The juggling community and IJA family has lost one of its most loved members. Gail Sky King, known as Sky King to most of us, passed away on May 16th, 2022. She was a cherished and long-time member of the IJA, a very successful composer, and friend to many. She was born in Queens, NY in 1956, but lived in Harlem during most of her adult life. She was a true Renaissance woman, having a myriad of talents.
Sky learned to play the guitar at the age of 12, which started a life-long career in the music industry. She played in bands, was a sought-after DJ in NYC’s biggest nightclubs in the 1980s, and was a music producer. Sky was a house music producer working in legendary studios such as Electric Lady Studios. Below is a video for a song she produced. Sky appears in the music video as well.
To listen to a BBC radio documentary about women in house music that features Sky, click here.
Sky also worked with other well-known acts, such as Vanilla Ice.
Vanilla Ice and Sky King
Sky became a composer on the children’s television program Ghostwriter. You can listen to one of her songs in the video below.
Sky’s work on Ghostwriter led her to being hired as a staff composer on the iconic children’s television program Sesame Street. She worked as a composer and writer on Sesame Street for 12 seasons, writing numerous songs for the show. Below are a few of her songs from the show.
Sky King was also a competitive roller skater who performed internationally. She was the skating stunt coordinator in the movie Muppets Take Manhattan and played the part of the roller skating Peter Panda in the following commercial for Child World.
Sky learned to juggle from Juggling for the Complete Klutz in 1994 and attended the IJA Convention in Burlington, Vermont a few weeks later. She was one of only three Black jugglers there and was the only woman of color. In fact, it’s possible that Sky King was the first Black woman to join the IJA. She has certainly been a fixture at IJA Festivals ever since, acting as DJ many times, teaching workshops, and leading huge groups of jugglers in games of Sky Says. Outside of the IJA, Sky was extremely active with The Carmine Street Irregulars, which is New York’s longest-running juggling club. In addition to naming the club, she also brought music to the group, which has been a mainstay ever since. Sky worked with the Harbor School for Performing Arts after-school program sponsored by the Big Apple Circus, teaching juggling to young people.
Sky was one of the best-known and most beloved IJA members of the past 30 years. In 2021, the Sky King Award was established by the IJA as one of their annual honorary awards. It is given in recognition of outstanding dedication to furthering diversity and equity in the juggling community by a BIPOC member of that community. Obviously, the first award was given to Sky herself.
Just last year, Paris, the Hip Hop Juggler, whom Sky mentored, wrote a wonderful piece about her for eJuggle that details much more of Sky’s life. You can read it by clicking here.
In addition to her family, music, juggling, and roller skating, Sky was also a great animal lover and pet rescuer.
Sky was preceded in death by her husband Maris. She leaves behind her daughter Krista, whom she loved dearly. Our condolences go out to her extended family and many friends.
Below is a memorial video for Sky King shown at the 2022 IJA Festival.