Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Michael Jackson was the first big thing in Bernadette Gillies' young life.
She, her sister and her two brothers were too poor to own a television, so music was everything. And when they discovered Michael Jackson, so was he. She and her siblings would spend their days on hunts for whatever coins they could find around Salt Lake City so they could take them to the nearest music store. The "Bad" album had just hit stores. They weren't going to miss it.
"We would be doing his moves and looking like fools," she said through tears over news that the King of Pop had died. "We felt like we were in the moment."
She was at work when she found out Jackson had died after a cardiac arrest. She immediately called her husband to find out where Randy's Records is. They arrived, and she bought an armful of his albums to take home and listen to with her siblings, just like they used to 20 years ago. She remembers huddling around a casette player in a Salt Lake City that hardly knew what an African-American population was, she said. They'd listen to Jackson's smooth, high tenor lyrics, studying them like scripture.
The first hit they planned to put on the record player to mourn the dead star: "Thriller."
Randy Stinson, owner of Randy's Records, isn't surprised. In the 30 years he's run the store, Stinson's never seen anything fly off the shelves "like crazy" quite like "Thriller." Sam Stinson, his son, said he watched Jackson dance through the streets with ghouls and goblins in the "Thriller" music video with his brothers dozens of times. It was huge, he said.
And Randy Stinson doesn't think he'll see another album overtake that record, ever.
"With the Internet, music has become so diversified. People are finding smaller bands that they like," and their music purchases have shifted towards niche markets, Randy Stinson said. There isn't that single international star the young flock to the moment his or her new single or album hits stores, at least nowhere near the level Jackson had risen to, he said. The way the store owner sees it, Jackson's passing is more or less the official end of an era in music.
Gillies couldn't agree more.
"Jackson was genuine," she said. So many contemporary stars today have other people writing their music for them and act more like stars than an artist, she said. "He was a true musical artist."
Gillies' sister went crazy when Jackson announced a planned concert series in London. The tickets went on sale in March, and she tried to combine three paychecks to secure her seat. Jackson eventually postponed the show because he wasn't artistically ready and wanted more time to prepare the best show possible, Gillies said. It was a testament to the dedication he put towards his music, she said.
Now the show won't go on. But the world will always have the music, Bernadette Gillies said.
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