Friday, June 26, 2009
The King of Pop is Dead! There Will Be No Other King.
I am not going to tell a lie. I love Michael Jackson. I used to tell folks that I didn't care what he supposedly did...he could put out a record from prison, and I would have bought it. He was a consummate entertainer...anyone that grew up anywhere that received radio waves or a television signal tried to Moonwalk and could do at least one move from Thriller on command. There are whole lost native tribes deep in the Amazon that are doing the Moonwalk right now. I swear to God.
Since Michael falleció yesterday afternoon, the entire Milky Way has been abuzz with commentary on his life and death. Overwhelmingly people remember him fondly. Many folks have shit to say about the man and his life. Let it not be said that I do not support a critical review and recounting of a man's life. Martin Luther King was a womanizer that cheated on his wife. JFK was bangin' Marilyn Monroe in the White House, and Bill Clinton most definitely had sex with that woman. But, those things are not the sum of who they were. Michael Jackson may have touched those children inappropriately. A court said no. The court of public opinion has other ideas. But, in the end, the outpouring of love has not been about Michael Jackson the flawed and flayed man...but Michael Jackson the artist that is inimically tied to the memories of so many of us from the MTV generation and before.
The first piece of music I remember, as a child, was an 8 Track of the Jackson Five that my step-Dad would bump, high on cocaine, as we shot down Lake Street in Minneapolis at 70 to 80 miles an hour. As a child choral star, I often fancied myself as the next MJJ...though I have seven siblings...and my sister Meta and I would have come to blows over who sang lead.
Simply put, there isn't a period of my childhood that doesn't have a Jackson Five or Michael Jackson song as part of its soundtrack. In 1985, my Mom moved us to Kansas City to live with Keith, who would eventually become step-Dad II. We had a lively neighborhood with a number of kids. In the Summer, would all play together in the streets and in each others yards...roller ball...hide and go seek...double dutch...drill team. We would fight, would celebrate, and I saw my first titty when Kenya lifted up her shirt on my back porch. Running through all of that was Michael Jackson. When “We Are the World” was released, you would have thought that Michael and Stevie and Cyndy and the rest were going to swing through Africa and then stop by our neighborhood on their way back to their lives as superstars. It didn't matter what we were doing...when the opening chords of We Are The World floated out of some one's open window...we would scream for Mrs. So and So to turn it up...a hush would fall...and then the entire damn neighborhood would start to sing.
Never in my life before or since has any...and I mean...ANY singer commanded an immediate silence and homage of an entire neighborhood of 8 to 12 year olds engrossed in play time. Michael Jackson belonged to us. When he Moonwalked...all of our asses Moonwalked.
When my sister Meta got to go to the Bad concert...I wanted to kill her, bury her body, die my hair blond, bleach my skin, take her ticket, and go to the show. I thought life in prison was a fair cost for seeing Wacko Jacko live. And when Remember the Time came out...combining my favorite singer with my favorite actor, Eddie Murphy, set in my favorite time period, Ancient Egypt, I thought for sure I had died and gone to Pop Culture Heaven.
Several years ago, the old Sears building on Lake Street in Minneapolis was converted into condos and lofts, and I moved in. It had been the second largest Sears in the world, and my Mom worked there when I was a child. There was one cold, wintry night when we were in the car. Mom went in to get her paycheck, and she left the radio on. On that night, I heard a song so beautiful that I was crying as I was singing because, I too, was “Talking to the Man in the River.” Yes lawd. I thought the man was talking to the Man in the River...and instead of the line being “it couldn't have been any clearer,” I swore (and sang)...”I couldn't bend any quiver.” But damn the words...the song moved me...and to this day it is one of my top five favorite songs.
From “Off the Wall” to “History Part One,” I am a devoted Michael Jackson fan. We may never know who the father of “Billie Jean”'s baby was...but Michael Jackson was a “Thriller”...and, tonight, right now, in his honor...I am a "Dancing Machine.” Michael baby...in Heaven...ain't no such a thing as "Black or White." Say hello to Farrah for me...and Tito...and Celia....Isaac Hayes...and Marvin Gaye...when I get there...we gonna have us a concert that is going to overshadow the Second Coming.