Posted by ws1 on:
You've probably already heard the news that Michael Jackson is dead. I heard about 40 minutes ago while driving home. It's absolutely everywhere: radio, TV -my old band-mates are still texting me. Twitter is even occasionally over capacity (maybe partly due to this?).
Since there will be plenty of information about his death in the coming hours and days, I figured I'd just share a few YouTube videos (below) and a few of my own memories and feelings.
Like I said above, I was driving home and was just accelerating through the intersection of Ortega and Chapala when I heard the urgent sounding but still newsy, matter-of-fact announcement that he had been pronounced dead by officials in LA.
My reaction wasn't exactly dramatic, but my foot did momentarily leave the gas pedal. The hair on the back of my neck also stood up accompanied by a quick rush of adrenaline. Then, without my consent, my eyes filled up with tears.
I was never the drooling or crying type of Michael Jackson fan (maybe just because I never got to go to one of his concerts), but I was pretty obsessed with him. His songs were a huge part of my childhood soundtrack.
As a kid, 'BAD' was the first cassette tape that I CAMPAIGNED for (relentlessly). I had heard the radio cuts on Y-97 and had expected (imagined) him to look something like Michael J. Fox from Teen Wolf or Kenny Loggins (my parents wouldn't let us watch MTV then). Needless to say, I was psyched when my mom finally caved and bought the new album for me. She handed me a cassette featuring what looked to me like a hip-cocked, leather clad, make-up wearing... uh..woman?
I wasn't sure if there had been a terrible misprint, where Paula Abdul's picture had somehow been slipped-in with his name. Or if maybe someone named Michelle Jackson had just cut an album coincidentally entitled 'BAD'. Believing my mother had purchased the wrong album, I less-than-politely asked, "Mom, don't you know Michael Jackson is a BOY?!". Feeling bad for scolding her, I told her 'it was ok' that she was confused, and that it was an 'understandable mix-up', because he DID have a high voice. But I made it clear that we had to go back and get the right album from the store asap. At that point I'm pretty sure I got a short lesson in rock/pop fashion and other strange rock-star behavior. Still, I didn't totally buy her explanation until I took the plastic wrapping off and gave it a play. After that, the cassette didn't come out of my tape deck for 2 years.
I distinctly remember dancing alone in my bedroom amongst scattered legos that could no longer compete with my inability to hold still to "Smooth Criminal". Every track on that album was way too compelling not to dance to - except for 'Man in the Mirror' to which I lip-synched, rewound, lip-synched and rewound - until I had to put the fragile tape back in the bewildered cassette with a pencil. Fortunately I had a bunch of backup copies should this very scenario present itself.
I followed Michael's next few albums with enthusiasm (and dug deep into his older stuff) until he released 'Dangerous'. After that, I didn't know what to think. All of the molestation allegations and trials set in, and lots of people seemed to feel overly vindicated for all those years of thinking 'something must be off with any guy who dresses and moves like that'. During the Nirvana era, it wasn't even smart to mention that you were a MJ fan (and you couldn't get away with saying you only liked his 'older stuff' - that didn't work until the 2000's).
From that point until now, public condemnation of Jackson has always annoyed me. I have been pretty content 'not to know' what his true relationship was with the children he was accused of abusing. Far be it from me to know what went on.
More than anything, I think my mother was right when she said that he might just be a 'little lost soul'. That's why the Jackson 5 videos below are particularly hard to watch - he was so solid, and confident looking that it's hard to imagine exactly what changed.
Of Michael Jackson the man, I will say this: Through his charity work (hell, even just his federal taxes or the sheer funky pleasure that people get from dancing their socks off all around the world) he has left a massively positive footprint on the world - despite people's obsession with his less desirable or understood traits.
And even though in some ways I feel like he has been gone for a while - that he may have been a little too medicated or depressed to be himself - it isn't for us to say who 'he' should be (or should have been). Today I miss him in all his inconsistencies. And will put a candle in my window tonight.
I will also play (at full volume) my vinyl copy of Thriller. And yes, I'll probably dance alone in my apartment despite my best efforts to be somber.
Here's a really interesting (and wonderful) set of interviews:
And here are a few videos.
This is great: