Maybe you loved Michael Jackson for his astonishing talent, or perhaps you simply loved to laugh at the eccentricities of Wacko Jacko. Either way, the music of the Gloved One was wallpaper to decades of your life inescapable, insidious and irresistible.
For vocalist James Delisco, Jackson's music was life-altering. Delisco, who headlines the Utah Symphony's "Music of Michael Jackson" show on Saturday, July 14, made an early connection with Jackson's music that helped him rise above a disadvantaged childhood.
Delisco grew up in foster homes on the poor side of Jacksonville, Fla. He was not allowed to speak during his earliest years and didn't learn to talk until age 5.
The love Delisco developed for Jackson's music helped him find his voice and his destiny. At age 9, he performed "Ben," the song written for the 1971 film of the same name, for a talent show.
"People were crying in the audience," Delisco said. "This was kind of neat. I realized there was something special going on, and that was when it started."
He began standing in front of the television whenever Jackson performed, learning the songs and dance moves practicing for a career he couldn't have imagined.
The connection strengthened when he was among a group of inner-city kids given tickets to a Michael Jackson show.
"It changed my life," Delisco said. "I said, 'I'm going to do that someday.' "
Years of singing and dancing began to pay off when he was accepted into a performing-arts high school. Later, he was crowned "Mr. Entertainer" by Wayne Newton on the E! Network's reality television of the same name and given a performance contract at the Las Vegas Hilton.
When producers at Windborne Music invited him to audition as the headliner of the "Music of Michael Jackson" show, Delisco's was ready: "I'm on it. I can do that."
Delisco likes to make it clear that he's a singer and dancer, not a Michael Jackson impersonator. He doesn't try to look or sound exactly like Jackson.
"The show is a tribute," he said. "We celebrate 40 years of music Michael has given us. We are honoring him and having a good time with the music, but nobody can take the place of Michael."
It's nice that Delisco tries so capably, though, because Jackson's die-hard fans miss him dearly since his death three years ago.
Salt Lake City resident Becca Smith is a fan who owns a large collection of Jackson albums, mostly on vinyl. Her love for Michael hits all the notes.
"He's got a lot of natural talent as far as being an entertainer goes," Smith said. "In his personal life, he's such a weirdo, and it's so fun for everybody to be able to laugh about that. People make fun of it, but at the same time, they're all dancing to his music."
Smith said Jackson's music is ingrained in her consciousness.
"All the memories I have of growing up his music was part of it."
Delisco said his show will take Jackson's fans on a tour through his huge playlist, starting with childhood hits as part of the Jackson Five, and moving to his megahits including "Billie Jean" and "Thriller."
He's bringing his own five-piece band and backup singers and said the stage will be lit up like a rock concert.
"With an 80-piece orchestra behind us, some people say it sounds better than the recordings," Delisco said. "I don't know if that's true. It's just something you have to experience for yourself."
Deer Valley Music Festival
The 2012 Deer Valley Music Festival opens with a tribute to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
With • Utah Symphony, vocalist James Delisco and conductor Brent Havens.
When • Saturday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater.
Tickets • $32 for the lawn; $90 for family groups (two adults and up to four children under age 18); $60 to $85 for reserved seating; $15 with valid student ID. Tickets are $5 more on performance day.
Info • Call 801-533-NOTE or visit http://www.usuo.org.
Specials • The Design-A-Series packages allows DVMF patrons who buy tickets to four or more concerts to receive a 20% discount. For this and other discounts, visit http://www.deervalleymusicfestival.org/tickets