Last Thursday I awoke late and was trying to get my kids up out of bed for school when I heard about Michael Jackson. Although the moment was sad news for me, I guess I kind of thought, well, them's the breaks. It was only when I was about to tell hubby boo that it hit me that, for both of us, and especially for him, Michael Jackson was such a significant part of our lives.
I remember catching Billie Jean on one of those chart shows that we had showing here during the early 80s. They were like specials, they didn't seem to happen on a regular basis on Malaysian tv. Watching those lights go on in the pavement under his feet and seeing that dancing, that fantastic dancing. I dimly remember the hype surrounding the video, maybe it made the news, I don't know. I would watch it over and over again, and wonder who Bille Jean was that merited this song. Beaing barely 10 years old, it says a lot that I was curious about the story of the song. When Beat It came out, I was transfixed by the choreography. When Thriller came out, I would have learned the steps if I could keep up. The most I could do was sing along and just... try to keep up.
I was never an out and out Michael Jackson fan. I mean, I could have sung most of his songs for you and described all his music videos. As a teen I bought the Cure, Jamiroquai, The Bee Gees. I guess I got the feeling it was a little uncool to like the Michael Jackson of the early 90s, late 80s. But Thriller was the second album I bought ever, only after Olivia Newton-John. After that I got Off the Wall, and despite moving on to other music those songs stayed with me. In particular Wanna Be Starting Something and PYT off the Thriller album were non-megahits which I loved and tried to learn the lyrics to.
Hubby and I saw him perform in KL. We were both astounded at how fit he was. I always thought he was lean and slight. But in his gold suit, every time he did the robot, his thigh muscles would bulge, and I realised at the same time as boo that he was quite built, almost stocky with muscles. I felt no hysteria at the concert. We were seated halfway down the field and told to sit by the FRU as soon as we got up to dance, because we were "blocking the others", who by the way, were all standing as well. I don't think they get what the purpose of a concert is for, i.e. a safe place for people to let off steam - so they don't do it elsewhere.
And when I heard he had died, I felt sad and shocked, but went about my day as usual.
But today, the day before, and the day before that, I have been thinking so deeply about it all, reading up and watching videos from his past, and I have felt miserable about it all. I almost wish the naysayers were correct, and that maybe he faked it all to finally find some peace. Of course I don't believe that, I just wish it. Anything that might have assuaged that pain that he seems to have felt all his life, despite being a prodigy, and smart and fortunate.
I despair over the lies that cropped up immediately after his death, and even more dismayed by the hateful comments and jokes at his and his family's expense. If you have any idea at all about the psychology of a singularly talented person rising up from abuse and poverty, you can't help but find compassion for him, or at least his children. For every terrible accusation against him there has been a loving praise for him to match it.
I found a programme on youtube in which he showed his personal home videos, and I can't help feeling that he was this complex man made up of physical prowess, agility and sexuality, mental capacity for creativity and business, and this kid who never swore and hid his mouth when he laughed and got embarrassed when asked about his virginity. His changing face... that saddened me the most, because from being a cute star child, losing those cheeks, clear skin, cute little voice and turning into a skinny, ungainly teenager, and then at the sudden peak of your career losing control over your looks through the broken nose, the burnt scalp, the vitiligo. If I were him, I don't know how I could keep performing, constantly under attack about the one thing that physically matters in the industry besides the voice an the dancing, and that you have no control over.
The frenzy and the lack of control over whether the news really does carry truth or pure scandal, or even speculation which so easily gives rise to lies which becomes truth bothered me a lot. And yet as a fan, I really want to know more and to make sure that I know all there is to know. I suppose it's closure.
My hope is that the children are safely taken care of and are not dumped into the wrong hands who might take advantage of their sudden wealth (MJ's estate value soared since his death). I also hope they don't have to face too much of the scandals their father did before they are able to handle it as adults. I hope they are left alone to grow up with as much of a childhood as possible.
people always told me be careful what you do
don't go around breaking young girls' hearts
and mother always told me be careful who you love
be careful what you do because the lie becomes the truth
The lyrics seem portentious, hearkening to a future trouble he would not know of in 1983, but I think after more than ten years in the business, this was probably already a home truth to Michael and his family.
From all the 70s and 80s babies who remember what they were doing when Billie Jean hit the airwaves, and from all the 90s and Noughties babies who met him at Dangerous, rest in peace, Michael Jackson.