Song of the Day #338: ‘ABC’ – The Jackson 5

michaelWhile 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.


6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #338: ‘ABC’ – The Jackson 5

  1. Amy says:

    I think that’s exactly why so many of us are giving in to the lumps in our throats and crying. When was the last time we had so many reminders of the wonderful artist Michael was, of his enormous talent. Whatever ultimately killed him, whether it was an overdoes of prescription drugs or some build-up of trauma on his body and heart from all those surgeries and who knows what else he has been doing to himself over the years, his literal, physical death is, as you say, simply a formality. And how sad that is.

    I watched a bit of the coverage the other night. I didn’t immerse myself in it, as some did. I cried twice. Both times CNN had turned its cameras on the Apollo theater, where people had gathered from all over the city to celebrate Michael Jackson’s life and his music. Listening to this ragtag group of “fans” singing acapella to PYT and Jackson classics just broke my heart. I felt similar to what Leonard Pitts conveyed in his most recent column – a strong desire that MJ would have come back to us before he left us. That he had that “comeback” in him, that he would have reminded the world – while still alive – of what a superstar he was. That we had to be reminded upon news of his premature death is just so sad.

  2. Dana says:

    I share in the sentiment that both of you have expressed. It is particularly sad to me that Maddie, at 13, identifies Jackson as a child molestor and Daniel, at 8, identifies him as a scary looking freaky guy rather than knowing, living through and experiencing Jackson in his prime.

    Their perspective reminds me of my feelings upon learning of Elvis’ death when I was 10. My perception of Elvis at that time was of an overweight white-suited bejeweled sweaty Vegas performer who mostly sang gospel type songs and barely moved onstage. I had never experienced the younger dynamic Elvis and I (along with the world) was robbed of any real comeback where Elvis slimmed down and returned to some semblance of his former greatness.

    I’m not sure Jackson really could have made a comeback–not unless he could have somehow reversed some of the effects of those god awful surgeries so that he could look more human on stage. Still, I’m sure he would have been capable of putting out a great new record as his singing and songwriting talent could have been revived. But now, unfortunately, we will never know, and that is truly sad.

  3. Clay says:

    I didn’t expect a Jackson comeback was possible — Dana’s right, he was way too far gone. I suppose this upcoming tour might have proved us wrong, but I expect even that would have been more of a novelty act.

  4. Clay says:

    I have been surprised at the awareness of Michael Jackson’s music displayed by Alex’s high school students, even though his last album came out before they were born. I don’t know if it’s because his music is a staple in their households or maybe because contemporary artists such as Usher and Justin Timberlake consider him such an influence (and probably sample his songs, too).

  5. Amy says:

    I know what you mean. One of my former students, who is now a college graduate in his early 20’s, wrote on his FB page that if MJ had truly died (when there was some question as to what was rumor and what was fact) that “this would be the day the music died.” I thought it was odd that MJ’s music would have meant so much to this young man.

  6. pegclifton says:

    I loved Michael Jackson from the Thriller and Billy Jean days; I never tired of watching him perform. I remember the late great Fred Astaire giving him a wonderful compliment after his Billy Jean performance specifically related to his moves and dancing. I too remember seeing him with Amy and Clay in Miami, and even though we were in the nosebleed section, it was a memorable evening.

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