So today I did my 10 miles and certainly feel good. As I was cycling and monitoring my heart rate, it was hard not to think of Michael. Growing up in the 80s, Off the Wall and Thriller were both hits. So many of the few memories I have were tied to his music and I think it was because I would listen to it over and over and over again (this was pre-Walkman era) while on the top bunk of the bunk beds in my grandparents’ cottage on the St. Lawrence. It was my escape from the things that hurt, whether I understood why they hurt or not. Like any kid I wanted the latest news. Being in Canada, we didn’t have much options other than the teen magazines and Entertainment Tonight. It’s not like today where news is instant thanks to the internet. It often took a few hours before it became clear as to what happened.
The Pepsi Commercial fire is a prime example of that. I remember running down the stairs and being glued to the TV as Entertainment Tonight showed the clips of what had happened, what his condition was, etc. Growing up I was mocked by some for my “fan” status of Michael but I have to say that from him I learned that it was ok to be sensitive, that we need to be concerned about others (human or otherwise), that we should strive to be our best and put our whole heart into what we do, and so much more. I could never sing nor dance but he made me smile and cry. Songs like “She’s Out of My Life”, “Pretty Young Thing”, “Say, Say, Say” (with Paul and Linda McCartney), “Ben”, “ABC” (with Jackson 5) were all songs that hit one emotion or another. To this day, I cannot listen to “She’s Out of My Life” without shedding a few tears (I do find that since I’ve been on T I don’t cry nearly a tenth of what I used to — odd side-effect).
When I discovered the Internet, I found other like-minded fans and even got a chance in 1995 to go to NYC to see him do the HBO show. Illness, however, resulted in the show being canceled. I remember hanging around outside Mt. Sinai with other fans, talking, singing and cheering. It was a haven. I was so embroiled that I actually tried to state the “Official” Canadian Michael Jackson Fanclub. For a while I got flooded with letters for Michael and I’d shipped them off to his main fan club address. I wasn’t the direct connect but was hoping that it might mean more tours in the Land to the North. I saw him once in concert in Toronto (I had won tickets thanks to a Pepsi promo and got to take a train down from Ottawa to Toronto — It was fun but in the nose bleed and we had to leave before the show was over) as part of the Victory Tour in 1984. I loved it.
As I got older, my fandom matured from that of awe-struck teenager to appreciative of his music, creativity and plain talent. It’s nice to see that people are remembering him for his talent and abilities first and foremost. His past certainly wasn’t clean but many of us do mistakes and dumb, naive moves at times. We learn and go on. It will be weird to not hear new music from such a great talent.
R.I.P. Michael Jackson. Forever I will remember you as an example of a kind, caring, sensitive man.