Why is it that only upon death do we realize how special someone is?
Unless you live in a cave without any form of communication with the outside world, you know that the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, passed away yesterday. Suddenly, it's cool to like Michael Jackson again. For years, he has been at the center of pop culture controversy (child molestation charges, his ever-changing appearance and disappearing nose, Neverland Ranch, dangling his infant off a balcony, and so much more), the punchline of many jokes, and in most circles, the epitome of lame. But there was a time when he was not just the King of Pop; he was the King of Cool.
My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was the Thriller album, which my big sister owned. The video to "Thriller" scared the bejesus out of me for years. I remember visiting family friends in Virgina the summer that Thriller was huge. Walking around their complex, I could hear songs from the album drifting from open windows and cars. I don't know why I remember that; I guess it was that big of a deal then.
Years later, Michael Jackson still managed to creep into my life, even when I decided that alternative music was way cooler. In 1995, when MJ released HIStory, he had giant statues of himself all over the world. That summer, I was in Berlin, and there was his statue, perched high atop some building. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but a secret part of me thought it was a little cool. In college, a friend loved to sing Michael Jackson songs at karaoke; he did the King of Pop proud. Just last spring, another friend busted out dancing to "Thriller" at a bar in Boston - and that was before we started drinking. These are just some of my favorite MJ memories.
He's gone now, but his music will live on. So, he was weird. Really, really, weird. But it's not like that weirdness came from thin air. He was a troubled soul, trying to find his place in the world and a little love. He gave everything he had to his fans and those in his life. Today, let's remember what he gave us. Won't you share a memory or two?
In the meantime, here are two of my favorites from MJ: