Dead Iconz brings dead music artists to life

Photo Credit: THEiDEAcompany

On Oct. 21, the third annual Dead Iconz show was held at the Tangent Gallery in Detroit. Karl Jackson, Michael Taylor and Kyle Wright collaborated to bring the city a theatrical and musical adventure. Dead Iconz is a show where locals get the opportunity to display their talents by embodying an icon (mainly music) who has died.

Rolling out was able to sit down with the executive producer and musical director Michael Taylor; and the executive producer Kyle Wright to learn more about the show that brings music icons back from the dead.

What inspired Dead Iconz and what year did it begin?

Michael Taylor: Dead Iconz started in 2014 so this is its third year. Karl Jackson, aka Karl Kingston, and I were already brainstorming about having a Halloween party. He had this great idea to do a tribute show for the fallen icons that passed away. Initially, he wanted Jukeboxx, the band that I’m a part of, to just play for the show, but I suggested that we partner up and take both our production teams, combine them, and create together. From that point on, Dead Iconz has been an annual show.

Kyle Wright: We try to incorporate different artists every year. The first year, Michael Jackson was the focus. This year, our focus is Prince. We’re bringing these artists back to life for one night.

How do you choose the people to represent the deceased artist?

KW: Some are handpicked and some are auditioned. We put out a notice on Facebook, to schools, and to different organizations. Auditions are open to everybody, so if you have an artist in mind that you want to audition for, pick a song and give it your best shot.

MT: We first have to let the people know that this is not a karaoke show. We’re looking for an artist who not only looks like that person but also carries out the person’s persona; the actual likeness of that person. Everything is live. The personal is actually singing and we have Jukeboxx, our band with a few additional musicians accompanying the artist. We rarely have tracks. The only lip syncing we have is for Michael Jackson which is represented by Karl.

How many acts do you use every year?

MT: We try to stay between 8-10 characters. That way we will have just enough to keep the people coming back every year and we want to use some or the same artist again.

What are some artists that you’ve had?

KW: My favorite artist was Gerald Levert. We’ve also had Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, and the list goes on.

MT: We try to bring back Detroit artists that passed away. We have Marvin Gaye and J Dilla this year and they were both from Detroit.

You also have shirts. Where can people find your apparel?

MT: You can purchase shirts for $25 at and the store Thrift on the Ave is sponsoring us this year so you can purchase them from there too. The artists tonight are also wearing clothing that they have put together.

How do you feel this show is benefiting Detroit?

KW: Music and the arts have basically been taken out of every school in Detroit. We want to keep the live music alive. There are many talented people that can sing or play instruments and we want to showcase them. We want the younger generation to know not to sit on their gifts.

What inspired you to keep the show going?

MT: My true inspiration comes from my city. I love my city and want to do as much here with the people as I possibly can. We want this show to stay annual and we even want it to go nationally. We want to continue to give back to the city as well. Today we are giving out awards to people who have helped us along the way. We want to pull in different schools as well to give them a chance to be a part.

Photos credit: Treasure Smith for Steed Media Service

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