Michael Jackson funeral tribute
Family, friends, beer associates and whisky comrades filed into the chapel of rest at Mortlake Crematorium, West London, to the sound of John Coltrane and A Love Supreme. They came from all points – Seattle, New York, North Carolina, Berlin, Helsinki, Islay – to pay tribute to a writer and raconteur whose like we’ll never see again. The door clicked shut behind us as a cue to be left alone to think and talk about Michael in the way that family, friends, beer associates and whisky comrades do best – with great affection and much love through intimate memories, humorous interludes and moments of utter irreverence.
The thoroughly dependable Nick Redman held the proceedings together as Michael’s sister Heather Campbell, with Mark Dorber, Garrett Oliver, Martine Nouet (via Ian Wisniewski), Alastair Campbell, Sam Hopkins, Paddy Gunningham and Rebecca Campbell shared their heartfelt observations. And, even hearts of stone would have been moved by Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing; Mahalia Jackson’s The Lord’s Prayer and Rebecca’s faultless reading of Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. They were deep-breath moments but as close to religion as it got, save for Heather’s recollections of Jewish food and Garrett’s experience of a rugby league match – accompanying Michael after a long liquid-laced lunch – when the word ‘Jesus’ spilled out at his unexpectedly forceful and vocal support from the Fulham stands.
Many British Guild of Beer Writers’ members have reason to be grateful to Michael for the extraordinary amount of time he would give over even the shortest of quotes, his sound advice, and the ready invitation to tap into his extensive network of contacts – plus he was never too big or too remote to do the same in reverse.
He once told me that Cameron’s Strongarm was his favourite beer. We were in a Cameron’s pub at the time, drinking Cameron’s beer, being entertained by Cameron’s directors, and I’m sure he twinkled when he said it. It proved that, when required, diplomacy was also a Jackson speciality. I’ve since raised a glass or two of the stuff to him.
Long may the star twinkle.