To illustrate my ineptitude about talent, I always rooted for Donny Osmond. The rivalry between he Osmonds and the Jackson 5 was completely manufactured in my head, but I enjoyed both groups.
As a boy of 9, I would sing “Never Can Say Goodbye” while playing on my backyard swingset. I made fun of “Ben” and sort of rolled my eyes at “Dancing Machine.”
As his popularity grew, so did my skepticism. But I was mesmerized by his appearance on the Motown 25th Anniversary show in 1983.
It has been seared in my memory.
I remember seeing the “Billie Jean” video for the first time and enjoying it. I remember David Letterman substituting “the chair” for “the kid” and getting a big laugh on Late Night.
I remember the hoopla over the “Thriller” video and watching the premiere. I was in college and having a rough time with my girlfriend.
As the years passed, I became pretty agitated with Michael. His Midwestern roots were all but faded and any remnants of being a real person seemed distant and inaccessible. The bones of the Elephant Man and Bubbles, were signs that he was swimming toward the deep end.
Then came the allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor. Molestation of a young boy. I was appalled and had pronounced sentence on him. He was guilty as far as I was concerned.
Being a Beatles fan, I remember the purchase of the Beatles back catalog of songs. That made me mad for Paul and George.
In 1987, I was a disc jockey for a nightclub and got to rehear all the Jackson 5 songs and Michael’s extensive work and I grew a new appreciation of his talent.
But he was still weird. I mean all the surgery and skin bleaching.
When his death was announced, I first thought it to be a stunt. He was running away from his problems. I didn’t even hear about the London concerts. Jackson had faded from memory, only to be brought back with a vengeance.
While I don’t really care how or why he died, I did think the coverage of his contribution to society was worth noting. He was a great entertainer and I know he meant plenty to many people around the world.
For that, he will be missed.
Personally, he added to the soundtrack of my life, as one commentator put it. I have specific memories tied to his career and how it affected me. That’s the power of music, of pop music. Michael Jackson’s death is one of the halting signs that our culture is becoming so fragmented. There are no unifying figures anymore because there are so many disparate sources of entertainment. That may be good, but it makes me sad.
RIP Michael Jackson.