Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day the Music Died

It was November 2003 and, thanks to the generosity of a good friend, I had blown off my college classes to attend the Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas. I was 21 and had my priorities, after all. Never being one to let my college student induced poverty stop me, I was shopping my way through the Aladdin Hotel’s shops (now Planet Hollywood) when I came upon a huge mob surrounding a guitar shop.

There were plenty of celebrities in town for the RMAs, and judging by the crowd, this was a big one. Curious, I attempted to get closer to at least catch a glimpse of whatever rock star could garner such an enormous crowd. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t get any closer.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, tapping an older security guard on the shoulder. “Did Elvis come back to life?”
He laughed. “Not that I know of,” he said. “These people are trying to see Michael Jackson. He’s in the store signing a guitar.”

Michael Jackson. There was a name I hadn’t heard in awhile. Although I admit I found him a little bizarre, I was instantly impressed. Despite all the allegations, rumors, strange behavior and reclusiveness, the man still had a bigger entourage than anyone I had ever seen. Later that day I would be fortunate enough to meet several big time celebrities at a meet and greet event. None even came close to creating the hysteria Michael Jackson did.

Later that night, at the RMAs, Beyonce Knowles introduced Michael to present him with an award and allow him to introduce his newest musical collaboration. The crowd went wild. Even then I knew how lucky I was to be in the same room with a legend.

That legend unexpectedly took his last breath yesterday. Looking at all the tweets, blogs, celebrity gossip sites and online articles, it became clear to me that much of the world was in a state of denial. Many people hoped it was some kind of hoax. After it became clear it wasn’t, the shock set in. For me, sadness followed.

Yes, Michael was a little off. I’ll be the first to admit he was a little creepy and morphed into a strange-looking fellow. There were allegations made about him that may or may not have been true. I always thought he was misunderstood. I don’t have children, but if I did- and if someone had harmed them- no amount of money on Earth would keep me from seeing their tormentor brought to justice. Interestingly, both times, money made the problem go away. To me, that speaks volumes- not about Michael, but about the other parties involved. The fact is, none of us will ever know what really happened. He may have acted inappropriately and he may have just been what Paul McCartney called him- a man-child.

Michael Jackson was robbed of a proper childhood by his overbearing father. It’s sad, really, because I believe he would’ve been discovered on his own eventually. I once watched a documentary on the Jackson family and was so saddened by it; I had to stop watching halfway through. I’m sure it was exaggerated, but regardless, it didn’t seem like Michael had a lot of love growing up. In later years, with his Neverland Ranch, it seemed like he was trying to recapture what he was robbed of.
All rumors and stories aside, Michael Jackson was an incredible performer with more talent than most of today’s celebrities can ever hope for. My parents’ generation grew up listening to The Jackson 5. People just a few years older than me remember when Thriller came out. My first real memories of Michael are of dancing around with my grade school friends to Black and White, jokingly grabbing our crotches but also remembering the real message of the song. Michael sang about tolerance and acceptance and love. When it was released, the Thriller video scared the shit out of little me. These days, I can watch it and realize just how ahead of his time Michael was.

People of all ages are mourning today. Even young people who are too young to remember him as a sensation dance to Michael Jackson tunes at their high school dances and nightclubs. His music is legendary and will not ever be forgotten.
Some people are choosing to say ridiculous, awful things. Some people like to dwell on the negative. That’s a shame when there is so much good to be said about this man. Celebrities who knew and admired Michael are speaking up in his defense. Everyone who knew him personally has only good things to say. To me, that speaks volumes about the man he really was behind the scarves and big hats.

Last night, my husband and I were talking about reincarnation. Neither of us necessarily believes, but we both think that anything is possible.
“If Michael Jackson were to come back, what do you think he’d be?” I asked.
Without hesitation, my husband replied, “I hope he comes back as a little boy who is loved.”
I hope he does, too. And wherever he is, I hope he finally has what he’s always wanted- peace.

Here’s a video of the 2003 RMAs with Michael humbly accepting his award and introducing his latest song. Listen to it- he was such a generous man. And don’t worry, you can’t see me in the audience, I already totally checked.

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