When Tito Jackson came to town
Tito Jackson performing on Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, St James, in July 2009. (Photo: Observer file)

With Reggae Sumfest approaching (July 17-23) , the Jamaica Observer's entertainment section continues with the forth in the series on key moments from the show leading to opening day.

Michael Jackson's death on June 25, 2009 was probably the most shocking news in the entertainment industry since John Lennon was assassinated in 1980.

As conspiracy theories made the rounds about the King of Pop's cause of death, organisers of Reggae Sumfest announced that his family would perform at their show in July 2009.

As it turned out, only one of his siblings made the gig. Tito, second of the five famous brothers, performed with his band on July 25, closing night, which also featured Toni Braxton, Nas, Damian Marley, and Tarrus Riley.

Summerfest Productions, promoters of Reggae Sumfest, made the announcement of a Jackson presence at their event days after Michael's death at age 50 in Los Angeles. But this was rebutted by Jermaine Jackson, his older brother, in an interview with TMZ.

When asked by the popular website for a confirmation, Jermaine said bluntly: "No, we're not going to Jamaica!"

After all the speculation, it was confirmed by promoters that Tito would be flown by private jet to Jamaica by Gordon "Butch" Stewart, owner of Sandals Resorts.

That year, Reggae Sumfest had a stellar card. Dancehall Night (July 23) featured Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Lady Saw, Elephant Man, Busy Signal, Spice, Kip Rich, Flippa Mafia, and D'Angel.

It was followed by the first International Night with R&B acts Ne-Yo and Jazmine Sullivan complemented by the roots-reggae of Morgan Heritage, Jah Cure, Cocoa Tea, and Queen Ifrica.

Tito played guitar during a tribute set to his brother. Afterwards, he received a citation from Summerfest Productions as well as condolence books with hundreds of signatures presented by entertainment minister Olivia "Babsy" Grange.

On behalf of his family, Tito presented a plaque to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. It read: "To the people of Jamaica, thank you. In memory of our loving brother Michael Jackson, from all the Jackson family, 2009."

The Jackson Five — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael — visited Jamaica in March 1975. They performed alongside The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer) at the National Stadium.

Howard Campbell

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