I was 14 years old the evening I waited impatiently until 10:30 p.m. for Friday Night Videos to finally come on TV. Like so many of my friends, sitting in their own homes on that Friday night, I wasn’t going to miss the World Premiere Video of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
It could be that my memories are blending together, but it seems that we had to wait through dozens of lesser songs and even more commercials before they finally aired the much-hyped video, featuring the pop icon singing in a cemetery among his entourage of dancing mummies.
It’s one of those shared experiences in life that draws us together. Even if we didn’t know each other then, those of us born within a certain span of years remember where we were, what we were doing and how we felt during that time of our lives.
We can recall those growing up years when our parents wouldn’t possibly spring for cable so we could watch videos on MTV. We can still recite every word of Thriller or Beat It. And what good child of the 80s wasn’t mesmerized by Michael’s moon walk during his performance of Billie Jean?
I’ve been thinking a lot today about Michael Jackson and why so many people from my generation are so sad that his life ended so unexpectedly and so early.
It definitely feels like a part of our childhood or teen-age years officially ended with the death of the pop superstar who provided the soundtrack for our growing-up years.
I’m also mourning the fact that such an amazingly talented person is no longer with us on the planet. I loved Michael even when it wasn’t cool to listen to his music anymore. I also loved Janet, and remember the brother and sister as the background music of my teen years dragging Main in my Camaro.
But I think I also feel some guilt about Michael’s passing. Maybe I didn’t appreciate him enough. Like so many others, I couldn’t bear to look at his ever-disappearing nose or his gloved hand or his lightening skin as he seemed to descend into a whirlpool of craziness.
I wanted to look away when he was accused of molestation and he started hanging around with a monkey. Even then, it seemed the Michael we loved had been taken from us.
Perhaps I feel a little responsible that we, the American public, seem to create such monsters from our child stars. Why do they feel we will only love them if they remain young and beautiful and produce chart-topping hits.
Why did Michael, like Farah Fawcett, feel he had to go to such extreme measure to try to maintain his physical appearance? Can’t wrinkles and grey hair be more beautiful than faces distorted by plastic surgery?
I guess I want today’s teens and young adults to appreciate “our” Michael for who he was before all of that. I’m sure the Brittney Spears-Miley Cyrus loving generation will download a record number of copies of the Thriller album and recognize his greatness, possibly giving Michael the comeback he was seeking.
If only we could give him what he never seemed to have: happiness.
From an outsider’s perspective, Michael’s life seemed so tormented. I wish we could take that sweet, cute little boy belting out ABC 123 and put him in a bottle to preserve forever. Instead, with his personal amusement park and reclusive lifestyle, he seemed to live his life trying to regain the childhood he probably never had.
Michael seemed to truly desire to dispense happiness and joy to people during his public performances. And even amid all of the negative publicity, you wanted to believe he was still that sweet little boy inside.
I guess the hardest thing about saying good-bye to Michael, as well as Farrah, is simply the realization that they were mere mortals… despite their talent, their beauty, their outward perfection. We looked to them to entertain us, to dazzle us, to make us feel good inside.
But they lived in human bodies. With hearts that fail. That can’t escape cancer. And like every other person on the planet, their human achievements couldn’t save them.
I’ll miss you, Michael. Thanks for the memories!