Any mention of Michael Jackson always takes me back to the first time I noticed him. I was just a kid, about ten or eleven years old, watching a little 80s TV with my parents. It was the Motown 25th Anniversary Special.
I didn’t know who the guy was, but when he suddenly glided backward across the stage, appearing to defy the laws of physics, I sat up and my eyes went wide. I remember that my parents, too, were astonished.
“Did he just do that?”
“What was that?”
“It had to be special effects!”
Michael Jackson had just debuted the moonwalk.
A Star Rises
The next thing we knew, Michael Jackson had taken over anything and everything that had to do with 80s music. He was everywhere – on MTV, on the radio, on tour, on a poster taped to the back of my bedroom door, and blaring on my boom box.
Every single song on that Thriller cassette was a hit. I watched Michael at the Grammys, his arms overflowing with awards. After the Pepsi commercial debacle, in which Michael’s hair caught on fire, I was concerned for his well being. I even remember his duet with Paul McCartney – “Say, Say, Say” – an 80s music video that I adored.
I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t get that moonwalk down.
80s Music Memories of Michael
The “Thriller” music video was, in my memory, Michael Jackson’s greatest achievement in the 80s. Everybody was talking about it and that was before it aired. The buzz got even louder once the video went into MTV’s rotation. It was unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. The theme (zombies) was wild, the choreography was incredible, and the song was packed with energy. The dancing was phenomenal.
Whenever “We Are the World” played, I remember feeling like someone had roped my heart and was tugging on it. My eyes would tear up and I’d sing along. I loved that video too – all those awesome 80s music stars in one video!
And “Billie Jean” was an 80s music staple. The song, the video, they were the thread with which the 80s were woven. Hearing that song today is like flying through time, back to the days of lunchboxes and leg warmers. Times were simpler then. It was the 80s. And it was my childhood.
I adored Michael Jackson. Everything from his smile to that sparkly glove enchanted me, and I especially admired his dancing. After all, my dream back then was to grow up and become a dancer myself. Michael Jackson was the best dancer I had ever seen.
As much as I adored Michael, I wasn’t a rabid fan. I had Thriller and a poster, and I always watched his videos when they came on MTV or listened to his songs when they played on the radio. I followed the stories about him, too, but I don’t think I realized back then, while it was happening, just how monumental this artist was.
Last week, I first heard about Michael Jackson’s death on Facebook. It’s gotta be a joke, I thought. It was just one comment somewhere on my news feed. I hit refresh and couldn’t believe what I saw. Post after post from my Facebook friends were talking about how Michael had died from cardiac arrest but it was not confirmed and he had been taken to a Los Angeles hospital.
I stared at the computer, my jaw hanging open. I was dumbfounded.
80s Music Legend
Since that day, I’ve followed much of the news about Michael’s life and his death. I’ve listened to his music, watched his videos. I’ve sang along and I’ve cried, mourned. Here was a man-child who never had a childhood and never grew up. Has there ever been a human being more fascinating or enchanting than this modern day Peter Pan?
Michael Jackson wasn’t just a star. He was a supernova. His life and his career were riddled with soaring highs and devastating lows. He was unusual and eccentric. Scandals haunted him. And he was clearly troubled.
But one thing is undeniable. When Michael took the stage, everything changed. His shyness faded and a magical confidence took its place. It’s like when the music started and the lights went on, Michael went into metamorphosis. He changed and changed us.
We will always be able to dance and sing along with the musical legacy that Michael left us. His performances changed people’s lives and through music and through love, he will live on forever.