I got to attend this year’s Reggae on the River Festival in Southern Humboldt County, California. The festival had a great local community feel and funds raised went to support the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California. The Eel River flowed through the picturesque venue located at Benbow State Recreational Area. Reggae on the River celebrated its 25th Anniversary in fine style. Positive vibrations flowed all day long. Soul Majestic played early in the day bringing their brand of soul-drenched reggae to the stage. The track “First Light” set the vibe and songs like “Rough N’ Tuff ” displayed the musical prowess of this young group. Soul Majestic also played the single “Better World,” which dovetails nicely with their positive vibe and eco-friendly message.
Queen Omegaignited the stage with soul, dancehall, and roots reggae. A native of Trinidad and Tobago Queen Omega sang “Love Ya Color,” “Judgement,” “Warning,” and “Ganja Baby” to an appreciative crowd. The Roots Revealers bought Jamaican dancehall to northern California playing the songs “Long Road” and “No More Killing.”
Smokey Robinson opened the service reading condolence letters from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. Watching the Michael Jackson memorial I was struck by Mariah Carey’s “I’ll Be There.” And then Queen Latifah read a poem “We Had Him” written about Michael Jackson by the famed poet Maya Angelou. Lionel Richie performed “Jesus Is Love.” Berry Gordy of Motown Records gave a stirring memorial detailing how little Michael Jackson blew him away in Detroit as part of the Jackson 5 and then blew him away again with the moonwalk at the 25th anniversary of Motown Records when Michael broke off on his own and went solo with “Billie Jean (Single Version).” Gordy called him “simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived.” Following Gordy, Stevie Wonder made his way to the piano to thunderous applause and performed “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer.”
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson addressed the crowd. Magic Johnson recalled his experience starring in the “Remember The Time” video and sharing a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with Michael Jackson. Magic thanked Jackson for “opening doors” for African Americans across the world. Jennifer Hudson then performed “Will You Be There.” Al Sharpton spoke of the working-class Jackson family with nine children coming up and out of Gary, Indiana and Michael Jackson’s ability to breakdown racial barriers. “There’s nothing strange about your Daddy” Sharpton told the children of Michael Jackson, and then he thanked Michael Jackson for never stopping.
John Mayer performed “Human Nature” letting his guitar lead the song. After the weeping guitar solo Brooke Shields spoke of her friendship and bond with Michael Jackson. Shields claimed Michael Jackson’s favorite song was “Smile” written by Charlie Chaplin. Jermaine Jackson then performed a heartfelt soulful rendition of “Smile.” Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, the children of Martin Luther King, Jr, remembered Michael Jackson and spoke of loss and of the way that Michael Jackson reached out to Coretta Scott King. United States Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas spoke of the healing power of music making me proud once again to be a TEXAN. She talked about the message in Michael’s music. “Beat It (Single Version)” was about beating the violence and “Man In The Mirror” asked men and women to really take a look in the mirror at themselves. Congresswoman Lee reminded us that Michael Jackson visited wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital.
An emotional Usher performed “Gone Too Soon.” Smokey Robinson recalled Michael Jackson singing the hit “Who’s Loving You” written by Smokey, but sung so wonderfully by Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 that it became a huge Motown hit and many assumed it was Michael’s song. The child singer Shaheen Jafargholi then performed “Who’s Loving You.” The performers from the upcoming tour sang “Heal The World” and “We Are The World” with the memorial guests.
I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 albums this week. The guy could sing. And when you see the videos the man could dance. Can’t believe MC Hammer ever challenged Jackson to a dance contest. Jackson would have slaughtered Hammer on the dancefloor. I’ve also been listening to remixes and different versions of his hits. Tarrus Riley’s version of “Human Nature” is one of the best reggae covers of a Michael Jackson song that I have heard.