Today, the music industry lost a legend. I still can't believe that Michael Jackson is dead. It just doesn't seem real. I mean, he was only 50...not much older than my mom. And he was getting ready to do all those shows in London...its such a tragedy.
Its hard to remember any part of my life without Michael Jackson's music...probably because he became famous before my parents even met each other, lol. Like I said, he's not even a whole year older than my mom so she felt like they grew up together. But really, my entire childhood was dominated by his presence. I'm a product of the 80s, which is without argument, the pinnacle of his extraordinary visions. I remember being scared shitless by the "Thriller" video (to be honest, I still am to this day. It was obviously being played before and my dad came in and tried to scare me by putting it on. I was luckily reading a book but he got a nice smack from me) but I also remember loving "Bad" and "Beat It".
When I was about nine or ten, my uncle Mike (mom's brother) gave me a five disc stereo for my new bedroom. I was so excited. That was the age I had really started to discover my immense and intense love for music. I noticed with the stereo he gave me a single CD...Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall." OTW was his first official solo album, which came out in 1979. My favorite song from that album is definitely "Rock With You" but I remember coming home and blasting that album and dancing around the house with both of my parents. It was always one I listened to on a Friday afternoon after school because the title track is definitely one of those "whoo-hoo its the weekend kind of songs." A lot of people don't know that my first CD ever was Michael Jackson but I always thought it was so cool. It was also super cool that the Jackson 5 was on the soundtrack to my favorite movie "Now and Then." I would warble along to "I'll Be There" at the top of my lungs.
There have been a lot of times in my life that I can recall one of his songs being a big part of it. I can remember being a little kid and my mom dancing to "Smooth Criminal" in a dance recital. She even had a hat like Michael's. I thought she was just the coolest. I remember the video for "Black or White" and all the cool morphing faces. In the third grade when we had to learn to play the stupid song flute and I remember getting insanely excited when we got to learn and play the Free Willy song "Will You Be There". For a long time I could still play parts of it and would steal my little cousins' flute to play it. Then of course who could forget the final ballet scene in the movie "Centerstage?" "The Way You Make Me Feel" made me want to do ballet which is definitely my least favorite style of dance. That was always one of my favorite songs and I was so stoked to see it in a movie I liked so much.
Then at the 2001 MTV VMAs when Michael performed with *NSYNC...I thought I would die from excitement. Here I was sitting at home watching Michael Jackson perform with *NSYNC, a band who had always been so vocal in their love for him. In their Disney concert, they mixed "Rock With You" into their song "Crazy For You." Honestly that could have been the moment I fell in love with them. I felt so special sitting there watching them get to fulfill one of their dreams. It truly warmed my geeky little heart. I remember MTV premiering the video for "You Rock My World" and actually sitting there like "this guy is ridiculous!" I mean he was incredible. I actually forgot about watching that until just now.
Now, there are a few songs of his that are tinged with sadness for me. Not just because of his passing but because of the part his music played in a certain relationship I had. The song "Butterflies" reminds me of falling in love for the first time. I used to listen to it and curl up in my bed thinking about the guy I was madly in love with and wondering if he'd be listening to the song too (he was a huge MJ fan). It did happen once where we were both listening to the song and I was definitely thanking Michael for writing it because it described how I was feeling. For a long time when he called me my phone rang "The Way You Make Me Feel" (it was the only MJ ringtone T-Mobile had that was appropriate). Only a few weeks ago, my friends and I were screaming "Dirty Diana" at a party. I held hands with my oldest sister while we both sang every word to "P.Y.T." twice in a fine moment of sisterly solidarity that we've never shared before? IT was great because it was finally something we had in common.
When I think of just how much our lives have all been impacted by this man, this absolute visionary, whether we know it or not, it is an incredibly humbling experience. He's influenced every musical artist regardless of genre in the past thirty or so years. He brought together all kinds of music from having Eddie Van Halen play the guitar on "Beat It" to Slash being featured on "Black or White" . His albums defied what people thought pop music could ever be and definitely broke the expectations audiences had of a black artist. He made MTV a staple even though at first they wouldn't play his music videos. He brought together all kinds of people to record "We Are the World" as one of his many humanitarian efforts. He created the moonwalk and the robot, two dance moves people will try to imitate forever. So what if his best friend was a chimp? (and a damn cute one at that) Who cared if he was a little weird? I certainly didn't and trust me, I spent the better portion of my childhood completely frightened of the man. I had so many visions of the future, being rich and famous and having Michael over for lunch to ask him so many questions...like what was it like to work with a rat? And to sing a song about one? And why did he wear black shoes with white socks? And what was with the military jackets? Why only one glove? How did it become sparkly? Did someone bedazzle it? Why did you call it the moonwalk? I mean, I guess it sounded better than that thing where I slide across the floor. And why the hell did you say "ch-mon" Michael? These are questions I won't get to ask him and bring back an answer for. I just picture him up in Heaven, hanging out with Bubbles and walking across the moon. Thank you Michael, for everything.