So long, MJ

Michael Jackson is dead.

I’ll admit I was pretty surprised when I heard it on Thursday. In fact, after seeing someone’s Facebook post about it, I frantically searched the Internet for confirmation. At first, it was only TMZ’s gossip site offering any information. With sinking dread, I kept checking the big sites, all the while knowing that those damn gossip sites usually have the right track.

By the time NPR had posted, it was everywhere. The shock was there - for me, for everyone - and it was genuine. I was shocked to be shocked, too, because I’ve never been an enormous MJ fan, and he’d really become something of a circus show freak in recent years. So what was the big deal? How could some distant, bizarre celebrity’s death bring on such emotion?

While scoping the net for further details, I saw report on celebrity Twitters on the subject. John Mayer’s post caught my eye: "I think we'll mourn his loss as well as the loss of ourselves as children listening to Thriller on the record player." (Oh, John, always speaking the thoughts in my mind somehow - but that’s another blog.)

And that’s it - that’s the explanation. Sure, we’ve lost an American icon and incredible musician. But many of us have lost a familiar face...regardless of how unfamiliar it became over the years. Michael Jackson and his music have been a part of my life since birth - or even before it. And I have so many memories...

...dancing in the basement to “ABC” with my little sister and laughing hysterically at the part where Michael yells, “Sit down, girl! I think I love ya!”

...playing the original Thriller record (my favorite song was “The Girl is Mine” because Paul McCartney was in it) and poring over the picture of Michael on the cover. He was cute, yes, but also foreign to an 8-year-old me.

...Being allowed to watch the “Thriller” video (videos/MTV were banned in our house) because my dad, who genuinely appreciated MJ, thought it was amazing.

...Resorting to MJ’s ballads during my earlier experiences with heartache. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” usually did the trick, and helped to form the heal-a-heart-with-music trend that I still maintain today.

...Sneaking a peek at the “Black or White” video when my parents weren’t home. (Again with the no MTV thing.) It was such a wild, creative sight - animals, explosions, and the funny Macaulay Culkin rap, too. Even though MJ had transformed considerably at this point, this time period was when I first found him to be attractive. With the long, curly black hair and tight white v-neck, yes, he was sexy in an inexplicable way.

...Finding new meaning in “Man in the Mirror” as an adult and learning to appreciate MJ on a whole different level. I listened to the Thriller album just yesterday and realized what I couldn’t have known as a child: the immense level of his talent. Each song on that album was fresh, funky, irresistible. It’s still all of those things and more 25+ years later.

Michael’s last 15 years or so were really weird, and I think we all just chalked it up to fame and went along with our MJ-dangling-baby and MJ-freaky-face jokes. Now that he’s dead, I feel this strange pang of pity/sadness for the guy. He must have been so lonely. His entire life had been played out in public...he was famous at 5! No wonder he never knew how to be an adult; he’d been a child without a childhood. I really hope he’s in a better place now.

The Jacksons: An American Dream was on just the other day, and like always, I watched some of it even though I know nearly every line. Kept waiting for my favorite: “They’re gonna break up the band!” - a panicked squeal from a young Michael. My sister and I toss that line back and forth at random times just to get a laugh out of each other. Ah, Michael - thanks for memories tied to your great music, and for being the one freaky Jackson that we could still find endearing. Rest well, dude - miss ya already.

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