While the news of Michael Jackson’s death was certainly surprising, it didn’t have a very strong emotional impact on me. That’s not to diminish his contribution to both music and pop culture (or his equally significant bridging of the racial divide in both). On the contrary, I hold his talent in the highest regard and my childhood is wrapped up in memories of ‘Thriller,’ ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billy Jean.’
I even saw him in concert on the Victory tour in 1984, sitting in the nosebleed seats at the Orange Bowl, my view obstructed by a metal pole. I don’t remember the show but I remember the experience.
But the reason his death didn’t affect me, I realize, is that the Michael I knew and loved (along with the rest of the world) has been dead for a long time. When CNN shows old clips, like the one I’m highlighting today, of a young Michael strutting his stuff you’re supposed to get a lump in your throat while you reflect on an amazing talent who is no longer with us.
But I’ve been getting that lump in my throat watching these clips for more than a decade now, bemoaning not the loss of a life but the loss of an identity. The masked freak who distorted his face and paid off kids who accused him of molestation bore no resemblance to the gloved wonder who moonwalked across the stage at the Motown 25th Anniversary special.
It feels like Thursday just made official something that happened a long time ago.