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The Loss Of A Cultural Icon

In 2003 when Michael Jackson visited the National Show in Chicago to help promote the then upstart MBC Network, literally thousands of cable executives – many of whom grew up on Jackson’s music – lined the show’s exhibit floor nearly three rows deep to get a glimpse of the King Of Pop.

 Very few celebrities attending any cable show over the years have ever drawn such curiosity and excitement as the unique — and somewhat troubled – cultural icon, who died unexpectedly Thursday.

 I was fortunate enough to meet the reclusive star that day in The MBC booth and briefly talked to Jackson about his incredible career and his potential involvement in the African-American targeted network. {Unfortunately MBC – which eventually changed its name to Black Family Channel – shut its doors in 2007 after failing to gain significant distribution on cable systems.}

 Jackson, whose breakthrough music videos were among the first from an African-American artist to air on MTV in the 1980s, was gracious as he talked about how he was in the studio working on some music and was happy to be in Chicago. He politely deferred questions regarding his involvement in MBC to his brother and MBC part-owner Marlon, to whom as a friend I send my prayers and deepest sympathies during his and the Jackson family’s time of mourning.

 With a portfolio consisting of some 750 million record sold worldwide as well as numerous Grammy Awards and humanitarian honors too extensive to list, Jackson was simply an American treasure, as thousands of National Show attendees in Chicago understood in 2003 and millions more people around the world will come to know in the wake of his untimely death. Jackson through his music transcended race and culture in becoming one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

Whatever Jackson’s shortcomings – and arguably there were many — they could never fully diminish his musical accomplishments, his incredible talent and his immense heart.

May his soul rest in peace.