?

Michael again showed graciousness when Al approached him with the idea of parodying "Bad" as "Fat." Michael was not only cool with it, he also loaned Al a recreation of the "Bad" video's subway set that he had built for a portion of his Moonwalker home video. And in perhaps the greatest show of mutual respect, Michael asked Al to be the opening act on the European leg of his Bad Tour. Unfortunately Al was forced to turn Michael down in order to spend the remainder of 1988 to film UHF. Showing that there were no hard feelings, the next year Michael invited Al to make a couple of fun cameos in his music video for "Liberian Girl."

It all showed that the King of Pop had a good sense of humor about himself. It's a shame that we literally ran out of time to get Michael's participation in our effort.

Our hearts go out to Michael's family and friends. If there's any comfort, it's that his music will truly be immortal.


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