June 25, 2009 is a date I will never forget. This day saw the passing of my childhood hero, Michael Joe Jackson. His was a talent that was unrivaled by anyone in the entertainment industry. Michael Jackson had a gift for song and dance that captured the imagination of every living sole on our planet. Everyone knows his name, Those of us lucky enough to grow up in the 80's experienced Michael at his height of fame and creativity.
The first time I heard Michal Jackson was in 1982. I lived in Willis, TX and was listening to 93Q Zoo on my tiny GE radio. I can't remember if the song was 'Beat It' or 'Billie Jean', but I do remember thinking it was sung by a girl. A short time later, I was over at my aunt D' ann's and she popped in a cassette tape that blew my mind. I asked her who it was and she introduced me to Michael Jackson and the best-selling album of all-time, 'Thriller'. Just as I was blown away the first time my Mom took me to see 'Star Wars', I was equally captivated by Thriller and songs the likes of which I had never before heard. 'Beat It', 'Wanna Be Starting Something', 'Billie Jean', 'P.Y.T.', 'Human Nature', 'The Girl Is Mine', 'Thriller'- All these songs were instantly burned into my psyche. The moment my Mom picked me up from my aunt's, I begged her to buy me the album. I remember holding the record in my hands. Everything about Michael Jackson fascinated me. My sister put the album on cassette tape for me, and I wore that thing out. There began my 10 year fascination with the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. From age 11 through 21, Michael Jackson was my favorite musical artist. My first concert was The Jacksons Victory Tour in November 1984 at the Astrodome in Houston, TX. I saw him again on his Bad tour in 1988 at The Summit in Houston, TX. Little did I know then that this would be the last time Michael Jackson would tour the United States.
I remember wearing my Victory Tour muscle shirt to school the next day. It didn't matter to me that my puny arms looked ridiculous poking out of this cotton shroud in the dead of winter, nor the teasing I received for liking a performer who my less competent peers called "faggot" every time they saw his picture on my person or textbooks. I didn't care what anyone thought because to me, Michael Jackson was a vessel that could transport me light years away from the bullies and bigots that peppered my otherwise carefree childhood. When I listened to 'Thriller' I was overcome with awe and appreciation for the man who invented the "Moonwalk". I remember flipping through the pages of my over sized MJ wall calendar and playing with my MJ Thriller doll. Though I never got the Thriller or Beat It jackets, my parents lavished me with plenty of Jackson memorabilia. Man, those were the days!
Then, one day in 6th grade science class, my teacher showed us the 'Thriller' music video. My jaw dropped. My brain nearly exploded from the amazing images slamming into my transfixed brain. From that moment on, Michael Jackson could do no wrong.
On a Sunday in September 1987, CBS ran the SPECIAL 'Bad' video. I waited impatiently for this moment that I was sure would be unofficially dubbed, 'Thriller 2'. While his face may have changed, the joy I got from Michael Jackson's music did not. Both the video and subsequent album rocked my world yet again. I proudly tattooed my bedroom wall with my Michael Jackson Pepsi poster. The only difference between Thriller and Bad was that I owned the latter on cassette tape.
In 1991, as I was struggling with college life, Michael Jackson unleashed 'Dangerous'. After watching the exclusive television premiere of the 'Black or White' video, I was so inspired that I reenacted the entire video in my parents living room for my friend Bobby. I got so into it that I even destroyed a TV tray during my performance.
This album lead me to purchase my first CD. The pop-up book cover of the limited edition Dangerous CD was so amazing I purchased it long before I ever owned a CD player. Once again, Michael Jackson had captured my imagination. I just knew a new tour would happen. Though the official statement claimed MJ would only tour outside the U.S., his performance in Mexico convinced my a Texas date couldn't be far off.
That's when the allegations of child abuse surfaced and the promoters pulled out of the tour. The success of Dangerous nose dived into obscurity as did Michael's reign as the world's top entertainer. The next 17 years saw Michael Jackson on the stand more often than on a stage. Slowly my musical interests started leaning towards rock'n roll and by 1993, I was hardcore into Aerosmith, Guns'N Roses, and the Rolling Stones.
Even though Michael Jackson no longer captured my complete attention as he once did, I never failed to pick up his newest release. HIStory was pretty good. Blood on the Dance Floor had a few good tracks. Invincible was anything but. Still, I never gave up hope that Michael Jackson would put out a new record comparable to 'Off The Wall'.
Thursday evening, June 25, 2009 saw that hope come to a crushing halt. My friend Jason (D' ann's son-in-law) called me and asked if I'd heard the news about Michael Jackson. He was dead. I sat on my parents sofa shocked and filled with that sickly feeling that is unique to the news of someones death. Even as I write this, I can't believe Michael Jackson is really dead.
I'm not one for mourning celebrities. But Michael Jackson was far more than that to me. He defined my favorite decade. He was the world's greatest entertainer. He was that rarest of talents in a world starved for originality. And for a brief moment, we lucky few got to watch him shine. There will never be another like he.
I love you Michael. And I thank you for being one of many treasures that made my childhood so magical. Rest in peace.