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Harlem's Apollo Theater Honors 'King Of Pop'

DAVID GREENE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Today, Michael Jackson fans are again expected to fill Harlem's Apollo Theater for a public memorial that began yesterday when, as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, fans endured lousy weather to pay tribute to Jackson.

NEDA ULABY: First, the heat of a blazing afternoon sun had fans wilting as they waited in a line barely inching past dozens of city storefronts. They waved handmade posters saying We Miss You and Michael Rest In Peace. Then the skies darkened, then they opened, and everyone got drenched, but no one left.

DENISE MARIE: You see that? It's dedication. Only Mike could have this.

ULABY: You're a beautiful family and you're all dripping wet.

MARIE: Yes, and we are staying, we are not moving, we are going through the storm for Michael and his family.

ULABY: Little Zale Perch sang a song he made up for Michael Jackson on the spot.

ZALE PERCH: (Singing) Michael...

(SOUNDBITE OF HUMMING)

ULABY: Inside the nice dry theater, praise continued from the Reverend Al Sharpton. Speaking on the Apollo stage, he said Harlem's overwhelming support for Jackson stemmed from sympathy at how he was treated by an unsympathetic press, who focused unfairly on his foibles.

AL SHARPTON: Now they're trying to interpret Michael to us. But you've got to come from the stage of the Apollo and go all over the world to understand Michael. We understand his journey 'cause we was with him every step of the way.

ULABY: Sharpton's speech rang true to 28-year-old Joshua Sutherland, who left the Apollo in tears. He said a chunk of him died when Michael Jackson died, and it's up to him to keep a chunk of him living.

JOSHUA SUTHERLAND: Anything I do, I incorporate a little bit of Mike into it, a little bit of M.J.

ULABY: Sutherland shared a frequently-voiced opinion among fans there in Harlem that Jackson was a victim, that the charges of child molestation were trumped up and his oddities were secondary to his music. Sutherland said the memorial was worth the wait.

SUTHERLAND: Standing on that line, it was like I was waiting for a Michael Jackson concert. You know, it was great. It was like the most wonderful-est feeling. I'm glad to be a part of it. Today I took out of work and school. Yes, I definitely had to be here because I will always remember this.

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: And there are photos and stories about Michael Jackson at the music section of NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.