My world didn’t stop on June 25, 2009. It did however shift on its axis a year ago today.
When I first heard that Michael Jackson had been rushed to a hospital, my initial assumption was that he’d succumbed to exhaustion while preparing for his highly regarded “This Is It” Concert and Tour. I was at work at the time trying to juggle balance sheets and any breaking news I could find on the internet that would reveal MJ’s condition, but was sure that by the time I got home, I’d be able to tune-in to any of the many news networks to not only learn of the details leading up to the moments before the paramedics arrived at Michael’s home, but to also discover that he would be fine and was likely resting comfortably in an insanely expensive hospital suite.
Never in my wildest dreams nightmares did I imagine that while updates began surfacing all over the internet, network television and basic cable that MJ had actually fallen into a coma, the reality was that The King of Pop had already bid this world adieu…a world that, depending upon the day and which way the wind blew, loved or loathed him, seemingly in equal measure at times.
Before sundown on Thursday June 25, 2009, as I prepared to leave my office for the day, a hauntingly large banner on cnn.com alerted me to the fact that Michael Joseph Jackson had in fact died. I don’t recall crying. I don’t recall who I phoned to see if they’d heard the news. I don’t even recall if I uttered a single sound. All I can remember is how I felt. It was a cross between an immediate and intense sense of grief and feeling as though someone had reached into my chest and literally squeezed the air out of my lungs.
I collapsed into my swiveled desk chair, realizing that my legs were too wobbly for me to remain standing. Slumping against my desk, I tried to apply logic not only to the shocking news I had just learned, but to my wayward emotions as well. I didn’t understand how I could have such a raw response to the death of a man that I had never known personally and who only impacted my life indirectly at best. It took a LONG few moments, but when I felt “present” enough, I collected myself and my belongings and headed home. Turning on the radio, my entire gridlocked ride consisted of uninterrupted tributes, remixed medleys and a variety of distraught listeners who called into the station to reveal their fondest memories of the King of Pop. While I’d love to tell you what all they shared, I was on auto-pilot that day and much of that evening has become a blur.
It wasn’t until many days later that I was actually able to accept the fact that Michael Jackson was dead and not simply disguising himself as a skinny, fair-skinned Tahitian in the Polynesian Islands in an attempt to evade his debt collectors. It was also during this time that I discovered I was able to answer the question of why MJ’s death had impacted me so. Michael Jackson was my first dance teacher and the first man (barring Prince) that as a child, I thought was “pretty.” The Jackson 5 introduced me to black cartoon characters and the fabulousness of a perfectly symmetrical afro. While to many, Michael was contentedly loony, he was also innovation in motion, a consummate professional and a selfless humanitarian. He was iconic, and I came to the realization that for all the people who mocked, mimicked or imitated him over the span of his career, there would never be another Michael Jackson. I wasn’t simply responding to the loss of the King of Pop. I was responding to the loss of the man.
Even now, it is surreal to think that there will be no more new albums from him, no collaboration with him and Lady Gaga for an eccentric remake of “Dirty Diana,” or no Jackson 5 Reunion Grammy Performance. But for all the pain that his family and the millions of his fans are feeling today, it is important to remember that Michael Jackson left behind an abundant legacy. While I will always feel sadness in knowing that MJ’s time on earth was far too brief, I will continue to celebrate the man and the legend for the amazing way he made me feel.
Below are a few of my all-time favorite Michael Jackson songs and MJ-influenced creations. Long Live The King.
Of all The Songs in my Comprehensive Michael Jackson Collection, the baby-girl plays “Rockin’ Robin” on repeat on the iPod.
“Dancing Machine” is where we witness the Immaculate Conception and birth of The Robot.
“Blame It On The Vertigo Inducing Special Effects Boogie”…
I could have done without the borderline heretical “Can You Feel It” video, but the song is pretty awesome.
While our peers were still trying to master “Thriller”, my sister and I had moved on and were borrowing fedoras and suspenders from our dad’s closet in an effort to twerk-out the “Smooth Criminal” choreography…she had a chipped front tooth from “leaning” to prove it!
The best Cover this side of the Mason-Dixon! Thanks to Alien Ant Farm, I was finally able to learn all the words to “Smooth Criminal” (Note too, how the vid has hints of “Thriller”, “Billy Jean” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”. Classic!).
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”…if only more musicians would dance and sing in a tuxedo and the Biggest. Bowtie. EVER.
Mary’s “Just Fine” borrows MJ’s introductory “Woooh!” and pays homage to him with a tuxedoed, bowtie’d freestyle of her own!