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By Mark Douglas for Gay Life

BALTIMORE—For the last 40 years, Baltimore’s LGBT community has lived, loved, laughed, and cried to the music of the late, great Michael Jackson. On July 15, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will offer the community an opportunity to pay respects to the King of Pop at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where vocalist James Delisco will join the BSO for a Michael Jackson Tribute.

During much of his adult life, rumors swirled about Michael Jackson’s sexual orientation—and he consistently denied that he was gay. However, the impact of Jackson’s music on LGBT culture and community can not be denied.

Jackson’s reputation as an icon-to-be was foreshadowed in 1969, when one of popular music’s pre-eminent Divas lent her name to Motown’s release Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. The first four singles released by Jackson and his talented brothers, including “ABC” and “I’ll Be There,” would all go to number one on Billboard’s Top 100.

By 1971, young Michael Jackson was ready to launch a solo career. Through the seventies and into the eighties, crowds lined up to get into Eager Street nightclubs like the Pink Hippopotamus and Girard’s to boogie and hustle to classics like “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You.”

The Moon and the Earth

Then in the ’80s, Jackson got the community moonwalking. Super-mega-hit album Thriller and its groundbreaking music videos solidified Jackson’s status as the greatest pop artist of all time. His creative abilities seemed boundless as he went on to produce Bad, which included number-one hits like “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man in the Mirror,” heard regularly at Baltimore hot spots like Club Allegro and on jukeboxes at Leon’s and The Drinkery.

Like the community’s concerns, Jackson’s talents weren’t limited to dance numbers. In 1985, he teamed up with Lionel Ritchie to pen “We Are the World,” which raised more than $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the U.S. His socially-conscious efforts continued through the ’90s with recordings like 1995’s “Earth Song,” Jackson’s first recording to deal directly with the environment and animal welfare.

Scandals surrounding Jackson’s personal life eclipsed much of his creative activity in the 2000s, but he continued to sell records like no other artist. As recently as 2008, Jackson teamed up with Akon to re-make “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,”, which climbed charts in much of the English-speaking world. For the last decade, Jackson’s music has provided soundtrack for karaoke nights and retro events at Grand Central, the Rowan Tree, and other bars and clubs around town.

Under the direction of conductor Larry Baird, the BSO will bring the power of a full orchestra to Jackson’s music. Vocalist James Delisco, winner of E! Network’s reality program “The Entertainer,” will be joined by Felicia Barton and Kelli Reisen to re-create the famous Jackson sound. For the King’s many LGBT fans in Baltimore, this will be a not-to-miss event.

DETAILS

What: Michael Jackson Tribute
Where: Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
When: Thursday, July 15, 7:30 pm
Tickets: $23 – $50
Information: 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org.

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