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this is not a post about michael jackson

June 26, 2009

OK. It is. I was trying so hard not to. Damn it!

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I used to have a record player that looked like a gray suitcase. It had a hinged handle, and the speakers clicked together to cover the turn table and needle. The cord wound up inside somehow. My neighbor was an older girl, and I felt like a million bucks whenever she bothered spending time with me. When she lent me her “Thriller” album, I thought I’d really made it. I played it over and over again. Sitting Indian-style (which is what we called it then; the kids now have to say, “criss-cross applesauce”) in front of it, I repeated each song until I’d memorized the lyrics. I was 10 when the album was released. Of course, I remember feeling so much older, 12, maybe 13.

We didn’t have cable TV. If I wanted to watch MTV, I had to go to a friend’s house. But one of our channels (I think we had five: NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS … one more?) broadcast “Friday Night Videos,” a top-ten videos of the week kind of thing. It was one of my earliest experiences staying up ’til the middle of the night alone to enjoy those magical hours. When I couldn’t watch the show “live,” I’d record it on our new VCR, which had a remote control connected to it by a 15-foot wire. I coveted the “Thriller” video during its run on “Friday Night Videos.” It wasn’t just images set to the music — it was an experience all its own.

That’s what I’ve always associated with Michael Jackson — vision and intense creativity. It’s not stretching it to say that he is a brilliant storyteller. That’s what I most identified with, even as an adolescent, the stories and the emotion, the connection of the words with the visual. It is a complete coincidence that I owned one sparkling glove. It is a complete coincidence that I owned a pair of tight (vinyl?) zippered pants.

I appreciated that he was odd. It inspired me back then. Of course, in more recent years it raised serious questions, and I wouldn’t have called myself a fan over the last 10 or 15 years. But the music that gets into us when we’re young always has incredible power over us. For better or worse (mostly worse), 80’s music got into me. Michael Jackson is the least of my embarrassing claims.

  1. June 27, 2009 12:14 am

    I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by their love of Michael Jackson and his music. I’m not. He was a sick soul, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the art that he made.

  2. June 27, 2009 7:31 am

    Michael was so a part of my childhood. I remember the Jackson 5/Off the Wall/Thriller days. I’ll miss him.

  3. June 27, 2009 9:59 am

    You are so right. Our early music is important, and he was an incredibly talented artist. Since I’m (only a wee bit, ha!) older than you, I remember the child sensation of the Jackson Five, showcasing his musicality, as well as his solo career with his singular creativity.

    Yeah. I made fun of him, too, and wondered at his strangeness, and felt sorry for him, too. But his music is a part of who I am.


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