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Farewell, Michael Jackson

June 30, 2009
Cool MJ in Thriller

Cool MJ in Thriller

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE KING OF POP

Long before the horrible allegations of child abuse and the sickening extremes  his plastic surgery would reach, Michael Jackson ruled my pre-teen world.  From the very first time I saw his video for “Billie Jean” (shown between movies on HBO, my only source for music videos before MTV made it to my hometown) Michael Jackson had my undying attention.

He was everything I wasn’t; a talented singer and dancer, unbelievably popular, and black .  That didn’t prevent me from trying to be just like him.  While I never owned a red, zippered faux-leather jacket, I insisted on having my own glittery glove and stealing every dance move I saw him perform on TV. 

When we gathered at a friend’s birthday party and watched The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (on an old-school Video Disk)  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  It seemed no matter where you turned, Michael Jackson was represented in one form or another.  His music, style, and attitude permeated popular culture in the mid-eighties. 

As I grew older  and my musical tastes shifted to other artists, I still paid special attention to whatever he put out.  Somewhere along the way Michael lost a firm grip on reality and his behavior grew more erratic. His appearance morphed from jheri-curled, cool-cat black guy, to weirdo white dude.  But his music stayed strong and his dance moves unmatched.

The further fame seemed to slip out of Michael Jackson’s hands, the stranger things became for him and his world.   Even as he became the punchline to an endless string of jokes, I never lost my love for his music, especially the early stuff.  And neither have a good portion of the rest of you, judging by the reaction his songs get whenever they are played for folks of all ages at weddings and school dances.  That’s quite a testament to his talent, considering the long list of reasons he gave us not to like him since the release of Off The Wall and Thriller.

His death will inevitably trigger a long, drawn-out battle over his legacy and assets, making the Anna Nicole Smith death look like a walk in the park.  Even as we face the prospect of  a parade of so-called friends, tell-all books, and the trickle of unreleased music in the years (possibly decades) to come,  his legend and popularity will grow and thrive. 

Let’s enjoy the good stuff he gave us, it is unlikely that we will ever see anything like him for a very long time.

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