Michael Jackson is dead.
The words still seem so surreal. Something you don't want to believe whether you read it, you hear it or even say it yourself. There was just no way that someone who had given us so much could be gone so soon. Yes...at 50...definitely too young for anyone to be leaving this earth. Let alone an irreplaceable icon.
This is the one "Pour Some for the Homies" obit that I never thought I would be writing. I know it's unrealistic to say "never" as if Mike was immortal, but that's almost what it seems like. That's how we think of our legends. They can accomplish the unimaginable, they can overcome the impossible, they can make mistakes and possibly even fall from grace. Still, we just never fathom the fact that one day, they will no longer be here with us.
I felt really bad about the thoughts that crossed my mind when I first heard the news that Michael Jackson had went into cardiac arrest. It wasn't that of concern, but rather that of skepticism. I was cynically thinking that it was a publicity stunt. That it was an effort to set the stage for a reason yet to come about how he couldn't perform in all those concerts he had coming up in London. But then the news started getting more morose and I knew something clearly wasn't right.
The tragic news of Mike's passing simply devastated me. It will definitely be one of those moments where I will always remember where I was when I heard it. It wasn't because it was so shocking to learn that celebrity of that stature had passed. It was because at that very moment, I felt as though a piece of my childhood had just died. An enormous chunk that left a gaping hole.
Michael may have had a decade on me, but I still feel like we grew up together. One of the earliest shows I remember watching was the variety show he had with his brothers back in the late 70s. I would have only been 7-years-old and by that time, Mike was already in his teens. But these were brothas on television singing R&B with precision dance steps at a time when there weren't a lot of people like me on the networks. It would be the start of three decades that Michael would not only have an impact on me but also on the music world.
He had so many epic moments that each one is worthy of a mention all its own. The reason being that each one managed to influence an entertainment landscape in one way or another. The first one coming to mind was his portrayal as the scarecrow in "The Wiz". The role was custom made for him as his limber dance moves coincided perfectly with his character. His song "You Can't Win" was easily the standout cut on the entire double-cd soundtrack. That one performance stole the entire movie and his participation in the film cemented a relationship with producer extraordinaire Quincy Jones that would later come to serve Michael very well.
I had previously done an entire post soley dedciated to the importance of Michael's "Thriller" album. That's really the only way to give it the full justice it deserves. To paraphrase, it was essentially the perfect album released at the perfect time. It was just what the music industry needed. It put the world on notice not that a star was being born, but that a supernova had been unleashed. I still recall listening to it thinking that there was no way music could get any better than that.
Or how about the appearance of his "Billie Jean" video? MTV was still a fledgling station at the time trying out the novel idea of 24-hour music videos. "Billie Jean" was the first video by a Black artist to be aired on the channel. Up to that point, the brilliant execs at MTV felt our music wasn't "rock" enough. Mike's video proved they could not have been more wrong. He crossed the bridge between pop & R&B while at the same time, helping bring MTV more mainstream.
That song also produced one of the most popular moments in television history. At "Motown 25" in 1983 where Mike would perform the song "Billie Jean" on stage. He broke out the moonwalk and mouths everywhere collectively dropped. That's the one thing we all remember about the performance, but think back about what else was born that night. The classic pose of him on his toes that remains an iconic silhouette. The one leg high kick that artists today still emulate. The sequined glove that rightfully has its own spot in the Smithsonian. Or how about the simple fact that a legend had emerged right before our eyes.
As the 80s came to a close, it was clear that Michael had owned the decade. He had achieved more in that last ten years than hundreds of artists could hope for during their entire career. He could have slowed down and been with satisfied with the 20+ years he had entertained us, but he wasn't about to rest on his laurels. Michael adapted with the times in the 90s by joining the New Jack Swing moment on his latest cd "Dangerous". He provided music for yet another generation as he dropped classics like "Remember the Time". He was determined to stay relevant with not only his sound, but the coinciding videos that were hotter than anything out at the time.
G and I were driving home from the movie and the radio was playing Mike's hit "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough". G knew who Michael Jackson was and even that he had died. He just wasn't a fan of that song. As he put it, it wasn't that good and songs like Kanye's "Heartless" were better. I had to break down to him the essence of why Mike was so significant...
Each generation stands on the shoulders of the one before it. Sammy Davis Jr. and James Brown were influences for Mike and made it possible for him to be who he was. Michael borrowed a bit from them and others to ultimately forge his own identity. One that the the stars of today owe their existence to. Folks like Usher, Ginuwine, Ne-Yo, Mario, Justin Timberlake and hate to say it, but even Chris Brown would not be the successes they are had Mike not blazed a trail for them to follow. Michael set a bar so high that even fellow icons envied his brilliance. His was a talent that will most likely come around again, but hard to say if it will happen in our lifetime.
He truly was the King of Pop.
Rest in peace, Mike. You will be sorely missed.