In The News : Michael Jackson Remembered by His Band
"All I know is when I was with him, he was the sweetest person in the world," says Tommy Organ, a guitarist who was a featured player in the This Is It rehearsals. "When he came on stage he was always happy, always trying to help. When he heard anything that was out of key or wasn't the right part, he would hum the exact notes he wanted and then he would end it with, 'I'm telling you with love.' It was never 'Hey, what are you doing over there!', it was always 'maybe you should try this, with love'. You wanna play for a person like that."
"Michael was not a musician but he had the ears of a musician, there was nothing that he didn't hear," recalls Kevin Dorsey, a backing singer for Jackson for over 20 years. "Always in the show, if someone made a mistake, he'd turn around and smile and point at them. He could hear through everything." He recalls his first rehearsals with Jackson, for the Bad tour in 1988. "We were two hours and twenty minutes into the show, and there was a lighting error, and Michael said 'all right, let's go to the top.' I thought, 'OK , go to the top of the song, get it over with and take a break'. I thought I had six minutes left. And the other guys looked at me, they laughed, and said, 'wait and watch.' He didn't mean the top of the song, he meant the top of the show. I had to do another two hours and 26 minutes. I said right there, this is going to be quite a run."
"To me he was the epitome of excellence," says Johnson. "This guy was totally involved in everything, more involved than I have seen any musician in my thirty years of career. In rehearsals, when musicians go through a run through, you might sing a wrong note or play a wrong chord and make a face like, 'oops, hope they didn't hear that'. Sometimes the artist will catch you, sometimes they won't. Michael would go through three or four songs in a row, and he'd be so into entertainment mode, he would rehearse as if there were thirty or forty thousand people in front of him. Then he'd stop and go, 'now in the first song, second verse, there should have been this part, and in the second song, first verse, you did this, then on the beginning of the third verse...' Like, how did he hear it, first of all, and how did he retain it when he was doing his performance to even come back and correct us? That was amazing to me. "
"He was not one of the guys, who'd go out with us to the Hard Rock and kick back with a beer," admits Dorsey, of the man he called Slim. "But we would have fun. He laughed a lot, quite a joker, he loved what he did. His work was his play." Dorsey suggests that Jackson didn't tour more often because of what it took out of him. "When he comes off that stage, there's nothing left. Nothing left. Then he goes back to the hotel, he showers, eats, looks at the performance that we had that night, and then rehearses until four or five in the morning. I've never seen anyone with that work ethic, that just refuses to be nothing less than perfect." Dorsey comes close to suggesting that the intense demands of the This Is It shows might have proved too much for Jackson. "A big thing was him being able to do things on his own terms. He was always comfortable when we worked twice a week, when we pushed him to three and four shows a week, it just wouldn't work. I'm not saying he was not in the physical condition, but when you put out like that, you just don't have that three and four times a week, it's virtually impossible... He gave so much but you can only spread yourself so thin. How much does anyone have to give?"
Dorsey, who is musical director of the Michael Forever band, admits it has been personally hard rehearsing his friend's songs with guest artists. "I'm so used to hearing it from him, I know there's certain parts to the song where he would dig in, and you need that, cause it takes us to the next gear, and then as he gets to the vamp, he digs in one more time, and we go up to the next gear. And an artist can be performing, and I'm waiting for that to kick in, and in their own way they do it, but no one can do it like him. This band is pushing all the vocalists. Either you get down like you live, or the band is going to take it over. With other artists, I don't know the intensity of their performance. With Slim, you always know what you're gonna get ... and that's everything."
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