Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why We Celebrate Michael Jackson


I admit that I was fascinated by the Michael Jackson coverage over the last two weeks. It's hard not to be. It's everywhere! Now, I know plenty of people who choose not to honor the Michael in the picture. But let me tell you why I think we should remember that guy.

I remember the first time I saw that "Billie Jean" video. The sidewalk lighting up. His voice. The dancing. I think it was the first time I saw anyone like him. I was too young to know Michael from his "ABC" days. And, tragically, my only exposure to the Jackson Five was limited to that silly space-suit era. But since then, I've learned to appreciate the young Michael.

When "Thriller" was released, I was in awe. I mean, he was dancing in the streets with zombies! Sure, he seemed a little different. At the time, that "different" was good. Even my little brother was caught up in the whole mania. He did the dance - and it even cost him a trip to the hospital for some stitches when he spun around and broke a glass figurine, slicing his finger.

I lost interest in Michael around the "Black/White" time. My musical taste was changing and I thought he was silly. I had my giggles at his whole Elephant Man, Bubbles The Chimp and hyperbaric chamber. I thought it was strange that he and Elizabeth Taylor were friends. I mean, she could be his mother! But I moved on.

Then came the allegations of child molestation. Could that be why he was so odd? We all knew about his troubled childhood. But could he really be that messed up that he would cause harm to children? When he paid off that first kid, I understood that it's easier for someone in his position to write a check to make it go away. But I questioned the kid's parents' motives. If you were sexually abused, wouldn't you want justice - not a paycheck? If you thought he was a predator, wouldn't you feel obligated to protect other children? Then came the second case, which went to trial. Yes, we saw all kinds of oddities - including the insides Neverland Ranch. It was an absolute freakshow! Yet, somehow a jury looked past the Jesus Juice, the secret rooms, the obsession of an older man living as a boy. They found him not guilty. They heard more evidence than we did. So that should have closed the case.

Michael got stranger. Not just his appearance, but his behavior. I have no idea what his life must have been like. Being forced to live in exile - so far from family, practically on the run with his children. His life seemed lonely.

Not that I pitied Michael. He had his share of mistakes made in the public eye. But I was always a little sad for him. I could forget how wierd his life was when I listened to his music. It has always made me happy.

That's why Michael is celebrated in his death. He brought joy to so many people with his songs. When he moonwalked, he inspired an entire generation of kids to dance. Just watch Usher perform. In fact, it would be hard to find a person in pop music who was not inspired by the self-proclaimed "King of Pop." His memorial serivce was filled with people who, no doubt, at some point wanted to BE Michael Jackson. And seeing his young daughter (I don't care who really fathered her), say just a few words about what a wonderful father he was to her, you couldn't help but believe her.

I'm going to wrap this up with my favorite performance from the memorial. R.I.P., Michael. And I hope that you have found peace. I hope your children make you proud. And I hope they know how much you meant to so many people. Michael is gone. His music lives forever.

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