Friday, June 26, 2009

Thanks for the thrills

Having just written a long, rambling post about the music of my youth (in part, anyway), I couldn't ignore the death of Michael Jackson yesterday. It's one of those shocking "where were you" moments that I know I will always remember (we had just gotten home and turned on the TV news) -- like Elvis's death in August 1977 (I was 16, I had a girlfriend from out of town visiting for the weekend, and we spent most of the time listening to the radio, which was playing Elvis music & callers' reminscences nonstop) or John Lennon's in December 1980 (I was 19 and in second-year university and saw a news report on my little black & white TV in my dorm room -- they played a montage of Beatles film clips set to "In My Life" & I bawled my eyes out)(I have told dh that I want "In My Life" played at my funeral).

I first became aware of Michael & the Jackson 5 when I was about 10 years old, I guess, through -- what else -- Tiger Beat, & the other teen magazines of the early 1970s. To be quite frank, at that time, being a whitebread girl from smalltown Prairie Canada, you might live for years & years without ever encountering a black person (you MIGHT have one Asian family in town, running the lone Chinese restaurant for miles & miles around) -- & so I didn't relate to the Jacksons or their music very much at first. At that time, as I've written before, I was more into David Cassidy & the Osmonds.

I was never a huge, huge Michael Jackson fan, but as I got older, I grew to appreciate the Jacksons' music more and more. "Off the Wall" came out when I was still in high school, and "Thriller" when I was in university. The year I was in grad school, "Thriller" & the videos made from the songs on it, absolutely dominated the airwaves. Video was such a novel art form, and I absolutely loved "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" and the epic "Thriller," as much if not more than the songs themselves (not to mention the Weird Al Yankovic parodies of them!). I could watch them over & over, finding some new little detail to marvel over every time. Dated fashions aside, I still think they hold up today.

It's the Michael from those videos that I like to remember -- not the "wacko Jacko" of the last 15-20 years. I look at the clips of him from the Ed Sullivan show with his brothers, singing "Want You Back" & wonder what happened to that cute little boy with the sparkling eyes, big smile, even bigger voice and polished dance moves.

It's so very sad. What a colossal waste of talent.


  1. No kidding: what a waste of a phenomenal talent.

    I hope that people can overlook the weirdness of his last 20 years and remember the genius that he was.

  2. I totally agree. It was actually painful for me to see the mess he had become.

  3. I am the same - when I think of Michael Jackson's death, I mourn the artist of the 80's and early 90's. I'm not sure what happened to him after that. Very tragic.

    My first record was Thriller. I remember staying up late hoping to catch a "Beat It" or "Billie Jean" video on TV. It is funny the memories a song can bring back. Almost like a particular strong scent can make the past come rushing back.