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Michael Jackson tribute at Apollo draws thousands

Michael Jackson's memorial at the Apollo Theater yesterday was, like nearly everything else in his life, a singular spectacle, filled with sing-alongs and stomping feet, lots of dancing and a few tears. It was more of a dance party than a wake at the Apollo Theater in Harlem Tuesday. And The Rev. Al Sharpton's initial eulogy was more defiant than consoling, though he did eventually mellow enough to join director Spike Lee in a Jackson 5 dance to "ABC" and "Rockin' Robin." "You can tell all the lies you want about Michael, but in Harlem, he's bad!" Sharpton said, raising his voice to full preacher level. "He's our brother. He's our friend. He's Michael." Five thousand people made their way through the theater, some arriving as early as Monday night, coming from as far away as Australia and Russia, and the line stretched up to 10 blocks at times. The memorial evolved as the afternoon went on. Early on, hip-hop pioneer Chubb Rock led 600 fans at a time into 30-minute capsules of Jackson's career, urging them to sing along with "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough." The video tributes and onstage DJ were eventually augmented with audio interviews with the late, legendary New York radio disc jockey Frankie Crocker and Jackson while on their way to a 1979 concert at Nassau Coliseum. Jonelle Procope, the Apollo Theater Foundation's chief executive, said the theater was a fitting site not only because it was where the Jackson Brothers won Amateur Night in 1967 singing the Smokey Robinson song "Who's Lovin' You," leading to their discovery by Motown Records, but also because the fans picked it as a gathering site almost immediately after Jackson's death was announced. Sharpton and Lee marked Jackson's passing with a moment of silence at 5:26 p.m. "Let's not wallow in the negative that they're trying to drag us down into," Lee said. "We're not having it." Sharpton said Jackson not only changed music history, but also united fans of all races with his music. "All of those parents got comfortable with their children imitating a young black boy from Gary, Indiana," he said. "Those kids grew up comfortable with race and those kids are the ones who voted for Barack Obama as president of the United States." Billy Mitchell, the Apollo's tour director, who also served as the memorial's host, said Jackson's work isn't over. "We're not saying goodbye to Michael," Mitchell said. "We will always have him in our hearts."


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