Lodi musicians were stunned and saddened Thursday to learn that Michael Jackson had died.
Fans or not, most agree Jackson's contribution to music is undeniable.
"Music totally took a big blow today - that's for sure," David Atencio, member of Lodi band Little Square Box, said. "I think all musicians feel the same way."
Atencio, 26, grew up listening to classic Jackson in the Jackson Five and eventually got hooked on the "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" albums years later. He remembers seeing Jackson do the backward gliding Moonwalk on TV and trying to do it himself. It was Jackson's ability to try new things in music and entertainment that drew Atencio, along with the rest of the world, in as a fan.
"That guy was awesome. Everything he did was just flawless. You could tell he loved what he did," Atencio said, while driving through the Lodi area Thursday afternoon, switching between radio channels as they broadcast decades of Jackson hits.
Richard Banas II, a News-Sentinel sports writer, was on duty in the physical therapy department at Dameron Hospital the day of the 1989 Cleveland School shootings when Jackson went to the hospital to visit the children. He remembers Jackson taking time to talk with the child victims.
Though Jackson's personal life may have overshadowed his musical success in recent years, many still believe he deserves to be recognized for a prolific career.
Lodi Arts Commissioner Jennifer Walth, who was instrumental in bringing this year's jazz series to Hutchins Street Square, says she hopes people continue to listen to Jackson's music and remember him in his prime, the way she does.
"He would have been bigger than Elvis if he wouldn't have taken those detours," she said. "His music spoke of an era … they cannot take that away from him."
Walth, 49, also grew up listening to Jackson Five and his Motown hits. She says it takes her back to a time when things were simple and fun, and that's what she'll remember.
Houston School band teacher and Air National Guard Rock Band member Beth Sanders didn't hear about Jackson's death until late Thursday afternoon. "Dang," she said, nearly speechless. "He's not that old."
Sanders, who teaches music ranging from pop to jazz and classic, says Jackson made a big contribution to the music industry, with video production and combination of dance and singing.
Though his Lodi band, I Caught You Staring, is hardcore, and doesn't reflect the sounds or moves coined by Jackson, singer Marc Robertson, 24, agrees there's no way to deny just how "legendary" his music was.
Through the shock and sadness, local fans are curious just what happened.
"He was into so many things. God knows what he was doing to cause his premature death," said Walth, who found out about the singer's death in an e-mail at the same time her co-workers at Perfect Balance Day Spa started talking about it.
Atencio, who says he believes there are two sides to every story, says he didn't get sucked into the various controversies surrounding Jackson's personal life, and he's not going to now. He just wants to remember Jackson for the inspiration he thought him to be.
"He totally inspired millions of people," Atencio said. "It's a big loss. You kind of feel a little empty."
How will you remember Michael Jackson?
Lodi High Student