There's no real good way of starting this. I could say something like "The King of Pop is dead!" or "The music died today" or something else. But what does any of that mean anyway? All I can really say is what Michael Jackson (or maybe the idea of Michael... or maybe just his music) meant to me. I was born in 1984, the year that Michael Jackson went to the White House to receive an award from then President Reagan, and the year of "Thriller," one of Jackson's catchiest tunes (not to mention a Halloween staple in most people's homes.) I recall watching The Making Of Thriller on television, being blown away by the special effects (and always being creeped out by the ending.) Throughout the years, Thriller has remained one of my favorite MJ tunes, and i've made it one of my life-long goals to perfect the
See, I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, just like most kids did growing up in the 80's (and 70's.) I danced to "Rock With You" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and then to
"Billie Jean" and Bad. I worked on my moonwalk on the slippery tile floor of my childhood kitchen. My mom would tell me how much she loved Jackson 5 when she was growing up in Nicaragua. "That was the best Michael!" she would say. Funny enough, they were playing the Jackson 5 Story on VH1 over father's day weekend. Who would've thought i'd have to write this a week later?
I remember when I first saw the music video for "Black or White," trying to perfect the ponytail head shake when people would morph from one to another with my cousin. I think we almost got whiplash a few times. I also remember watching the video for "Remember the Time" on MTV back when MTV still played music videos, and thinking Hey, Eddie Murphy's no pharaoh! Not to mention being impressed by the "special effects." Hey, where did Michael go?!
I also remember finding out that Michael Jackson was going to be playing the half-time show at Super Bowl XXVII (Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills) and recording it on our old vhs player. I recall watching it over and over and crying,
thinking "Heal The World" was an amazing song, and that we could all learn a thing or two from Jackson's charitable example (this was before Bono and Angelina became the leaders for the celebrity charity revolution.) I might still have that tape around somewhere... or maybe my brother does.
Time passed as it always does, and Michael Jackson was flung in to a media frenzy, accusing him of this, that, and the other. The people turned on him. Was any of it true? Nothing was ever proven, so who knows. From then on though, Jackson was forever pegged as a pedophile and a pervert. It made matters worse that his vitiligo was getting worse (the disease that caused his skin to turn white), and by this point the rumors about him bleaching his skin had made it so no one could believe him being a a "normal" human being. And let me not get started on the rumors of him buying the Elephant Man's bones (although I'll admit I would personally think that was super cool in a creepy anthropologist kind of way.)
I guess that's when everyone for the most part stopped paying attention. It wasn't "cool" to like an accused "pedophile," and I know I got flack a few times for admitting I still liked Jackson. Eventually, enough time passed that it was okay to like him again. I haven't been to a party or a club in the last few years that didn't play at least one Michael Jackson song. Everyone gets excited for "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "P.Y.T." And don't get me started on the Weird Al parodies of his music.
Michael Jackson gave us all something to talk about, something to sing along to, and something to dance with. I never met the guy. Never went to any of his concerts. Hell, I never even bought one of his albums. But it doesn't mean he didn't affect my life in some way. He was what I listened to when I was getting ready for a night on the town with friends when I was 18. He was my non-angsty music when I was a hormonal 13 year old. He was even what my cousin and her husband danced to for their first dance at their wedding ("The Way You Make Me Feel.")
Who doesn't have a memory attached to a Michael Jackson?
So yeah, maybe the music did die a little today. I can't help but wonder if this is how people felt when John Lennon and Elvis Presley died. I wonder how many people cried, even if they didn't know him. I wonder if he realized, right before he died, how much it would affect the entire world. Because there are few people on this planet that don't know or never heard of Michael Jackson. He's just that iconic. And it's something few people ever get to achieve in their lives.
So Michael, while I wasn't ready to say good-bye, I hope that it's better for you on the other side. Thanks for the music.