The late Michael Jackson.
It feels weird typing it...reading it, let alone saying it. The tireless, consummate entertainer, my boyhood (and adult) idol was no more. He was only 20 years and 3 days older than I was. In his words: "Gone Too Soon". I still remember what I was doing when I heard the tragic news. The stunned silence, my stomach felt as if I was in the midst of the first big drop on a rollercoaster. My mouth agape in disbelief, hoping it was a horrible rumor, the same ones that plagued the King of Pop the last 20 years of his life.
Ofcourse it was not. The incomparable man-child. The six year old dynamo with the voice of gold on "Big Boy", the eleven year old with the thirty year old swagger that gave us stirring renditions of soon to be classic hits like "Who's Loving You", "I Want You Back" (sung equally as brilliant by David Ruffin - without backup singers), and others. The fourteen year old, voice slightly altered by puberty, singing an emotional tribute to a rat ("Ben"), possibly foreshadowing his love/obsession with exotic animals. The sixteen year old debuting "The Robot" dance move with the disco tinged "Dancing Machine". The month of his 21st birthday releasing "Off The Wall" to the masses cementing his emancipation from his brothers. Who could forget that smile on the cover artwork. Black tux, white socks glowing, perfectly picked afro...
Then in December of 1982 it happened. The release of the biggest selling album of all time. It contained only 9 songs, an EP by today's standards. A full length masterpiece at that time and now. "Thriller", "Billie Jean", "Beat It", "Human Nature", "The Girl Is Mine". every song could have been a single. The accompanying videos forced rock-themed (to put it nicely) MTV to play this Black man's mini-movies on their network.
I still remember his showstopping performance on "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" even though I was four years old, my memories refreshed thanks to YouTube. The Pepsi commercials. I remember pulling out the illustrated poster of Michael Jackson from the New York Daily News (along with Prince, Madonna, and Tina Turner) and hanging it on my wall. The screaming fans passing out at his world tours. There is no way I would pay thousands of dollars for a front row seat at a Michael Jackson concert and then pass out minutes into the show and get carried out of the arena. If I wanted to waste money like that I would do it another way.
I am a true fan. When his skin started changing color, I noticed but I did not think it a big deal. I saw that his features were altered by the disease which is plastic surgery addiction, but I did not think it a big deal. His music was all that mattered. Just keep making music. I watched his PSA in 1993 in defense of child abuse charges. He was innocent, I believed. But as he aettled that case and went to court to fight two others, I got angry. Not for people to leave Michael alone. No. I wished Michael Jackson wasn't so child-like. That way he would not be such an easy target for these predators who call him a predator. The media would not be so eager to believe the stories.
In Michael's death I have found out more about his life. How he staged the pictures of him "sleeping" in a hyperbaric chamber to get people talking. I bet he never imagined he would need little staging to get the media talking about him once the decade turned to the 1990's. He went from the "Artist Of The Decade" to "Wacko Jacko". His bad press overshadowing his music, which was still potent through the mid 1990's. How ironic a man that sang about world peace and brotherly love so often was so tormented by the very humanity he tried to save. Who knew the sixth take (?!) of a Pepsi commercial would start Michael's downfall. Why did they need all those takes for that stupid commercial anyway?? The third take looked fine to me. Who was working the pyro? Why would they set it off and the man was still oon top of the stairs?
Allegedly the burned scalp Michael suffered during the shooting of this Pepsi commercial led to the addiction to prescription drugs that would lead to the subsequent abuse of medication that would kill him or have him killed. I listen to his songs, I see clips of the Jacksons Variety show on YouTube and I shake my head. Why didn't Michael stay the way he was. What did Joe do to him, really?
I take comfort in knowing that at least Michael can rest in peace. There can be nothing else to say about his physical features, his bank account, how he treats his kids, if he was really the biological father of his kids, was he gay, did he have any of his nose left? It was as if people forgot who this man was and how he changed, no, saved the music indistry at one point. I have not forgotten and I will never forget Michael Jackson as long as I live.
Rest In Peace, King.