Noveldoctor Steve says never submit your rough draft. Given that the subject is sensitive, I think I will beg forgiveness. Michael Jackson died today.
I don't know that I can really describe what part he and his music played in my life any better than the research paper I wrote for Mr. Trapp after his autobiography came out in 1988. I recall the cover page design using some of his sketches from the book, the cover of the book, that it was the 1st hardcover book I ever bought myself. And I remember what Mr. Trapp told the whole class while looking right at me about our heroes.
"There comes a time when we all denounce the heroes of our youth. He will do or say something that will shatter your image of him, no matter how great a fan you are. It is inevitable."
And when the weirdness overshadowed the music and the way the lyrics reflected, encouraged and soothed my own innermost being... I denounced him as predicted. It was not harsh as all those who had triumphantly proclaimed him the most disgusting person on the planet as I always kept a prayer for him. Nonetheless, I could not be excited about everything that he did, not like in high school... not like 1984.
When Thriller dominated the Grammy nominations and he was expected to open the show, it was all we talked about in school. I remember Julie Janis being uber excited in her circle. The boys scoffed at all of us. But I went home that day, rushed through my homework and dinner. We actually ate in the kitchen at the table. The TV was in the living room. As soon as the first beat of Billy Jean started, I flew to the living room. I got there fast enough to see that first Moonwalk and there was nothing about the Grammies that I remember after that. The night was about celebrating the success of someone whom I cared about because the music made it seem as though he cared about me, all of his fans. He seemed to understand where we came from emotionally and where we wanted to go. Of course where we wanted to go was Neverland, ranch or children's fable.
As a girl who felt her ugly duckling status everyday, PYT and The Girl is Mine gave definition to the faint hope that someone, somewhere, someday would think feel and say those lyrics for me. As a kid who never felt strong enough to stand up for herself, though plenty strong to clock someone who picked on her sister, Beat It and Wanna Be Startin' Somethin emboldened and empowered. Billy Jean just moved through my body like a balm. I had horrible health issues and this album was the thing that helped me to mentally control the pain. For that alone he should have been considered a god(send). Since I lived a rather dark life before his music came into my life, the joyful, playful and exuberant expressions of music and lyrics brought me out into the lightness of being who you are and not being ashamed of it.
I could have been a fan forever. I could have followed him as I follow Sting. But his lyrics never matured with his body and responsibilities. And he did the one thing that I thought someone with his joy couldn't do. He stabbed his friend in the back. The current spin is that the Beatles Catalog purchase was misunderstood and that he and Paul were okay. But they never worked together again. Michael said that he bought the catalog as a birthday gift. Problem was, at the time, he didn't present it as such until after the papers reported the purchase. He made it a gift after he got busted... he betrayed a friend, profited from someone else's work. And then trashed the work by doing things with it that the creators would never have done. It was shrewd. And rude.
And I had hoped that BAD would be redemptive. It wasn't. The more I thought about the catalog, how it was dissected for product promotions the more I realized that I couldn't like him anymore. Paul has gotten more graceful over the years while Michael digressed into something that I don't recognize. I still am thankful that he was there when I needed him. I treasure those strengthening years. And I wish that he could have gotten a clue.
I am sad. Any chance that he had to make a comeback and recapture the joy that he once embodied is gone. And that may be why I am saddest. Well, that and the fact that a major 80's icon is gone. He is the drum major leading the 80's parade to the end of its route.