Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some first final words on Michael Jackson...

"Unquestionably, his music was legendary. That's what will last." Aretha Franklin

I was not a late adopter to Elvis Presley. I was just 6 years old when I first heard his music and I knew on instinct - in the words of Bob Dylan - that I'd heard the sounds of a jail break "and I didn't even know that I had been locked up." When my father, in December of 1956, wanted to take me to see a Disney film, I agreed on one condition: that we would first stop at the record store around the corner from the movie theater. That's how I acquired my first 4-song Elvis Extended-Play 45.

The next September I was asked by relatives what I wanted for my birthday, and my answer to all was the same: "I only want Elvis records."

I was not a late adopter to The Beatles. I spent so much time at the three record outlets downtown that I was given hundreds of the "The Beatles are coming!" orange and white Capitol records sponsored stickers to hand out at my junior high school. Mission accomplished.

I will admit to being a late adopter to Michael Jackson (MJ) when it comes to buying his music. No one has to explain the fact that MJ's music was everywhere in the '80s, from nightclubs to dance clubs to city streets to your very own car radio. We thought, foolishly, that he'd always be around - wasn't he always young? - so we would add his music to our personal library at some point down the road. Then, just a matter of days ago, time ran out.

I remember now the first thought that went through my brain, on a night of business travel in L.A. many years ago, when I heard of John Lennon's death: "We'll never be young again." Childhood's end. (The end of the innocence.)

With MJ's death we again got older, a bit more quickly. But I need to say something here about his talent as a singer. Listening recently to some of his best and most famous songs - fast ones and slow ones - it finally ocurred to me that he had the same perfect timing as his friend and mentor Diana Ross. Take any MJ song and tell me where you would change his vocal... It's not possible. There's not a single instance where he should have come in a half-second earlier or a half-beat later.

Such is genius. Such is having The Gift. Such is being blessed with once-in-our-lifetimes talent.

MJ started something... the way he made us feel happy to be alive... he rocked our world and helped us to come together... it didn't matter whether we were black or white. His talent shone a light on us and our needless fears. He became the man on stage, in a small and somber world, who performed joyfully under the brightest of lights. We didn't have the need or the right to ask for anything more...

It was enough.

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