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Mpls, MN, United States

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson

I don't know what to say about Michael Jackson.

Two Thursdays ago, as I was driving to Hermiston in advance of the coast trip, I heard the news on NPR that, at age 50, Michael Jackson was dead. I was stunned and saddened, even surprising myself by blinking away tears as I drove.

It's not that I was a hardcore fan: I don't own a single album (though I was given the MP3s of Number Ones, several of which feature in various Marathonator playlists), didn't follow his legal difficulties, and never felt any sort of close personal connection. But somehow, he was part of my life, as he has been for millions for decades and will doubtless continue to be.

My first Michael Jackson memory is, as a child, asking my father, upon seeing his face on a magazine cover, whether Michael Jackson was a man or a woman. My dad replied mysteriously, "No one really knows." When I recounted that story to him last year, he laughed at his response--but at the time I was genuinely confused.

I remember trying unsuccessfully to moonwalk. I remember singing "Heal the World" in eighth grade choir. I remember looking at images of the tragic evolution of his face. I remember running to his music. I remember dancing to it at many parties (and hope to continue doing so). I remember being consistently impressed and cheered by his own dancing in his music videos.

Michael Jackson is, as has only become clearer in the wake of his untimely death, a worldwide phenomenon, leaving his indelible impression on decades of music, fashion, dance, and videography. His impossible bigness tended to hide the fact, I think, that he was, after all, human and fallible and fragile. The impressive thing is how that bigness seemed somehow to reach all of us in our smallness.

I'm sad that he's gone, though of course he isn't, not really, and won't be. I'm not the first to suggest that what we'll remember of him will be the good stuff--the contagious music, the mind-blowing dancing, the trailblazing videos--rather than the very visible and painful effects of the fame they earned him. I hope it will be.


Ern said...

He was so talented. Music always becomes such a part of the fabric of our memories that I think it IS his talent we will remember, just as you described, the soundtrack to our past. The rest--his failures, his problems, his humanness, were part of who he is, but the music is what I will remember.

Also, your dad is HILARIOUS! That's a great answer.

Curly Sue said...

I had the same reaction you did. Not that I was a huge fan, but I think the tragedy of his Persona made us want to believe that he'd find happiness. I think we want to believe that for ourselves.

And he was just too young.

Holly Marie said...

yes, i think cory is still a little freaked out by v's obsession with his hand! when do you want to hang out?