Friday, June 26, 2009

Long live the King

On our third date, Paul and I were having beers at a bar and Human Nature came on the radio. We started talking about Thriller, its enormity and how old we were when we first heard the music and saw the video. Paul told me the little neighbor girl he was friends with would come over and they would sit together in an easy chair, their little five year old butts so tiny they both fit comfortably, listening to Thriller on repeat. For me it was the video first. I was four, my parents' friends' kids had a VHS tape of Thriller, with the behind the scenes makeup and choreography sessions. I can still smell their house and I can picture their dim living room and being alternately thrilled and terrified at the images of Thriller. Our conversation that night at the bar was the kind of mainstay of the early dating stage. Where we didn't know each other all that well, and it just felt like the MOST exciting thing in the whole that we both felt the same way about the music. With the shared experience of Michael, THE Michael, 1980s Michael, Thriller Michael, we were able to connect together the parts of our lives that would never meet, because they had already happened. That kind of shared experience is what the very best of pop culture is all about. Michael Jackson was the ultimate expression of pop culture at its very best. Michael Jackson's music made not just us two suburban Massachusetts kids feel that way, just electrified about his music, he made the whole entire world feel that way. And he did it, I dunno, about a million times. When I listen to the Jackson Five (something I used to do on heavy, heavy rotation when I was 13) young Michael's voice literally makes me weep. I can not for the life of me get through I'll Be There without choking up. For pretty much my whole life, as long as I have been aware enough to pay attention to music that is, I have loved and consistently listened to Michael Jackson. I can't much say that for many other artists. Personal scandals and weirdness aside, Michael's celebrity for me, as a kid born in 1980 is absolutely untouched by anyone else. No disrespect to older generations, but for mine, there is only and will only be one King. No other artist meets those legendary proportions quite like Mike.

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