Associated Press music writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody praised the “poignant and serene” memorial service for Michael Jackson:
It was a deeply emotional moment, the most profound part of a memorial that accomplished what Jackson could not in life: humanizing a man who for so long had seemed like a caricature.
How could someone who moved like he moved, sang like he sang, and reached musical heights no person has ever touched be as human as the rest of us? How could a man who threw a wedding for Elizabeth Taylor, had a chimpanzee as a companion, and wore masks to cover his surgically altered face be any part normal?
How can a man who admitted he shared his bed with boys — though he maintained it was never sexual, as others suggested — be a decent man, closer to saintly than devilish?
It’s a fine framework for the story, though I sort of feel that Moody watched a different memorial than the one I, briefly, did. But here’s the part that’s intriguing:
Lionel Richie, Jackson’s collaborator on the anthem “We Are the World,” sang a gospel classic, “Jesus is Love.” Another gospel hymn heralded the arrival of Jackson’s casket when a choir sang the lines, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the King.”
The reader who sent this in recognized the lyric as Andrae Crouch’s “Soon and Very Soon.” Indeed it is. This famous Gospel song is about dying and eternal life. You can read the lyrics here. But the way the story is written up is as if the song was about Jackson rather than about Jesus Christ. And what’s more, that it was sung to herald the arrival of Jackson into the sacred space. As critical as I’ve been about this memorial service, I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize the use of the song in such a way.
On the other hand, the choir did omit the verses that make the hymn overtly Christian. And the crowd did erupt with cheers when the casket arrived at the same time as the choir sang these lyrics. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure what the reporter meant by phrasing it the way he did. Perhaps the writer was merely noting the irony without comment.