Michael Jackson 1958-2009
My parents talk about where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Elvis died.
I wasn't sure anything in my lifetime would ever compare to that tragic loss of a music legend.
But then, yesterday evening, news broke that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was dead at age 50, presumably after falling into cardiac arrest.
And suddenly, I knew. This was my Elvis moment. This was that one day I would look back on and say, "I know exactly what I was doing when I heard Michael Jackson died..."
For the record - I had stopped in at Stacy's for a visit; she was outside with Maddy, playing in the wading pool, on a stifling-hot late-June evening. After gathering up the water toys and towels and heading inside, Stacy walked into the living room and happened to glance at the TV. Before I had even made it past the door, she exclaimed: "Oh my God! He died! Michael Jackson is dead!"
I scurried into the living room, and sure enough, the headline, in giant letters across the TV screen, declared: MICHAEL JACKSON DEAD, below helicopter images of crowds gathering behind police barricades outside the UCLA Medical Centre where he had been taken.
Shock. Disbelief. A lump in my throat as I sat with my hand over mouth, trying to comprehend what I was hearing.
And all I could think of was this purple t-shirt my sister had when we were kids that she'd never let me wear.
A purple t-shirt with a picture of MJ on the front, from his "Thriller" days, that I loved so much, but she always hid it from me. One day, I found it, secretly put it on, and wore it to school. I was in Kindergarten, and she was in Grade 6. When she caught sight of me in it in the hallway at lunch time...I thought she was going to kill me.
Is it possible to summarize Michael Jackson in just a few paragraphs? From his early days as the smiley young frontman of his family band, the Jackson 5, to his rise as the King of Pop with the unparalled success of his "Thriller" album, to the most recent years of his decline into vicious accusations of child molestation, court cases, and a constant tabloid watch on his ever-changing face - MJ was always in the news for something.
Thankfully, in the wake of his untimely and unexpected death, the world seems focused on remembering him in all his legendary glory. Because no matter what one believes about Jackson's questionable private life... in the music industry, you didn't get much bigger or better than him.
The word 'icon' somehow doesn't seem prestigious enough for him. His style - the white glove, the red leather jacket, the shades - he literally had millions of kids copying his image. He gave the world new dance moves - the crotch-grabbing and, of course, the moonwalk. He redefined music in the '80's and '90's. He redefined an entire generation.
Unfortunately, I pretty much missed out on all that hype. By the time I was old enough to fall in love with music, Michael Jackson's best days were behind him. I ended up growing up with the speculation, the scandals, the baby-dangling incident, and the ever-present question: When will Michael's nose fall off?
Still, the coolness that was MJ was not lost on me. I bought his albums. I danced to "Billie Jean" and "Black or White" in my basement. I often watched an old tape of my sister's of him performing "Dangerous" at the American Music Awards in the early '90's. And despite all the criminal allegations and bizzare behaviour, I always felt sympathy for him. He grew up in the limelight and became a pop mega-star, and struggled his entire life to gain back the childhood he felt he never had.
His friends in the music and entertainment world have had nothing but wonderful words to say about him in the wake of his tragic passing. He's been described and sweet and loving; a prodigy; a visionary; a phenom. His music and his dance moves continue to have a strong influence on today's music scene, and in that respect, Michael Jackson is right up there on the same pedestal as Elvis Presley.
(Fans in Copenhagen react to the news of Jackson's death)
Today, the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest. Everywhere Michael Jackson went, everthing Michael Jackson did - it was a spectacle. He was a light in this world that will be sorely missed, and will continue to be celebrated in the days to come.
Michael, you rocked my world - you know you did.
And you will be missed.