Jennifer Batten performed at the PALM EXPO 2010 at the Agricultural Exhibition Center in Beijing on May 22, 2010. [Pang Li/China.org.cn]
Guitarist Jennifer Batten, recalling her time in Michael Jackson's backing group, called the late King of Pop "an incredibly pure soul," during an interview in Beijing on May 22, 2010.
In 1987, Batten was picked by Michael Jackson as his lead guitar. For the next 10 years, she travelled the world and shared the stage with him on the "Bad", "Dangerous" and "HIStory" tours.
She first met Michael Jackson in person at the dress rehearsal for the "Bad" tour in 1987. She recalls thinking he was "beautiful, gorgeous and radiant".
She said the "Bad" tour was Jackson's best solo tour. "It was his first solo tour. So I think he enjoyed the power of doing what exactly he wanted to do, not having to compromise with what his brothers would have wanted," she added.
On stage, Michael Jackson was very serious because it was "his work, his play," Batten said. But off stage, he liked to crack jokes and have a good time.
"The biggest thing that I learnt from him is the importance of entertainment as a whole, beyond just music. Music is the foundation, and then there is connection with the audience on top of that. Whatever form of entertainment, you can do that," she said.
The tours were a life-changing experience for Batten, especially the first, "Bad" tour.
"I had never been outside of America except to Mexico. So to be able to see the world in that way was unbelievable," she said. The band members worked only 2-3 days a week and had plenty of time to explore the places where they staged gigs.
Batten said that after Jackson announced his comeback in London in 2009, he considered getting her back in his team, but ultimately he wanted young people to share the stage with him. She concedes this was a "good move".
She said her first reaction to Jackson's sudden death on June 25, 2009, was anger rather than sadness.
"I was always angry how the Western press treated him. So unfairly," she said. "The whole scandal about children. I am 100 percent sure it was extortion. It destroyed his spirit."
This year, Batten will play several tributes to Jackson, one on June 25 in Jackson's hometown in Indiana, and another in Paris on August 29.
Batten is performing at the PALM EXPO 2010 being held at the Agricultural Exhibition Center. After Beijing she will perform in Xi'an and Qingdao.
Batten's latest album, "Whatever" was released in 2008 on the Lion Music label.