Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

Very sad to learn today of Michael Jackson's death. Given the enormity of his star power, it's surprising he did not perform at Olympic festivities during his career, though he did perform in several Olympic stadiums on various tours.

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson is actually from a cemetery, but not connected to the "Thriller" video. Rather, when I was six years old, on Christmas Eve of 1978, my grandmother, dad, sister and I went to the cemetery in northern Oklahoma City to place flowers at a family headstone, and one of The Jackson Five Christmas songs was on the radio in our red station wagon. We sang along, and my dad explained (I think) that the main singer was only a few years older than my age when the song was recorded. "That kid can sing [but not me]!" I recall saying [and thinking].

A few years later, the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet "Say, Say Say" was all the rage, and I vividly recall donning my first Walkman in the 4th Grade with a "Thriller" cassette playing and an "Air Supply" and "Styx" cassette in my back pockets (though one of my top five favorites was on the air much earlier). I don't recall trying to learn the moonwalk, but classmates of that era may call me out if they are reading. Steve Martin offered up about the funniest "Billy Jean" spoof on the short-lived NBC enterprise "The New Show."

The closest the "Victory" tour got to Oklahoma was Kansas City or Dallas -- it was THE top story on all four local news stations (hundreds of miles from either tour stop), a definitive lesson of the publicity machine from a time before "publicity" entered my lexicon.

Lots of other memories -- songs, lyrics, satires, tabloids, music videos, tours, jokes, stories, other favorites (there are many) --learning of Michael Jackson's untimely end adds another curious mile marker to the "where were you when ..." collection including the "Miracle On Ice," Reagan assassination attempt, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion, Murrah Building, 9/11.

During college, there was a made for TV movie about the Jacksons, and we had a great debate about most loved (or loathed) Michael Jackson tunes. When he performed the Super Bowl a year or so later, most agreed his best work was humanitarian.

"There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives. It's true, we'll make a better day, just you and me."

Michael Jackson, R.I.P.

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