Following the death last month of Long Island-raised hip-hop legend Biz Markie, his widow received a letter from former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, offering condolences and expressing appreciation for the star's help during the 2008 presidential campaign.
"We wanted to extend our heartfelt condolences to you as you reflect on Biz Markie's life," begins the letter, provided by widow Tara Hall to TMZ.com and posted online with her permission on Wednesday. "We didn't know Biz Markie as long or as well as you and your loved ones did," it continues. "But like others who admired him, he holds a special place in our hearts as one of rap's most innovative stylists and as a great man."
Markie, "The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop" who recorded the platinum-selling 1989 single "Just a Friend" (1989), died July 16 at age 57 following medical care for an illness his manager, Jenni Izumi, did not specify. Born Marcel Hall in Manhattan and living with his family in Maryland near Washington, D.C., he was raised on Long Island. A private memorial was held Monday at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, with such stars and colleagues as Ice-T and Fat Joe attending. Patchogue village officials plan to christen West Avenue where it crosses South Street as Biz Markie Way.
"Biz Markie brightened every room he was in," continues the July 30 letter from the Obamas, "and we will always appreciate him for his early support in 2008, bringing people together to 'Party with a Purpose' and get out the vote. His legacy in hip hop will span generations just as it has for nearly four decades."
The letter adds, "We hope you take comfort in all the fond memories you have with him. Please know that we are holding you, [your daughter] Averi, and your entire family in our thoughts and prayers."
On Instagram Tuesday, Tara Hall posted a photo of herself and artist Demont Pinder, with his gift of a portrait of Biz Markie that he created during the memorial. "This piece was painted on stage of Biz during his home going yesterday," Hall wrote, saying Pinder "captured Biz's likeness, personality and most of all, the LOVE everyone was giving during the service. Demont captured not only his personality, but also the feeling in the room! I'm beyond proud to display this artwork in my home as I will always remember what a wonderful celebration of life we had."