I used to slide back and forth on the carpet-free floors at home, moon-walking in my socks. When I learned how to do it in a circle, you couldn’t tell me nothin’! I used to open up my high school locker to a collage of him made from fanzine posters. I wore my button of him wearing his yellow vest with the pride of an innocent crush.
My aunt Lainie and I partied to the 45 of ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ from the Off The Wall album; it usually fell into rotation somewhere between ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang and ‘Shake Your Pants’ by Cameo.
My best friend Maliika Chambers (now a college professor) and I stared for hours at the Jacksons Victory poster in the closet of my room. As a young Muslim girl, I wasn’t allowed to put images up on my wall in the house. But on the walls of my walk-in closet, the Jacksons were the paint. The Victory Tour was my first concert, thanks to my grandfather, whose escort was the only way I was allowed to attend. I screamed until I lost my voice. I still remember my Victory Tour tee shirt: black, baseball-style with purple sleeves.
I wore it under my school uniform. Anything to be closer to Michael.
And then, there was Thriller.
I actually met one of my dearest friends, and amazing fine artist, Alex Asher Daniel, at our neighborhood ‘premiere’ of the Thriller video. It happened at my neighbor Jennifer’s house; she had MTV. She lived across the street from me in Altadena, CA. She also happened to be his girlfriend at the time.
We were all so mesmerized, that only while recounting our ‘the first time I saw ‘Thriller’ stories did it occur to Alex and I that we’d met over a decade earlier at Jennifer’s ‘premiere’! Ten years later I could still feel the sheer awe we collectively experienced as we watched this movie of a music video, complete with storyline, suspense, special effects, score and a one-song soundtrack. Over the span of 14 minutes, he went from adorable and sweet to terrifying, but there was no looking away as he moved.
He was a dancer like no other, part warrior boot dancer, part b-boy, part Bob Fosse.
I terrorized my younger brother and sister with ‘Thriller’, playing the Vincent Price part of the song extra loud to scare them, lights out, windows open, curtains blowing. Heartbreak Hotel was pretty eerie too, I must admit. I wondered, the nerve of Sefra and Sue! I could never imagine breaking Michael’s heart.
Then, on June 25, 2009 it stopped. First his heart. Then the world.
I swear I could feel a hole tear through the Universe as the Creator called Michael Jackson home.
And then, his music got the world turning again. Like a healing touch or a cleansing rain, it was everywhere, filling the air, all over the web, pouring out of cars and shops and blaring through ear buds. The writer Harry Allen had a brilliant idea, tweeting: “When we theatrically screen Jackson’s music videos, this must be there: “Can You Feel It?” I’m with Harry. Sony should play all of Michael’s videos and screen Moonwalker in theaters. If Thriller knocked our socks off in a living room, imagine what it would do for this generation of young people on a movie screen.
This is my request to Rolf and Barry over at Sony BMG: can you hook it up by August 29 for his birthday? Re-master the videos and show them with a theater partner, with proceeds going to a cause that mattered to Michael.
I’m blessed to have known a world with Michael Jackson in it.
Can you imagine a world without Michael?
There would be:
No Jackson 5.
No Jackson 5 cartoon.
Motown would definitely have been a different label. No ‘The Wiz’ as we know it. Quincy Jones would have been without his muse. No easing on down the road. Who else could have done a better scarecrow with the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper on his nose?
No mini-movie music videos.
No Alphonso Ribeiro being discovered for a Pepsi ad. Without Michael, multitudes of Black people would be drinking a lot more Coca-Cola.
No iconic performance of Billie Jean at the Motown 25 special. Unthinkable. Motown is 50 now; and 25 years after Motown 25, that’s the only moment of the entire show that was seared into my consciousness.
No USA for Africa.
No ‘We Are The World.’
Michael Jackson is the Guinness Book of World Records holder for most charitable pop star. Without Michael, countless human beings would have gone hungry, remained sick, or perished. Michael Jackson even raised the profile of the animal kingdom. It started with that adorable tiger cub inside the Thriller LP. From there, it was Bubbles the chimp. Without Michael, I bet we wouldn’t like llamas as much.
Hip-hop would certainly be less radio-friendly, less fun, and much less interesting without Michael. Michael had hip-hop caught up in his rapture, from the hardest emcees to the shiny crossover acts.
Without Michael, no ‘O.P.P.’ with Naughty By Nature.
No ‘It’s All About The Benjamins’ for Puff Daddy and the Family.
No ‘Hey Lover’ from LL and Boyz II Men.
No ‘911 Is A Joke’ from Public Enemy.
No ‘She Said’ from Pharcyde, my personal favorite use of Michael’s work in rap music.
No ‘Breakadawn’ from De La Soul.
And hip-hop soul would be missing some bangers, too.
Check out the Michael Jackson Sample Map:
Put simply, a world without Michael, a world without his melody, would be a world less beautiful. While I must accept that he has become an ancestor, I refuse to live in a world without Michael. His songs and performances will play on forever more. What else would we be missing in a world without Michael?
Share your memories and comments here.