Michael Jackson Defined Universal Language

Friday, June 26, 2009

The look of Michael Jackson that I will remember

When I heard the news, at first I believed that it was rumor. The King of Pop dead at the young age of 50? So suddenly? It couldn't be true. I was too young to understand the icon of Elvis Presley and his death at the age of 42 in the year 1977. Questions are pounding in my head--what caused the cardiac arrest of Michael?

Last night as I watched the ABC News special report on the life of Michael Jackson, unexpected tears trickled down my face. At the age of 14, only a year after my family left small town Titusville, FL to the wondrous big city of Columbia, MD (outside of Washington DC), I had won a pair of tickets on radio station to see Michael Jackson in the Victory Tour where he reunited with his brothers. The year was 1983.

Ten years younger than MJ, he influenced my life as a teenager in many ways. From a fashion standpoint, he influenced the trend of corduroy to sparkly black and white outfits to red leather to sequined everything in the 1980's.

But his music was more than a short-lived tune on the radio station. He accomplished what no other politician or world leader had set out to do. The musical genius of Michael Jackson moved, uplifted and joined an entire world. People of all backgrounds, cultures, races celebrated life through the music of Michael Jackson. An avid aficionado of the music and the arts, thanks to my mother, music motivated me and I loved to dance. For years I performed ballet but at home and at parties, I danced freestyle, my style to an upbeat Michael Jackson song. Michael sent an underlying powerful message-- it's OK to be different. And if you didn't liked my dance moves--well then "Beat It!".

His moonwalk and robotic gestures was his signature dance style that was a constant in all his videos and performances. He was different and he capitalized on it rather than shy away. His way of being "different" eventually boomeranged with a vengeance.

Personally I never believe that he harmed any children. On the contrary, after a lifetime of hardwork since a tender age of five, and having everything in the world, clearly the only thing missing in his life was his childhood. Listening to his interviews, I choked back tears when he said he would hear other children playing in the park across the street from the studio. But his father's disciplined regimen for the Jackson boys, meant studio practice everyday after school. There was no time to be a child. I can relate as I recall learning Algebra and how to play chess on a Saturday when other kids were playing outside. But that was once a month, not my entire childhood. I'm grateful for my father teaching me math equations and strategy at a young age. There was still plenty of time to play dress up, hopscotch, climb trees, and play with my Barbies.

Thus when the King of Pop opened Neverland, I knew Michael was living another dream he was forced to give up. An estate full of amusement park rides, Michael even welcomed groups of handicapped children to enjoy the rides. He loved children and just wanted to be one of them. Michael Jackson was a performer on the outside but a big child lived within. He longed for games, rides, sleepovers--anything related to happy children. Odd? Yes. Understandable? Put yourself in his shoes and imagine not having any childhood.

Michael broke so many barriers. Billie Jean was the first black video to be featured on MTV. His fashion was a template for a generation. Just when you thought his songs, dances, videos, and concert performances couldn't get any better- he surpassed them. Rewatching his music videos--he gave 200% of his burning passion in every single choreographed move. He was a phenomenon.

His Thriller album launched in 1982-- the same year I experienced the thrill of high school graduation and went away to begin college life. Thriller launched Michael Jackson into orbit and he never came down. He took the music video and turned into a mini motion picture. Below is the entire music video for Thriller. Warning: It's 13 minutes long. To appreciate his talent as artist, understand that in 1982 music videos were just that. Music Videos.

In the end I will always remember Michael Jackson as pop icon before the "transformation". When he underwent minor cosmetic nose surgery--he was still the same Michael to me. As he gained more fame and riches so did the toxicity of stardom, and he struggled with his inner identity and now I learned that he had a form of lupus that can cause vitiligo. Is it true? Who am I to judge. All child stars suffer beyond painful growing pains. Some who get out of the engulfing black hole, can survive. Will Smith did it. Most are not so lucky. But I believe Michael Jackson was ready for a comeback.

The King of Pop died a long time ago, and just when he was going to resurrect, death beat him to it. But like all larger-than-life figures, his music and life will be celebrated forever. That is the power of the arts! The power of music and dance--the universal language of love and celebration.

What does my Blog Sister, Alicia, have to say? Read her blog.

For his biography and view a gallery of his photos and peruse listing of all his songs, click here.

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  1. wow! this post is the best tribute i've ever read about MJ. I was saddened by how fame and fortune has turned him into something a lot of people can't understand. More saddened by his death. I was actually looking forward to his come back.Nevertheless, I'm also an MJ fan.

    May God bless his soul...

    Take care Christine