I'm not one to mourn celebrity deaths; I've written here before about my utter confusion at the cult of celebrity. I feel no differently today. I was never a screaming fan, and I am not one who would hold vigil outside a hospital or a home.
And yet, the sudden death of Michael Jackson has left me surprisingly saddened. I thought it must be wrong. I thought surely that he staged it (like Elvis? Unlike Elvis?). I pondered the possibility that this was not his body that they removed from the house. I'm still pondering. But only a little.
I grew up with Michael Jackson. We were born the same year. I watched and admired his voice, his dancing, his showmanship from the earliest age. There was not a moment in which I did not feel awestruck by the idea that he and I were the same age. When I was 16, I went to see the Jackson Five in concert at the now defunct Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California, where I grew up. Imagine. The Jackson Five in my town! I remember the show like it was yesterday. I swooned as he sang "I'll Be There".
I did not really remain a fan as he grew older. The songs were still good, the dancing was still amazing, but it just wasn't my thing. I know that most people know him for Thriller, and admire that era of his music. I'll always be a Jackson Five fan. It takes me back.
I did not remain a fan as he clearly became stranger and stranger, as the concrete manifestation of phenomenal childhood pressures (and abuse?) took hold--he wouldn't be the first. I did not attend any more concerts--only that first one. I did not buy any more records (yes, records), even Thriller. As speculation regarding his abuse of children swirled, I never felt "hooked in"--the Michael Jackson I knew was 12, 16, 20. Not this one. And the one that I knew remained--in recordings, in videos, in my memory. Now he was clearly a deeply troubled entertainer that bore no resemblance (in any way) to the child whose poster was on my bedroom wall. In those days, I often remarked to friends that I would not be surprised if he killed himself rather than grow old. Who could possibly imagine an aged Michael Jackson, tell me that. Not me.
To me, he was always a child with the voice of an angel.
So tonight, when I heard the news, after double and triple and quadruple checking, I did what I often do to instantly cheer me up when I feel glum--today was, ironically, no different in that way. I turned on Jackson Five music at high volume. I Want You Back. ABC. I'll Be There. I opened the windows and the front door to throw the music out into the world. And I danced.
Here you go. With a little pre-Huxtable Bill Cosby and Tommy Smothers as a bonus...but the real genius is there in yellow and green. Dance with me, k?