The news was still unconfirmed when I got in the car last night. The LA Times said sadly yes, but CNN was waiting. NPR had moved on to Fresh Air, so I switched to Magic 107.5 FM. And just as I did, I heard the low rumble of an anxious crowd, then a drum roll. Some horns. Then a voice asking, “Can you feel it?” Again, “Can you feel it?!” Thunder. Then there it was. That bass-line, those keys, more horns.
Randy Jackson sings first, one of his few turns out front, but everybody is waiting for that moment. His part. And when it comes, the crowd soars.
Never owned a sparkly glove, though I knew more than a couple of kids who did.
I had a Michael Jackson jacket. There were two kinds available, but mine was the relatively less expensive one. The “real” jacket had actual metal mesh on the shoulders, but this one just had plastic imprinted to look vaguely metallic. It still had all the zippers, though. And it was black, not red.
For some reason, my Mom acquiesced to my asking and paid far too much at the Merry Go Round in Eastgate Mall. It wasn’t an easy fashion statement to make in my hometown, certainly. So I wore it for maybe a month, maybe less. After I retired the jacket to my closet, I never saw it again. Maybe it ended up in a church yard sale. But it was mine for awhile.
I’ve said so often that the 80s were hard on adults, but they were brilliant for little kids. And as I posted a little over a year ago, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was an integral part of that brilliance, at least for me. I was ten when the album came out, though I might’ve been eleven by the time I had my very own album. Vinyl, of course. (I wouldn’t have a cassette deck of any kind until 1983.) I’d play it on this white plastic turntable from Sears. It had two detachable black speakers, but to call it stereophonic is probably a stretch.
My parents were so patient with their strange little boy. While I had other kiddie albums, Thriller was the first “real” record I owned. And I played it all the time. Over and over.
I have so much love and appreciation for just about every note and beat and line from Thriller and Off The Wall … and even the Triumph album he did with his brothers in 1981, just before his career and life went supernova. Everything since just hasn’t affected me in the same way, BAD included, though I do have a certain fondness for 1992’s “Remember The Time.” No, the irony of this is not lost on me.
The simple fact is that I’ve missed Michael Jackson for a very long time.
What makes today different is I’ve a greater hope that perhaps his music can be relieved of the burden of so many tabloid moments, too many scandals, manufactured and actual. A celebrity’s death always pulls admirers out of the woodwork, people to say they’ve always been a fan, never-say-die. So I take these many outpourings of grief with several grains of salt. But this is one time where the art of an artist deserves consideration apart from the artist himself. Just as Rich from FourFour says about the “Scotchguarded perfection” of Jackson’s hits, so I believe about each of his incarnations. He chose to reinvent himself, either to satisfy his fans or to fill a personal void. And he did so more and more drastically each time.
I’ve never understood the latter day Jackson, mask-faced, gaunt and sometimes veiled, but I’ll always be a fan of that smiling young man in a tux on the Off The Wall cover.
That’s the Michael Jackson I choose to remember.