Lex on Michael Jackson

Had to cry today.

During the special services celebrating Michael’s life, there was a small clip shown of the Jackson Five on the Ed Sullivan show.  At only ten years old, Michael is belting out a Smokey Robinson tune called “Who’s Loving You.”  I remember that clip being the very first time I remember Michael in my consciousness.

He was a young black kid, in a purple felt hat and matching fringed vest.  His voice was high pitched and squeaky, like a cartoon character.  He was the first young black singer that I ever saw on television , and the best indication of what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I saw him on American Bandstand singing “ABC,” and on Soul Train when he introduced “The Robot” while he and his brothers sang “Dancing Machine.”

I remember being a small child when my mom dragged me, repeatedly, to our local record shop to buy the latest Jackson Five records.  He was the first positive role model for kids and aspiring entertainers of my generation, and those records were a part of my everyday early formative years.  I cannot tell you how many copies of “Mama’s Pearl” I wore out.  That was MY song.

Another song that was mine came as the B-side of “Blame It On The Boogie.”  “That’s What You Get (For Being Polite)” was an album cut that didn’t get much airtime back in the day.  I remember playing that song more than the popular A-side, and being moved by the vocal that delivered the message of the song.  One night, I played it for almost 3 hours in a row, writing out the lyrics, learning the melody for piano, and wanting so very bad to be able to “do that thing” that Michael did so well.  The song still brings me to tears when I hear it.

I was in the fifth grade when Off The Wall was being played on the black stations across town.  I’m reminded of my friend Terrell’s impression of Michael Jackson at the age of 80, an old man trying to wheeze his way through “Don’t Stop (Til You Get Enough).”  In the impression, Michael had to stop quite a few times to take his medicine to get through the song.  I had to laugh.

By the time Thriller became the phenomenon that it is today, I was in STRICTLY rock territory, and thought that the album wasn’t as good as Off The Wall was.  Whatever.  Didn’t matter.  When my mom and I saw him Moonwalk for the first time on a tv special commemorating Motown, she said “What in the world was THAT?”  I couldn’t take my eyes off the television screen.

It’s my day off, and like millions of people around this crazy world I am at home watching the special services taking place in Los Angeles (my hometown).  The sound of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five filled my house as a child.  Listening to the music he and his brothers created in those early years touched me then, and almost 40 years later, it still strikes a big chord in my musical heart.

So, tomorrow I go back to work and deal with all of the stupid, inane jokes made about Michael’s behavior during the last years of his life.  I don’t give a damn about all of the things that made him “Wacko Jacko.”  I don’t care about the controversy that surrounded him and his Neverland Ranch.  There is a generation out there who remember how much his music touched their lives.

I am one of them.  Although I still claim The Beatles as my inspiration for being a musician and songwriter, Michael Jackson was the one who reflected that young black people could shoot for the stars and walk on the moon.  1970 seems like a million years ago, but it was just the beginning for my generation.  Michael’s music said that.

Thanks, Michael.

Currently listening:
ABC
By Jackson 5
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~ by Poppermost on July 13, 2009.

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