Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson died yesterday.

I wasn't going to write anything about it. I haven't followed Michael Jackson for a couple of decades. I've been aware of the freak show that his life has become, and I thought I no longer cared. I saw him as a pathetic figure. His life no longer held any interest to me.

But I find I can't stop thinking about him.

This isn't about the things he may or may have not done. It's not about dangling babies or masks or plastic surgery or failed marriages or seedy allegations. It's not about the life of Michael Jackson at all.

It's about my life.

When I look back at my life, certain music appears, like sign posts, reminding me of certain times and places. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is like a billboard.

Thriller was released in 1982, and it set the world on fire. It is still the best selling album of all time. Thriller changed EVERYTHING. I wanted to look like him. I wanted to dress like him. I wanted to move like him.

No one ever moved like Michael Jackson. I have one indelible Michael Jackson moment. It's the moment that everyone knows. The Motown 25th Anniversary television program. I was watching because I knew Michael Jackson would be performing "Billie Jean."

There was the glove.

The white socks and loafers.

The hat.

The sequins.

The song and the dancing.

And then...

He moved backward.


That was the first time I had ever seen someone moonwalk. It was surreal.

The next day I -- we -- everyone -- found a new use for our sunday shoes. I practiced for hours -- days, months -- trying to learn to moonwalk. I remember watching myself in the glass of the sliding door on my aunt's deck. And one time -- only one -- did I move smooth enough to feel like I had done it. It feels ridiculous to say so, but that was a real highlight for me as a kid.

Then came the jackets with the zippers, the Thriller video, the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo on Beat It. We are the World. Michael Jackson was everywhere. He was a cultural juggernaut that I think, for my generation -- this generation called "X" -- was only eclipsed by Star Wars.

Michael Jackson was a beacon. He was a pop culture god. He gave us dance. He introduced us to music we had never heard before. He launched, for better or worse, the world of music videos. Michael Jackson was our Elvis, our Beatles. And like they had been for the previous generation, he was our great departure from the music of our parents. Without any exaggeration, he was the King of Pop.

There will never be another phenomenon like Michael Jackson. The music world is different. No one can maintain that kind of supremacy any more, there are, simply, too many choices.

I don't pretend to know what his life was like. He often seemed so lost -- so out of touch with reality. So out of control. It was a sad and pathetic spiral downward, and as with Elvis and the Beatles, we're so often left wondering at the fall from grace. I can't excuse much of his behavior, and I, along with most people I suspect, feel there was plenty to be concerned about -- though I think it's important to point out that he was acquitted of the most damning charges. Say what you will about justice being administered differently to celebrities, we could also talk about the lucrative business of exploiting a celebrity as well. His life was not perfect, and his legacy will forever be a paradox of the highest heights and the lowest lows.

I don't feel like judging him.

I simply want to express my gratitude for the wonderful memories. I want to marvel again at those alien dance moves. I want to bask in awe, once more, at one of the most talented and exciting entertainers of all time. I want to think about the moments with friends, trying to moonwalk. I want to revel again, for a while, in the introduction to new and exciting things -- music that imprinted itself on my consciousness. Music that brought you to life.

Music that made you move.

Rest in Peace.

Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009


Aaron said...


Our posts were very similar.

Yours had more detail and flowers but eerily the same in content and feeling.

Again....I didn't think I would miss him, I guess we both do.

Thanks for being my best friend. Kinda sounds sappy and stupid after 33 years, but things like this make me remember what we were like, what we did, the things we shared and the children we were. It reminds me just how important you are to me.

Michael's death, while tragic, has again reminded me of just how sweet and fun my childhood was and for that I am truly grateful.

As always, when I look back on my life, the reason it was any good was because you were always there.

Thanks for putting up with me.

Mom24 said...

That's a great tribute. Isn't is scary how some of the most talented performers are so completely tortured emotionally.

kayerj said...

nice tribute, I wasn't a fan--but you did a nice job giving the guy credit for what he accomplished.

Pam Emmons said...

Well said. I am linking this on my blog. I used some of his music for my classes this weekend. It's like a piece of who I am, although very small, has left. As a dancer, I was influenced in such a major way by this man, and yes, I can do the moonwalk.

Jenners said...

Well said. You captured so much of what I felt. I too had not thought much about him for years (except to think "Poor guy. He is really messed up.") But when the news came that he had died and I was watching some of the archival footage, it reminded me of why he is such a big deal and what was so special about him. You can't deny his talent and his contributions. I hope he is at peace now.

sunshinesls said...

You so said so much of what I feel about him......I was heartbroken when I heard the news. Like you said there will never be another because of all the choices. So many of my memories involve his music...ok him and Motley Crue but that is getting off subject...

Yeah...I miss the 80's Michael...may he truly rest in peace....I look forward to seeing him in heaven teaching Moonwalking 101!!!

As always I have to say what an awesome writer you are.....

Melissa said...

AWESOME post..... Thanks for the memories... I remember playing Thriller on my record player (which my kids have no idea what that is) and dancing in my room....pretending like I was in the video with them.... oh the memories!!!

I too didn't think I cared much about him anymore, but in his death, he has conjured up some MJ feelings!!! :)

Momisodes said...

There really will never be anyone like him. Like you, I will remember him for all of the amazing music, dancing, and how he made me feel.

I wrote a post about him today, too :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

wonderful post and you nailed the sentiment that I think thousands of us are feeling--

...and Aaron's comment. Wow. How awesome is that?

Honey Mommy said...

Great post... probably the best I've read about Michael Jackson.