This is dedicated to the little boy from Gary, Indiana, who never stopped til he got enough… and even then, he kept on, ’til his [life] force stopped.
I’ll be the first to admit it – I laughed when Katt Williams made his “Michael [Jackson] forgot he was a nigga” jokes. Probably because, like most people in America at the time, I appreciated who Michael WAS… not who he had become.
Then, in 2009, the announcement came: after years of being embroiled in scandal, avoiding the relentless scrutiny of the media (who still hadn’t gotten the message he’d issued out to them years ago via one of the most clever music videos ever), and a six-year hiatus since the release of his last album… Michael Joseph Jackson was going on tour one more time. The This Is It tour would finally give those of us who’d never yet had the chance to see the man in person – and you lucky bastards who actually had attended a Michael Jackson concert previously – one final opportunity to see a live Moonwalk.
On June 25, 2009, the unthinkable happened. Literally, Michael was there one minute… and gone the next.
No one man changed the face of music quite like Michael Jackson did. Actually, scratch that – no one man changed pop culture quite like Michael Jackson did. Who DIDN’T spend at least three moments of their childhood trying to perfect their Moonwalk? Who DIDN’T get struck by the absolute badass moment in Club 30 in the “Smooth Criminal” music video when Michael literally leaned on the air… and who DIDN’T try and fail to recreate that in real life? (I fell on my face with pride many a time) Who DIDN’T practice the Thriller Zombie Shoulder Shuffle-into-the-Clap? Who in Austin DIDN’T make a concerted effort to get out to a Michael Jackson Sing-A-Long at the Alamo Drafthouse?
“Michael not only was the greatest at his craft, he was a troubled individual.” – The King’s Law
Michael’s songs were timeless. But his eccentricities made him the butt of jokes. Getting accused of molesting children didn’t help. Having your own personal theme park, itself named after a land associated with a character known in pop culture for “never wanting to grow up,” didn’t help. And perhaps naming your child “Blanket” wasn’t the best move. I won’t even bring up the “when Michael was still Black” jokes.
But when Michael passed, sentiments changed. The Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Michael’s memorial funeral was held, was PACKED TO THE BRIM. It got real when Stevie belted out “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.” It got realest when Michael’s daughter Paris burst out in tears on stage.
It’s haunting that “Gone Too Soon” – has the same effect that Aaliyah’s “I Miss You” had: a song made for someone else… that ends up being so fitting for an artist’s own death. He dedicated his life to entertaining others and to being the very best performer possible. It is discouraging that it often takes a tragedy or a loss, or an absence, for us to realize the present that is someone’s presence. Because make no mistake about it – Michael was a gift. It sucks we had to lose him to realize how special he was.
“Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him…”
I cringe these days when I watch that part of The Pimp Chronicles. I smile when I look at the Sega Genesis cartridge I have for Moonwalker. I can’t afford to let the only thing my kids have to remember of Michael be Michael Jackson: The Experience. So I WILL educate them on everything from “The Girl is Mine” to “Butterflies”… from “ABC (1-2-3)” to “Speed Demon.” And I will always remember him as the “Baddest,” most unselfish man in show business.
I leave y’all with this. Maya Angelou definitely said it better than I ever could. We miss you, MJ.