Yesterday, my life was forever changed. The "King of Pop", Michael Jackson, died suddenly after suffering cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. (If you didn't know this, you must be living under a rock because there's been wall-to-wall news coverage for the last 24 hours.)
No, I didn't know Michael personally, but his music and his videos were pretty much the soundtrack to my childhood. And, everyone knew that you better not talk shit about my boy MJJ in my presence or else you would get a pretty scathing (and vulgar) earful. I have so many memories of Michael. I inherited the Jackson 5 "ABC" album (on vinyl) from my older sister. She was born in the early 60s, so she'd actually owned the album when she was a kid and by the time I got it, it was well-worn and the grooves were almost flat. I played that thing on my Fisher Price record player over and over again. We also had the soundtrack for "Going Back to Indiana", and my mother has an audio recording of me singing that song at the age of 3 (and I knew all the lyrics!).
The first album that I ever bought was Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" and then I followed that with "Thriller". I was freaked out by the video, but I couldn't stop watching it. My aunt bought my cousin Michael's red jacket with all the zippers from the "Beat It" video and I begged my mother for one, but she wasn't having it. I got Michael Jackson's "Moonwalker" video on VHS for Christmas one year and watched it so much I knew all the lines from the movie, all the lyrics to the songs, all the dance moves. I was hooked!
As I got older, my affection for Michael grew even more and I became a true fan. Everyone in my family knew how much I loved him. Whenever he was giving an interview or making an appearance, someone would call or text me to let me know that I should switch to such-and-such channel to watch. And, just a few years ago, my father bought my Michael Jackson's #1s album for Christmas. I couldn't have been happier.
But the best memory that I have of Michael was when I actually got the chance to meet him in person. My brother was invited to a private reception for him at the home of a big-wig entertainment executive and was told that he was allowed to bring a guest. Well, he knew that if he took anyone OTHER than me, our relationship would never be the same because I would never forgive him. At the end of the night, the organizers set up a receiving line for people to go up and shake Michael's hand. The line was so long that we kept our seats on a nearby sofa and waited for things to die down. Eventually, we made our way up to the velvet rope, which was being guarded by a beefy bald man, and were about to be turned away. "Please, man. My little sister (at the time I was about 25, but I guess to him I will always be his "little" sister) loves Michael and I just want her to have a chance to shake his hand," my brother pleaded.
I could tell that the tough-guy was cracking and after a minute he actually cracked a smile and let us through the line. We were the last ones through the line and it was rushed, but I did get a chance to shake his (gloved) hand and tell him that I was a HUGE fan. He smiled and said, "Thank you. God bless you," and then... it was over. We were ushered away. It sucked because cameras weren't allowed, so I didn't get a chance to take a picture of this phenomenal moment. I didn't want a picture to prove the meeting to other people, but to prove it to myself! Even today, looking back on that night that I met Michael, it doesn't seem real. But I do know that I was blessed to have the opportunity to interact with the "King of Pop".
He was a very peculiar person, I won't deny that. He lived in an amusement park and had a chimpanzee for a best friend. He was really out there. But genius is a lonely thing. It separates you from the rest of the world. He lived a very troubled life, plagued with scandal and controversy in later years. He was never truly comfortable with the man that he was born to be. Being a brown girl with a broad nose and kinky hair (without a relaxer), I can understand what it's like to want to look different. Unfortunately, because he had the means to change his appearance, he did. And because he had the money and power and influence, he had no one who dared try to stop him. Michael, poor thing, was a tortured soul who's only consolation was to put everything he had into his music... which, in turn, was his gift to us.
I hope he has found peace and that he is finally able to see himself for the gifted and special person that we all thought he was.
Music will never be the same as a result of Michael Jackson. If it wasn't for him, our current R&B stars would be devoid of personality. Think about it... Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and Usher would've had nobody to swaggerjack!
John Mayer put it best, I think, when he posted this tweet on Twitter: "A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us." We are forever changed and forever in his debt. Gone too soon, but never forgotten. We love you, Michael. Rest in peace.
Here are some of my favorite songs of Michael's. Rock on!
Got to Be There
I Want You Back
Remember the Time
Off the Wall
Billie Jean (Most Famous Moonwalk at 3:39 and 4:28)