It is hard to put into words feelings about someone who has had such a profound, yet subtle, influence on your life. Someone who reminds you both of your youth and your mortality. But I will do my humble best.
When I found out that Michael Jackson had died on June, 25, 2009, of what appears, at this time, to be cardiac arrest, I was in shock as were the so many others that I communicated with via Twitter. Many recalled a favorite song or songs and/or lauded his many talents and impact on performers past and present.
I don’t have a specific memory of Michael Jackson; it’s more like a series of fragmented memories which include snippets of performances as a member of the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist as well his legal trials and exhibition of inexplicable behavior. The closest personal connection I have to the artist known as Michael Jackson was my work as a receptionist at the post production house that finished the Scream video, his duet with sister Janet and notably, the most expensive music video to date.
Unlike many others out there, more fragile sorts I suppose, I want to remember it all — the good and the not-so-good, the normal as well as the bizarre. I want to remember the iconic performer as well as the tormented soul. I want to remember both the youthful innocence and the adult manipulation. I want to remember it all because all of it is Michael Joseph Jackson. All of it informed his work as an artist, as in icon, as a symbol of our youth, as a sad representation of our present, and as a bellwether of our future.
Despite efforts to be transcendent — of race, culture, class — through his music and not-so-artful manipulation of his physical appearance, he could transcend the psychic pain of an unrealized childhood.
So what are we left with? Memories. I cherish all of them for their joy and their instruction.