Michael Jackson never made a country record, but his career transcended musical genres and inspired singers and musicians growing up in rural America and big cities alike. Ever since his death on June 25, members of the country music community have been sharing their feelings about the King of Pop.
Only a handful of country artists ever recorded with Jackson. Among them were Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson, who were among the all-star cast contributing vocals to the 1986 recording of the charity project, “We Are the World,” a song written by Jackson and Lionel Richie.
Nelson has not commented on the death, but Rogers talked about Jackson during a June 28 appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live. Asked how he viewed Jackson artistically, Rogers told King, “First of all, you start off envying, and then you’re just thankful you don’t have to go through what he went through. I mean, that would have been treacherous for anybody. And so I loved his music. … There are very few people that represent certain eras of music. And he definitely was one of them.”
In 2001, Reba McEntire worked with Jackson on another charity recording, “What More Can I Give.” Others performing at the all-star session included country artist Billy Gilman, along with Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross and ‘N Sync.
“After ‘We Are the World,’ Michael wanted to do another song, and so he got a lot of the artists together,” McEntire told CMT Insider. “He asked me to come do a line in it. And so we met at a studio in Los Angeles. … He produced my part of it there. He wore a shiny red satin shirt and black pants and was very nice.”
McEntire first met Jackson in 2000 when she performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall during a concert tribute to actress Elizabeth Taylor. As it turned out, Jackson was also staying at the same hotel chosen by McEntire and her husband and manager, Narvel Blackstock.
“There were so many fans outside that hotel, they circled it,” she recalled. “And all 24 hours a day, you could hear [people yelling] ‘Michael! Michael! Michael!’ Really amazing. He’s huge. In life and death, huge, and I do hope that everybody remembers the good times. Let’s forget the bad.”
In an interview with CMT Radio, Craig Morgan said the public’s awareness of Jackson knew no boundaries.
“Here’s a guy that is probably the most famous singer in the world,” Morgan said. “Maybe one of the most famous individuals. I mean, he was truly global. You can go to Iraq and Afghanistan and go to a poppy field, and they’re working out there. They have no TV, no radio — and they know Michael Jackson. I mean, its pretty insane how famous he was.”
Among the other country artists commenting on Jackson and his death:
“I am stunned. I remember meeting Michael and walking away thinking that he is one of the most unique artists of all time. I have always felt tenderness for him because of what he has had to endure. … We have lost another legend. It hits close to home. He is my generation.” — Wynonna
“No matter what kind of music you’re into, if you grew up in the ’80s, and especially if you had an older sister, you couldn’t help but be influenced and awed by Michael Jackson’s music and talent.” — Dierks Bentley
“I loved him since I was a kid. We all sang Thriller, the album itself, ‘Man in the Mirror.’ I can go on and on about the songs that he wrote and produced or whatever. But I do know that I could only wish to be as great musically as that guy.” — Billy Currington
“Thriller was the first album I ever bought with my own money. Michael Jackson was truly a pioneer.” — Joe Nichols
“My parents had Elvis. … I had Michael Jackson.” — Luke Bryan
“I am a huge Michael Jackson fan. I was just listening to his music two days ago as I was running in the park. I grew up listening to him and, in fact, I used to moonwalk down the hallway in school when I was in the sixth grade. My favorite song of his is ‘Billie Jean.’ I just can’t believe it. We have now experienced a day like my mom explained to me the world experienced when Elvis died.” — Jimmy Wayne
“He was larger than life. He’s an artist that has had an impact on every other artist, consciously or subconsciously. Musically, he helped to change the world, and his records will live on forever.” — Miranda Lambert
“I will remember Michael Jackson as the kid that overcame … as the mesmerizing, moonwalking worldwide artist. He was forced to fill shoes that must have been crippling to walk in, but yet he found a reason and a way to dance in them like no one on earth.” — Rodney Atkins
“I was in Kansas City, getting ready for a show, and I went to take a shower hearing that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital. When I got out of the shower, he was pronounced dead. … The first thing I started to think of was when I tried to moonwalk in my kitchen as a kid. We lost an amazing talent that touched so many lives. He will be missed.” — Chuck Wicks
“Michael was a once-in-a-lifetime artist that not only influenced us, but changed the whole landscape of popular music. We were shocked to hear the news of his passing, and will always remember his creative genius and far-reaching impact on all music genres and the world. He was such an inspiration to us, and his special soul will be greatly missed.” — Little Big Town
Other country artists used Twitter to express their feelings about Jackson:
“Michael Jackson will be missed by so many, and that includes Rascal Flatts. The mark he left on the world with his music is that of legend.” — Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flatts)
“Michael Jackson was my inspiration. Love and blessings.” — Miley Cyrus