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Today’s Musing: The Passing of Michael Jackson

June 26, 2009

When I was about 8 years old, in the late ’80s, I had a bad-ass stereo set up in my bedroom, as a result of my dad having way too many giant speakers for our house.  Every night one summer, I’d listen to the radio for hours, hearing the same songs over and over again…as you do if you listen to the radio.  One particular night, I decided I was going to write a list of the songs that I was hearing, along with the artist.  I started out well; I had my colorful pen, and my even more colorful paper (I was into teal in a big way) and I sat diligently on my bed and turned on my stereo.  As the music started to play, I was thrilled that I recognized the first song and listed it.

Number one was a Michael Jackson track.  I sat patiently and listened for the next song.   Hmm, it too sounded like Michael Jackson.  I tentatively wrote down the information.  By the time several more songs rolled around and I’d attributed over half of them to Michael Jackson, I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was doing, thus wrapping up my days as a music guide until much, much later.  But one thing stands out to me about that story of my youth.  At the age of 8 years old, Michael Jackson was really the only artist that I knew of, period (this slightly preceding my New Kids on the Block phase).

As everyone knows by now, Michael Jackson passed away yesterday at the age of 50.  My tiny and brief story illustrates a bigger truth; Jackson’s music was accessible to all ages, sexes, races, and creeds, and that is evidenced by the enormity of his popularity all over the world.  I grew up loving his music, with my parents owning his albums and watching his music videos.  I remember being scared out of my mind when I watched the “Thriller” video, mind-boggled when I saw “Billie Jean”, and years later, awed by the “Black or White” video.

Undoubtedly, Jackson was a damaged soul and a more than controversial figure.  But his contributions to the world of music and dance cannot be easily dismissed.  His signature moves were the inspiration for countless numbers of dancers who’d never seen anything like it before.  He literally changed the landscape of pop music forever with a tireless drive for bigger and better music, influencing innumerable artists throughout the decades.  He started out as a child, still perhaps the most dynamic child performer in history, and rose to become the biggest star of all time.  When you stop and consider the fact that he died at just 50 years old (Madonna is older for example), it’s truly incredible how much he accomplished in his first 30 years of life.  Jackson was one in a generation, the definition of a cultural icon.

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