A year ago today, the world was in total shock and disbelief of the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. The King of Pop had become a household name, being in the limelight for 43 years — not many could fathom his nonexistence. As people’s jaws dropped in the beaming hot streets of New York that summer, all I could do was observe. Like a proverbial anthropologist watching how a foreign society works, I felt absolutely no connection to the sadness people felt.
It was actually very odd, to say the least. For a minute I questioned my compassion. How could I not miss a man whom I had grown up listening to? My parents, sisters and I would gather around to watch his televised concerts when I was a toddler. My older sister recalled buying a studded glove and leather jacket to fit in with the other kids at her high school, circa 1984. I remember still being frightened of his “Thriller” video ten years after it was released.
So why did I not feel a bit of angst, never mind shed a tear?
When I searched back into the compartments of my mind I realized it wasn’t that I lacked compassion, but that I grew up with a different Michael than the one fans have come to immortalize. From my birth in 1987 to his death in 2009, Michael Jackson was a pigment short of stark white. I never grew up with the brown-skinned, Afro-picking, happy-go-lucky Michael people recount.
I grew up in the “reality” generation where the public knew and judged all celebrities. Every depth and detail of his life was revealed to me through court cases and investigative journalism. The more I knew about him, the less mystique he possessed demystifying the pop-god some saw him as. So June 25, 2009 for me was nothing more than another summer day.
Funny enough, it took a road trip a few months later with only one CD of Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits for me to realize. What the man made on wax was musical genius. I never took the time to really listen, to really hear all the instruments and vocals flow into perfect harmony leading to a climax of one note and dropping down into a calm of percussion. It was an experience.
With an overwhelming amount of help from Quincy Jones, Jackson moved to heights in his career that no one ever hit before and may never again. Despite all his issues and ailments, if you just look at the music–just let it stand by itself–losing him was a great loss to the music world.
So this year, I get it and hope that others do as well.