"A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile..."
I had the Thriller LP growing up. Vinyl. 33 1/3 RPM. Played it so much that it skipped terribly. Still I continued to listen so often that I knew all the places it skipped and could still sing right along without missing a beat. Well, without missing any additional beats.
By the time Bad was released, I had progressed to cassettes, and bought it the first day it came out. I transcribed the lyrics to every song onto loose leaf notebook paper and I'm sure I had them all memorized within a week.
I know I've mentioned this before, but as a kid, I would imitate Michael Jackson at holidays and family gatherings. Mom would put on the Thriller album. I would leave the room, wait for the music to start, and emerge with a dizzying array of movements and yelps.
I had a Michael Jackson poster hanging in my room. Specifically, this one. In sixth grade, I begged for and got a zippered pleather jacket. I also may or may not have tried to go to school multiple mornings wearing just one glove. One black glove, as Mom wouldn't buy me a white sequined glove.
When I was 12 or 13, I won tickets from a radio station to The Jacksons Victory Tour in Knoxville. Mom and I rode a chartered bus six hours one way with all the other winners. I don't remember a lot about that concert, but I remember that I was there. I got to see him.
In later years, I remained a fan of his music. I vividly remember when I was a Freshman in college, seemingly every morning for weeks, the same car would drive down the road in front of the student center blaring "Remember The Time." I bought the History double album. And several years later, I got the Number Ones CD for Christmas.
I never thought about how I would feel if Michael Jackson died. Even when I first turned on the TV Thursday afternoon, after I'd awoken from a nap to a voice mail from Mom telling me the news, I still wasn't sure how I would or should feel.
Then after a few minutes and with no warning whatsoever, tears came. And I knew. I felt sadness. Nothing but deep sadness.
For the rest of Thursday night and part of Friday, at random times I would find myself on the verge of tears, having to gather myself for a couple of seconds before I could speak. I wondered why this was affecting me so much.
I think almost as much as his death, I mourn because of sad and troubled his life so often seemed. And maybe selfishly, I also mourn the loss of a part of my youth.
Michael Jackson was my generation. His star burned as bright and white hot as any ever did. He was our Elvis. When a star like that burns out, there is darkness--an empty space that is never filled. And also the reminder of our own mortality.
But before that, there was music. And moonwalking.
And it was magic.
"I spread my wings for greener pastures. I still ain't found what I was after. I got the blues and that is why I sing. I just want to do my thing. I'm goin' back to Indiana. Indiana, here I come..."