My earliest memory of Michael Jackson dates back to when I was eleven and had just started middle school. His song Billie Jean just reached number one. One of my friends, Ricky, was a huge Michael Jackson fan. He wore a red Member’s Only jacket and the obligatory one hand glove that looked more like an oven mitt than a glove. Ricky was a short, pudgy, white kid with greasy brown hair and a clumsy gait. He had watched the Bille Jean video so many times, he memorized the dance sequences. Not believing him, one of my teachers made him perform the routine in front of the class. The transformation was instantaneous. The short, awkward kid bloomed into this smooth, fluid dancer who moonwalked, twirled and balanced on his toes with such dexterity, it was as if Michael Jackson was truly channeling through. It reminded me of crippled believers walking again with a touch of a preacher’s hand. I enjoyed watching him as much Ricky enjoyed performing. For a couple minutes, Ricky stepped into a mega star’s penny loafers and became someone bigger than life and we, his classmates, were able to look past his pale features and avocado shaped body and cheered him on.
In all honesty, I was indifferent to Michael Jackson. I liked some of his songs but didn’t go out of my way to listen to them. I saw his Thriller video by accident one night at Sears while my father was shopping for tools. The tool department was next to the electronics department and someone had turned the dial (I know changing a TV station with a dial is a foreign concept to some but we did it as kids) on the TV floor model to a burgeoning MTV channel. Several people were huddled around the set and I was curious to see what they cialis online australia were watching. When I shuffled in between them, Jackson’s zombie face filled the screen. Back then, I spooked really easily so I wasn’t thrilled with the video. His yellow cat eyes and Vincent Price’s haunting voice made a lasting impression on me. I remember the people around me kept commenting how the video was so cool. From then on, whenever someone would ask what I thought of the Thriller video, I would say it was really cool. I always got an agreeing nod in return.
The last time I thought about Michael Jackson was several years ago when I was driving to the gym. I had the radio on but the music was more like white noise than actual songs. Jackson’s Man in the Mirror came on and for some reason, the first couple of chords lifted me out of my trance. The combination of the lyrics with the vulnerability of Jackson’s voice pierced the layers of my sometimes callous heart and I began to cry. Not just a couple of stray tears but full-blown sobbing. I felt like such an idiot sitting in my car crying like a kid losing his first pet. I have only cried as vehemently twice in my life: my grandmother and uncle’s deaths. I don’t know why that song moved me. Sometimes when we keep our emotions so tightly bottled up, the slightest pressure can send the cork ricocheting like a champagne top with the pent up emotions bubbling out of control.
I am saddened by Jackson’s departure and I’m sure there are fans (my childhood friend, Ricky, no doubt) that will greatly mourn his passing. Perhaps, he has found the peace that had eluded him when he was alive. Yes, he was eccentric, flamboyant and downright bizarre but his influence cannot be ignored. From Madonna to Justin Timberlake, he has inspired many artists. In all honesty, I was moved more at the passing of Princess Diana but that doesn’t mean that Jackson’s death pales in comparison. His legacy, like hers, will continue to live on.