"MJ-As a Fan"
I distinctly remember looking at the Thriller album cover and wishing we could freeze time right there. It was 1983 and it must have been some kind of prophetic moment. Within the next five years I would see my hometown passed up by the Jacksons’ tour schedule, an ever lightening skin-tone a cleft appear in his chin and many instances and allegations that alienated me to a certain degree. But in 1983…
Michael Jackson was a hero to us, his fans. This note is written from the perspective of someone who has been an appreciator and an admirer of his for as long as I can remember. It is the perspective of someone who heard Jackson music since the crib. If you are religiously offended by MJ fans you should probably stop reading here…
Michael Jackson taught me to love music. I learned from him the value of working with others who are brilliantly creative. If someone like MJ who was brilliantly creative valued working with other people who were brilliant, than that must be the way to do it. He also taught me to appreciate artistry and creativity in multiple forms and across multiple genres. He was a fan of great actors and actresses, a fan of great written works and theater pieces; of course he was a fan of great dancers, singers and stage performers.
I learned about production credits as I poured over the liner notes on his album jackets. I used to love the smell of albums, the vinyl and the album covers… When we heard that the Victory tour wouldn’t be coming to the Bay Area, one of my cousins cried, my uncles started ranting. I pulled out my MJ and Jacksons albums and made my own concert. I had the Jacksons Live album from the Triumph tour (Heartbreak Hotel, Can You Feel It) and a number of other albums that I played in a certain order.
My household was filled with music from many different artists including, Frankie Beverly and Maze, The Commodores and Lionel Richie, Prince, The Time, Earth Wind and Fire, The Temptations, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Smokie Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Parliament and Funkadelic, Rufus and Chaka, Gladys Knight, etc. I watched Diana Ross’ Central Park concert on Showtime as well as all of her movies…
But MJ was special. He was the best of us. It was like he was a cousin. For the adults it was like he was their own child. Seemingly all African American families had these get-togethers where the adults would play dominoes (bones) or cards, there would be phenomenal food, and the kids would put on talent shows. There would be dance routines, singing and impersonations of celebrities.
I did Michael Jackson.
I used to hear entertainment correspondents say that nobody could move like Michael Jackson. I REALLY believed that I could. Whether or not that is true is not for me to say…but I believed it at the time…My mother had a burgundy fedora that was similar to the black one that MJ wore. I used to use that. And my uncle Tommy had some hats that were similar as well and I used to use those when we were at his place.
I used to read everything I could find about him. One of my cousins used to call me up to verify any rumors that he had heard about MJ like I was his publicist…
I learned from MJ the value of working on your craft and mining the talent out from within you. I learned that it was okay to care about others and that it was okay to wait to be intimate.
I even heard about the importance of believing in God and about personal responsibility to Him. I learned that MJ read the Bible and that this book had teachings that were relevant for today. You have to understand that in my mind all religious people were in the same category, especially all of those who claimed the Bible and Jesus. I didn’t know about any differences, so it was a seed that was planted.
When I think of MJ, I think of someone who mastered his art and his craft.
I heard someone say that MJ really wasn’t a good singer. He said that he never became the singer he appeared to be at 10 or 11 years old. Instead, years of trying to maintain an adolescent sound ruined his voice.
I disagree. I thought that it was an interesting point though. I remember as a kid listening to his adult recordings and comparing them to his childhood ones and being struck by the difference in style and delivery. But the truth of the matter is this was an artist that developed a very stylized delivery to be sure, but a masterful one nonetheless. He rendered a style that crossed even transcended genres in such a manner that his songs and albums sold at a worldwide level and at a rate that will never be approached again.
How many times have we looked at a gifted child or prodigious talent and thought, “Wow, what will he/she be like when that talent reaches maturity?” How many times do those individuals actually reach that envisioned potential? Here is an artist who actually accomplished that and it was far beyond what any of us could have anticipated.
My favorite MJ memories include, watching Motown 25 for the first time and all the times after, listening to his albums for the first time with family members, and seeing his videos on MTV, as well as when he won ten AMAs and 8 Grammys…
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