A Quick Post About Michael Jackson

I have nothing really new to add to the news that one of the biggest pop stars the world has ever known passed away unexpectedly, and far too soon, yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles. LIke countless millions, I recall watching Michael debut the moonwalk at the Motown 25th anniversary special and being blown away. Who was this dude? What couldn’t he do? He was larger than life. Everybody, black, white, American, European, Asian, whatever you were, you got down to Mike. You still do (his stuff still gets the party going at the clubs and weddings). His music, at its best, was infections and accessible.

I’ve seen three appreciations that I’d like to share. One from Andrew Sullivan, another from Hua Hsu and one from Stephen Thomas Erlewine. I want to excerpt passages from the last two:


I want to have one more drink and listen to some Michael Jackson. And so we end up at Von, the glee of the Jackson 5 beckoning us past the doorman. Downstairs, DJ Eleven and Sammy Bananas refuse to play Michael too early, but by midnight, the night’s will is too strong. “Blame it on the Boogie,” “Enjoy Yourself,” “Smooth Criminal,” “So Glad to Be Here,” “Billie Jean,” so many more, all necessary in a life-or-death way. Everyone dances–even those who are terrible at it. In the middle of the room, a kid who must possess an amazing fake I.D. pours a bit (oops: too much) of his drink out in tribute. He and his two friends are dressed like colorblind W.A.S.P.s. and they know every word to “Rock With You.” A middle-aged couple sway gently between two tables; across the room, a young man respectfully freaks his girl; and a circle of folks with their eyes closed absorb all who dare pass.

For twenty or so minutes, everything is cool. The songs remind us of ourselves–this is why they are important. Studying my parents’ copy of Thriller, wondering for some reason if this guy was a family friend. Wondering, too, why there was a tiger in the centerfold. A night spent in front of the TV in anticipation of “Black and White.” The next morning’s recess and the blitz of crotch-grab demos. Dubbing cassettes. Jeff Koons’ sculpture. Weird Al. Suddenly Janet seemed way cooler. Pulling records for a gig and remembering that the bar staff always loves to hear “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” while we count tips. That YouTube clip of Michael, Prince and James Brown. That time he showed up at the VMAs with Presley’s daughter. Hours spent moonwalking in front of a mirror, never quite improving. And now this: a bar, strangers, “Human Nature,” Macallan neat, getting older, a profound feeling of disappointment.

And Erlewine:

But Michael Jackson was never meant to be a cult artist, which is one of the many reasons his music of the last two decades often struck a dissonant chord: he belonged to the masses, providing a soundtrack to billions of people around the world, from the millions that made Thriller the biggest album ever to those who never owned one of his records and yet knew all his hits. That is the Michael Jackson that has been absent for 20 years and that is the Michael Jackson that is being mourned today. His sudden death gives us all an opportunity to appreciate the enduring genius of his art but to realize that we have no musician that speaks to all of us … and that we haven’t for some time now.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson. There certainly won’t be another like you.


~ by uvasig on June 27, 2009.

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