NEW YORK — As soon as the announcement of Michael Jackson's death was confirmed, fans flocked to the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem — where the singer performed many times with the Jackson 5 — to celebrate and pay tribute to the pop icon.
The marquee of the theater read, "In Memory of [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist], A True Apollo Legend." Fans gathered to dance, chant his name and sing along with his songs. Despite the dire news, the mood was celebratory and uplifting.
"I liked that he was hardworking and dedicated," said David Solters, a native of Rochester, New York, and a musician himself. "He inspired me." As a tribute, Solters was wearing a single white glove on his right hand. "He's a legend, and may he rest in peace."
"I heard it on the radio when I was driving home, and I was shocked," Kenny Williams said. "He was an icon. Ever since I was in the second grade and I heard 'Beat It,' it just made me want to dance." Williams credited Jackson with inspiring a whole generation of musicians, including people from the hip-hop world. "His pop influenced hip-hop, like Slick Rick and Run-DMC. Michael Jackson inspired the hip-hop greats. I don't have white gloves on, but I was a big Michael Jackson fan."
Amber Green praised Jackson for his social influence. "He taught people to respect each other and he united the world," she said. "I've had the Michael Jackson doll since I was 5 years old, so I'll be putting that up in my room today."
Benton Fredrick summed up the mood of the crowd, as well as the other masses gathered around the country. "It's shocking. I was inspired by him, and I think I'm still in shock," he said. "There will never be another Michael Jackson — not even close."
In a statement, Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the Apollo Theater Foundation Inc., said: "The entire Apollo family is saddened to learn of Michael Jackson's untimely passing. Michael first performed at the Apollo in 1969 with his brothers when he was only 9 years old, winning Amateur Night and catapulting their career as the Jackson 5. We will always remember Michael in our hearts as a true Apollo legend, known for his professionalism and grace. Our sympathy goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed."
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we've got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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