On Friday night, I was sitting on the train with my headphones fiddling with my BlackBerry (I still have trouble with it–I’m just not a very BlackBerry-like person) and I see Michael Jackson taken to the hospital and I think–okay, fainted, or plastic-surgery emergency–something mean like that. Then I overhear this guy across the aisle tell someone that MJ had died. The both of them start texting and searching furiously. So I am wondering if he plugged into some wild viral rumor or was the hospitalization thing that I read for real. I checked out another web page and there it was: MJ has died in L.A. hospital.
Over the weekend I think I was surprised by how much activity has surrounded his death and the continual media coverage of mourning fans. I don’t think I really understood the influence that he has had on us—on me. Darrow and I watched this dreadful recount of his life on TV on Friday night: little Michael, cool Michael, wierd Michael. It wasn’t so much a celebration of his music and the cultural impact of his work; it was as much about the freak show of his later life. I hated that part. I hated that part of MJ’s life also. I don’t want to judge him now, I just want to forget all of the other stuff. I want to remember him and enjoy what he brought to my life. I have to admit that I feel a little annoyed by the fact that a pop music figure means something to me. It’s really being a petty snob—thinking that I would rather say that influential people in my life were authors or poets or even great actors, but not pop artists. Silly—yes. Why shouldn’t I be influenced by one of the greatest musical artists ever? He was a part of my young adult life. As they played video clips of his music during the TV bio, there were times when a sudden rush of emotion and excitement filled me up. It was like reliving some of the things I felt when it was all new—1982, 1984, 1987.
Then I began to wonder—why don’t I have a single MJ CD to my name? I wasn’t really digging any of his later albums, but why didn’t I have Thriller or Off the Wall? Why in the last few days were so many people buying up his music? I know I had cassette tapes (long ago discarded) but no CDs. I guess also I have tried to distance myself from him. For some time now, his life seemed to be dissolving into this strange side-show that not only didn’t interest me but repelled me. I didn’t want to know that the guy who sang Billie Jean, paid out a settlement to make a child molestation case go away. I didn’t want to see anymore of the disfigurement that he was doing to his face and to his body by means of plastic surgery. I didn’t want to listen to him speak anymore because it sounded like someone who was descending into some sort of mental illness. I think that when Bad came out, I was excited but also a little horrified. I think that was the beginning of the end for me and I just turned the channel—permanently.
So this morning I just can’t get Beat It out of my head. I must have had it playing as the soundtrack to one of my dreams and it just kept playing once I regained consciousness. So when our son began to pester me about watching Sesame Street on my laptop, I decided that before I indulge the little man in some B & E (Bert & Ernie), I was going to get this song out of my head and into the air. So T and I sat down at the table in the kitchen this morning, me with my coffee and he with his sippy-cup filled with chocolate milk and I introduced him to one of the greatest musical performers that has ever lived.