Friday, June 26, 2009


I don't think the twentysomethings and below truly know who the world just lost today. Anyone born around the time of the "Bad" and, uhm, the "Dangerous" albums will never truly grasp why Michael Jackson mattered. The Michael they knew was the suddenly-white-skinned guy with the funny nose, scary face, and the controversies -- from his sexuality to vitiligo to child molestation to his "fatherhood" to baby dangling to bankruptcy and other nutty behavior. To them he was Janet's older brother, the crazy guy at the Neverland ranch, the burka-wearing lunatic with the Spiderman-masked kids, that old guy idolized by Britney and Justin, the has-been clinging to past glories. That fart who claims he is the "King of Pop" like, wtf? :-(

Go to your favorite entertainment or news website and read the coverage, because his achievements and significance in entertaiment, culture, and black history are just too many to mention here. The fact is, his claim that he was the King of Pop was justified. The younger generation can never fathom what that meant, so I'll try to explain: put together at their peak the popularity and ubiquity of Alanis, Leo, Britney, BSB, N*Sync, High School Musical, the Jonas Brothers and that Twilight guy, and they will still not measure up to Michael Jackson around the time of "Thriller," when he was everywhere, a force of nature, a cultural phenomenon whose appeal transcended nationalities, color, and age. He was on MTV, on our cassette players and turntables, bedroom walls, pins on our shirts, stickers on our notebooks and lunchboxes. People copied his moves, his style, and he seriously helped shape the music of the '80s, the art of the music video, and the emergence of hip-hop into the mainstream. Millions stayed up to watch world premieres of his videos, new singles on the radio. His appearances were events. Remember that time when the Beatles claimed they were bigger than Jesus? Michael was bigger than the Beatles.

I was about six when Michael was the hottest thing on TV and the radio. I remember watching the premiere of the Thriller video with my teenage cousins. If I'm not mistaken, there was even a Michael Jackson dance-alike contest on Eat Bulaga. My brother and I would put medals and pieces of colored cloth on our shirts and dance in front of the TV imitating Michael. One time I almost got into serious trouble for attempting to filch a stick of gum from a vendor outside our school (the gum included a free Michael Jackson card).

Of course I also got a cassette copy of the Thriller album. As a boy, songs like "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "P.Y.T.," and of course "Billie Jean" became the soundtrack of my life at that time. One day I got the shock of my life when I saw my younger brother taping over "Billie Jean," singing "Dear Mama" (the theme song for a Regal movie showing that time) in front of the cassette recorder. Playing back the tape, I also heard my father convincing my brother to, was it to take a bath or to eat, I don't remember exactly. And I think there was also me shouting and turning off the machine. Well, my father's dead and my brother has gotten married and probably doesn't remember this incident. But the tape has survived, kept in a box at home, the memories alive like Michael and his music will forever be.


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