My Take on Michael Jackson's Passing

Recalling a brief encounter and examines Jackson's overall presence in the local music scene, aka "The Burrito Circuit

By Richard "Thee Mr." Duran
Published on LatinoLA: July 2, 2009

My Take on Michael Jackson's Passing

Ladies and Gentlemen, mi gente, it's been a while. The passing of Michael Jackson inspired me to share my feelings as a 54-almost-55 year-old man.

First, let me share a little story with you.

19 years ago, Sammy Davis Jr passed away. I used to like his music, like "Mr. Bojangles." I heard on the radio that his funeral was going to be at Forest Lawn in Burbank and they were to let in the first 300 people that showed up. So I called in sick to work, did a U-Turn and got on the 134 freeway. I even passed my own wife on the freeway who worked in Burbank. She laughed because she knew where I was going.

As I got there, my ticket number was #162, so I was one of the 300 people to get in. We got to walk by the casket of Sammy Davis Jr as he was laid-out for the viewing. To be there at one of my heroes' funeral, and to see the pallbearers standing behind the coffin, was one of the most memorable moments of my life.

I recognized Michael Jackson as one of the pallbearers.

To be 8-9 feet away from Michael Jackson, and he smiled at us as we passed by, to know how popular he was back then,19 years ago, what a trip to see him much lighter-skinned than myself, with his straight black hair and his pointy nose.

Michael Jackson gave a eulogy, as did Dean Martin and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

As I watched Michael's remains carried out of the helicopter on tv a couple days ago, it's hard to believe now that young man who smiled at us is now having a funeral of his own.

Mi Gente, it didn't matter if you were a Chicano from East L.A., a White man from Anaheim or a Black woman from Watts, Michael Jackson was a big deal no matter what background you came from.

Many of us, myself included, que aguite when all these scandals followed him. Ladies and Gentlemen, at the time during his accusations, it was hard to listen to his CDs. Or if you were a cheap ass like me, it was hard to listen to his cassettes!

But now that he's gone, it's hard to not to appreciate the genius of his music once again. These are and always will be great songs.

Whenever you hear a DJ play these songs at a party, you see the heinas and the homies get down with their Coronas in hand.

I remember seeing some ugly old things getting down to Pretty Young Thing back in the days of the Puente Hills Hop! Enserio! Sheeoooww!

So why is it that only a small handful of two or three bands in our own Burrito Circuit play his music? Is it because the bands are embarrassed of his personal life? Are they too lazy to rehearse?

These are songs we've all danced to over the years. And I salute the bands who played these songs, bands like Soto play "ABC", Suave plays "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", L.A. Blue plays "Billie Jean" and the legendary Tierra even recorded "I Want You Back."

I spoke to Rudy Salas, the heart and soul of Tierra, on the phone the other day. He told me Michael Jackson was big influence on Tierra. Mi gente, look at how Tierra is dressed on the cover of their legendary "City Nights" album and tell me they weren't influenced by Michael Jackson. We felt his music and influence in our barrio, so why don't we hear his music performed more by our Chicano cover bands?

You can walk into any club with a Burrito Circuit band and hear the same damn songs on any night: The Game of Love, Brick House, Stop in the Name of Love, Heaven, Suavecito, At Last, Boogie Oogie Oogie. You mean to tell me a Michael Jackson song would be out of place in that setlist?

Now that he's dead, I guarantee you these Burrito Circuit bands are in a garage trying to figure out how to go from Brickhouse to Thriller at the wedding they're probably playing next week.

Raza, I leave you with this song, which was very influential to me back in 1976. As I was going through hard times back then, this song was very special to me. Listen to the horn and vocal harmonies, and tell me this doesn't fit perfectly with the oldies but goodies we listen to today.

It's called Good Times.

Here we are in 2009, going through hard times, and this song still helps me cope. When we look back at Michael Jackson, let's think about the good times (to view the video, and another of Suave performing Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" on my show back in 2004, please log-on to http://www.mrduran.com)

Hay te watcho

See you out on the circuit this summer if they don't 86 me after this one!

About Richard "Thee Mr." Duran:
Richard Duran is the host of "Thee Mr. Duran Show" and promoter/producer for Mr. Duran Productions
Author's website

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