Yesterday, Today, & FOREVER The King of Pop

Michael Jackson, Jesus, and Me / HIStory

My story of Christian fellowship with the King of Pop

By David Pack

In August of 1986, the famous composer Leonard Bernstein was in Los
Angeles to conduct a classical concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Knowing
that his birthday would fall on the same week, I asked him what he
wanted. Without missing a beat, Leonard said, “I want to meet Michael Jackson.”

At the time, Michael was the biggest pop star in the universe. He was
just coming off the massive global success of Thriller, a sold-out
world tour, and multiple Grammy wins that catapulted him into the
rarified air of Beatlesque pandemonium wherever he went. He was seen
inside the music industry as the greatest raw talent of a generation,
and the combination of Michael and Quincy Jones in the studio set a
standard that may never be equaled.

Leonard was a global superstar and TV personality in his own right—he
is listed in many publications as the most celebrated musician,
conductor, and composer of the 20th century. Yet Leonard was awestruck
by the talent of Michael, describing him to me once as “the most
electrifying pop star I’ve seen since the Beatles.” Leonard wanted to
introduce Michael to classical music and maybe inspire Michael toward a
collaboration of classical and pop music.

I was determined to grant Leonard his birthday wish by making the
meeting of my two friends happen. So I called another friend, Quincy
Jones, also a musical titan and legend whom I’d introduced to Leonard
the previous year at yet another dinner.

Quincy idolized Leonard Bernstein, so he said he’d call Michael and
ask. An hour later, he called to say that Michael couldn’t make it.
When I told Leonard that Michael wouldn’t be there, he said, “What? You
tell him that I, Leonard Bernstein, command him to come to my concert!”
I got back on the phone with Quincy. Two hours later, Quincy called to
say that Michael would be there. “But he’s never been to a classical
concert, so this should be interesting!”

At the concert, Michael loved watching Leonard, who at one point leapt
three feet in the air during a section of the score and landed with a
loud ‘thud.’ (Quincy, Michael, and I were pretty sure this was Leonard
trying to show off for Michael.)

Later that night, during a dinner at my house, I came to see Michael as
a man with one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known. He thanked me
over and over for “commanding” him to come to the concert. He asked me
to remind him of some of my hit songs with Ambrosia, so I sang a chorus
of “Biggest Part of Me.” His eyes lit up like a little kid’s, and he
took over and sang the entire chorus back to me.

At one point, Leonard draped his long white scarf around his neck and
Michael’s for a series of photos, then stood up and gave Michael a
conducting lesson on the spot. Later, these two musical giants bonded
over . . . acne! They both had problems with it, and somehow that very
embarrassing personal topic was their major connecting point. Leonard
would talk about this for years to come. Michael called me the next day
and asked for photos from that night, and he was thrilled when he got

During that special evening, I felt the need to share my faith with
him, to let him know that another Christian artist was sitting next to
him. So when he whispered, “How can I ever thank you for this wonderful
night?” I said, “Michael, I didn’t put this together, God did!” He
said, “Oh yes, I believe that with all of my heart.”

I told him I was a Christian, and he said he was, too. We talked about
the first Christian song we’d both heard as children: “Jesus loves me,
this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they
are weak but he is strong.” With the dinner party loudly going on
around us, we both quietly leaned in and sang the song, smiling like
choirboys. “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.” Then we gave
each other a short embrace.

I knew at that moment that this sweet-spirited young genius was going
to find his eternal peace in heaven. I did not find Michael weird,
messed up, or anything you’ve ever heard about him. I want to say that
I feel all of the allegations ever charged against Michael were false,
and that in my discernment, he did not have the capacity to ever do
anything except love children and let them know he would do anything to
stand up for them, and help them. Just look at the magnificent work he
did on their behalf in writing and co-producing “We Are The World,” and
the 39 charities for children he gave to generously. That was Michael.
I believe that during his trials he related to the suffering of Christ,
and prayed for intervention, because he was being accused over what he
loved most—children. This caused him perhaps more pain than anything in
his life.

I know Michael loved Jesus with all his heart. Quincy had told me about
his work sharing his faith with others, often door-to-door, because
he’d been raised a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Later in life he told
people he was a non-denominational Christian. Still more recently,
reports circulated that he’d converted to Islam. But the Michael I knew
had seriously contemplated giving up music to spend full-time in
Christian ministry.

If there’s anything that gives me peace during this moment of loss,
it’s knowing that one of the greatest artists of our time is now
moon-walking along the gold paved roads of heaven, where streets have
no name, with a broad smile on his face, and a band of angels welcoming
him home.

Michael, my friend, rest in heavenly peace.

David Pack is a Grammy winning recording artist, producer, and music director.

David Pack @ Myspace  &  Official David Pack

Tell YOUR Story

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READ: Mark 5:1-20

home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done
for you, and how He has had compassion on you. —Mark 5:19

An organizational consultant in New York
says that his graduate students typically recall only 5 percent of the
main ideas in a presentation of graphs and charts, while they generally
remember half of the stories told in the same presentation. There is a
growing consensus among communication experts about the power of the
personal touch in relating an experience. While facts and figures often
put listeners to sleep, an illustration from real life can motivate
them to action. Author Annette Simmons says, “The missing ingredient in
most failed communication is humanity.”

Mark 5:1-20 gives the
dramatic account of Jesus setting a violent, self-destructive man free
from the powerful demons that possessed him. When the restored man
begged to stay with Jesus as He traveled, the Lord told him, “?‘Go home
to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for
you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and began
to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all
marveled” (vv.19-20).

Knowledge and eloquence are often overrated
in the process of communicating the good news of Jesus Christ. Never
underestimate the power of what God has done for you, and don’t be
afraid to tell your story to others.  — David C. McCasland

Take control of my words today,
May they tell of Your great love;
And may the story of Your grace
Turn some heart to You above. —Sees

Sharing the gospel is one person telling another good news.

Our Daily Bread

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