…and so is a part of me. How do I even begin to explain the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson to my son? Of course, there are parts of this said phenomenon I would prefer not to have to explain to my son, but since the man is recently dead, I will gloss over them like the elephant in the room, as mentioned by Randy Pausch.
The fact remains that Michael Jackson was the music I grew up to. The Way You Make Me Feel was the official love ballad for my generation, raunchy, aggressive, and full of great dancing and MJ, us with the one shouldered oversized tees, hair scrunched up into untidy messy high on head ponytails, legwarmers (for God alone knows what in the heat of Mumbai and no dance classes), the then to be spouse perfected moonwalking and breakdancing for the express purpose of impressing the squealing girls and did a mean headspin and backflip in his time.
I knew the words backwards to Thriller, Billie Jean, Black & White, I Just Cant Stop Loving You, Man in the Mirror. Dammit I worshipped the man. He was the ultimate in coolth to me. Of course, like the rest of my generation I watched on in shock and disbelief as he changed from a cute black boy to something I still dont know what yet. I watched his courtroom appearances with sunken nose and lipsticked and eyemakeupped eunuch persona and tried to reconcile it with the face of the oh so fabulous dancer who had me sitting on the edge of my seat whenever his songs played on television.
And I would think back to the I Want You Back of the Jackson 5 and wondered what had been so terrible in his childhood lost that he never ever could grow up. I watched the documentaries done on him, recoiled in horror as I heard stories of how he had been slavedriven to perform professionally at the age of five. It was heartbreaking to hear him speak in his whispery fragile voice, and say that opposite the recording studio there was a fairground with a carousel and all he wanted to do was to ride the Ferris Wheel and the Carousel and he wouldnt be allowed to. And he had to practise practise practise. He was a child. Five years old. Thats how old my son is. I watched clips of his Neverland mansion, his taking of the Peter Pan personality he had created for himself to the ultimate extreme. I read the stories of the child abuse, the sleepovers, the manic spending, the bizaree appearances at the trial, and even to an untrained non clinical mind the inferences were obvious, the man was trying desperately to get back his childhood. At times I even felt terrible for him. Haunted, an object of ridicule in his later years, a subject of jokes and wondered about the children he had chosen to have borne for him, and wondered what type of a gilded cage they were growing up in. The fabulous music he made in his hey day was forgotten. Newer singers and musicians came on the scene. But the phenomenon that was MJ could never ever be replicated.
Perhaps it is appropriate I am in black today. Of course, you and I know that I am in black every other day, but today it seems particularly appropriate. A part of my youth has died forever, and I am in mourning. Keep his private life aside. That is none of my business, except as a voyeuristic fan. For the music he gave us, I bow to him on bended knee.
“Why not just tell people I’m an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They’ll believe anything you say, because you’re a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, ‘I’m an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,’ people would say, ‘Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He’s cracked up. You can’t believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.’”—Michael Jackson
The King of Pop is dead. And an era is officially over.