Remember the Time (Michael Jackson, 1958-2009)
The worst way to begin this entry would be to say, “I was shocked with the death of Michael Jackson.” Another bad way to begin this entry would be to say, “I grew up with the music of Michael Jackson.” We’re all shocked with his death, and we all grew up with his music, and he is indeed the single most revolutionary performer this generation ever had. By now, everyone made a tribute – obligatory as it may be – to the King of Pop and his untimely passing. It’s not that I’m riding a bandwagon, but it does get me thinking: what is there left to be said about him?
My elementary school days were punctuated by the melodious vocals of Michael Jackson. Those into modern dance moonwalked their way along the corridors. The HIStory albums were the first to go in the record stores; this was the time when eight-track cassettes were slowly giving way to CDs. Michael Jackson was so cool and modern, that it became hip to wear pants a little on the short side, just to show white socks inside black patent leather shoes. Everyone back then was a Michael Jackson fan, never mind that most of us back then didn’t know that he was black. Yet there was always the music of MJ. We sang, we danced, we performed at class assemblies.
It took a while before Michael Jackson’s name became more important than the music and the performance. Child abuse allegations, dangling babies over balconies, and his unusually pale color made MJ more of a caricature than a performer. MJ lost fans. The Walkmans and boomboxes (this was the 1990s, even then, we didn’t have iPods) gave way to music that would define the rest of our musical tastes. The mere mention of Michael Jackson can conjure up derision and disdain, at least to the discriminating (in more ways than one) fans that we were.
We made more jokes about the King of Pop than listening to his music. More musicians came to the fore. MJ faded to the background. The comeback was questioned; who would listen to Michael Jackson, except people who grew up with his music? He was no longer as hip as he was before. The larger-than-life figure, the immortal, was nothing more that a beat-up, washed-out, bankrupt artist who had nothing left but music once so regarded, but then now derided.
Then, Michael Jackson died. No celebrity death generated more new listeners or restored the appreciation of legions of fans more than the King of Pop. MJ’s comeback were the albums, the music videos, the songs, the anthologies that he made through his lifetime of music. Beyond the caricatures and the allegations, one thing is certain.
We’ll all remember the music, and we’ll all remember the time.