Imagine the following scene: a school-age boy, notebook in hand, staring at a TV set. He has the remote in his hand and keeps rewinding and watching certain parts of a video, then scribbling down notes. A closer inspection of the notebook shows several ovals with arrows going from one to another, with words like “slide” and “step” written next to the lines. He sets down the notebook, stands up, and tries to move his feet in the fashion he described. Seeing that it is not going to his liking, he grabs the remote and rewinds the video, watching a small fragment again. He practices again. He sits back down, frustrated, and writes more notes, watches the video some more, and finally gives up.
The video was “Thriller,” and the boy was me. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan as a kid, and my interest only died out, sadly along with a lot of other people, when his HIStory album came out. I loved Dangerous and Bad, and I still think Off the Wall is one of the best disco albums ever made. His videos floored me, and even when I didn’t like the songs, I always loved his videos. Fuck, I even watched that piece of shit Eddie Murphy video “Whatzupwitu” because Jackson was in the goddamn thing. I remember what an event, yes, a fucking EVENT it was when he was interviewed by Oprah. I watched that shit like a teenage girl watching Twilight. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “Oh, so you have a crazy skin disease? That explains everything!”
Then all that child molestation bullshit happened. I remember how quickly everyone turned against him, including myself. There were jokes such as “What do Michael Jackson and K-Mart have in common? Both have little boy’s pants half off!” I’m not going to deny that I thought he was a sick man, but his personal life didn’t make Thriller less of an album. His songs are still great, and nothing was going to change that.
The biggest shock about this to me is that he was so young. Only 50, and the fucker was still dancing his ass off. How the hell does this happen?
This is big. This is fucking Elvis big. No entertainer in recent memory has had the kind of impact and widespread appeal of Michael Jackson. I doubt that there was going to be any kind of comeback, but he didn’t need one. His musical reputation was untouchable.
I can’t say that I’ve been that big of a fan of his in recent years, but this has strangely hit me. Random patrons at my library approached me and said “did you hear about Michael Jackson?” A woman asked me if we had a TV in the library, and I did not think it was a dumb question. According to someone from another library, a woman ran out of a children’s program screaming when she found out. As for me, I found out when some teen volunteers were talking about it while signing in. I checked the news story and it just mentioned that he had a heart attack, so my initial reaction was “stupid teens always fucking blow this shit out of proportion.” A bit later, I checked Google news again, and it was confirmed. I was shocked, and so was everyone else. As I was leaving, a coworker walked in and asked if I heard the news. I said “yes,” but as she walked past me she had this look on her face that I had never seen before. It really looked like she was holding back tears.
Michael Jackson was known during the last years of his life as a freak, but I always liked what Dave Chappelle said about it. He said that whatever he did, he did it for us. He thought that by turning himself into this ghoulish thing, we would like him more. Then Dave said “thank you” to Michael, and that he appreciated it. I don’t know if anyone will know why he did what he did, but it really, really blows not having him around anymore. This gets thrown around a lot, but it fully applies: there has never been anyone like Michael Jackson.
I’m going to miss him.