Sunday, June 28, 2009

MJ

It was 1984. I'm living in a third-world country. I have a nice house, but my neighbors live in straw huts. Our neighborhood is nice and clean, but some of the streets a few blocks over smell of garbage. I'm 10 years old and have almost infinitely more money than the boy next door, but by American standards our family is middle class. The differences on paper between my family and most in the neighborhood are staggering.

But one thing we had in common was Michael Jackson.

When "Thriller" hit it big, there were no more races left in the world. There were no more colors, no more classes, no more money. All you knew is that everyone was either going to learn all the moves to "Thriller", buy a jacket like the one he war in "Beat It", or figure out how to moonwalk. Many of us tried to sing like Michael Jackson. Every street vendor sold a "minus one" tape of Michael Jackson songs with no vocals so you could perfect your act. Books of lyrics to all the "Thriller" songs were hot, too. I spent many days lining out the bad English and correcting spellings and off-lyrics. You see where THAT got me!

Michael Jackson wasn't just music. When you lived in the Philippines as a military brat, it was a strange mix of being ahead and behind at once. We were close to Japan, so CDs and other neat technology was in our hands before the States. But the States knew what was hot six months before we did. There was no internet or cell phone technology to keep people in the loop. Yet Michael Jackson was hot at every time, all the time. He was our "connect". There wasn't anyone who wasn't a fan. There wasn't a boy who didn't twist an ankle or break his momma's vase practicing the moonwalk.

In fact, you've probably watched so many MJ videos by now and didn't realize you were tapping your feet. Your legs have spasmed a few times to "Smooth Criminal". Even the kids are high-kicking that left leg, tossing Skechers across the kitchen. You all, once again, have no colors or class. You are all quietly mourning in your heart, maybe not shedding a tear, but on the outside you are paying tribute by singing along and tapping that foot. Whatever you believe about him, whatever you think he did or didn't do, however he died, whatever his issues, remember that as magic as Michael was, he was human just like you. Yet his gift from God was to entertain, enlighten, perform, and give like no other. You all know it. That's why you are tapping that foot.

It is 1984 again.

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