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Monday, June 29, 2009

Tribute to the King of Pop

I've been meaning to comment on Michael Jackson for a few days now...maybe the novelty has worn off, but I still have been thinking of him alot.

I'm a true Child of the 80's - THRILLER was released November 30, 1982, when I was a freshman in high school. It was one of the biggest albums of 1983 and, of course, beyond. Basically, Michael Jackson's music was a hallmark of my adolescent and college years. BAD was released in 1987, and then DANGEROUS in 1991 (okay, that was grad school for me, but there were still some major moments connected to that album, see below).

After DANGEROUS, I can admit that The King of Pop got kind of weird, and it just went downhill from there. But I hope that in the shadow of his passing, people can look back and remember his musical genius. I feel strongly that both he and Madonna completely changed the face of popular music AND what it meant to be a media icon. Music Video, MTV, VH-1...these things would not have survived without Michael and Madonna.

I can admit that I was one of those people who gave up on Michael in the past 10 years. I told the same jokes, fumed with disgust over his shenanigans, and worried about the children and families he might have tarnished. But his death made me remember the good times, when Michael ruled the Pop Music World.

SO, in this blog I offer up some of my favorite Michael Jackson memories.

Music Video - Christmas 1983: that Christmas I was introduced to both music video AND the THRILLER video at the same time. See, in rural Y-City Arkansas, we didn't have cable, satellite, or MTV. My family had three channels - we were lucky to watch SQUARE PEGS each week. But for Christmas of 1983, my family traveled back up to Orland Park, IL to celebrate with my father's in-laws. My "Grandma E" had all the fun cable channels, so my siblings and cousins and I were crazy for MTV during that vacation. The THRILLER video debuted on December 2, 1983, so you know it was in heavy rotation by Christmas. I think I watched the video 20 times during that visit. When I think of the THRILLER video, I think of that Christmas (driving 24 hours straight in the mountains and snow from Y-City to Little Rock...snow was sort of awful).

PYT and the Hay Ride: In the summer of 1984, my Chicago cousins made their way to Arkansas for a visit. My parents thought it would be awesome to have a hay ride on our property, so we hooked up a trailer with hay on the back of our tractor (yes, the Mayer Family had a hay field AND a tractor, don't ask) and headed to Mill Creek. I didn't have a walkman back then...or a boom box. I had an old-school tape recorder/player that you see from the 70's. which is what I played ALL my music on back then. My cousins LOVED PYT: Pretty Young Thing, and we played it over and over and over. They especially loved the end of the song with the "nah nah nah, nah" part. We had the singing down to a science!

BLACK AND WHITE debuts and Kris is trashed: my first year of graduate school I made friends with some of my residents; one of them, Bryce, is my best friend in the entire world today. He was a pretty big Michael Jackson fan in those days, so when the BLACK AND WHITE video was set to debut on MTV, I'm pretty sure we made plans to watch the video together. With our mutual friend Scott Noggle. Although we DID NOT discuss that I would go to happy hour first and have too many margaritas. So i made a complete ass of myself watching that video debut with Bryce and Scott while I was trashed off my gourd. Embarrassing.

My First and Only Letter to AMERICAN TOP 40: during the summers of 1983 and 1984, I listened very loyally to AT40 every Sunday morning. I did, after all, live in Y-City Arkansas and did not have cable. I would record with detail the Top 20 songs of the week and also rank those songs according to how well I liked them. There was a big rival in 1983 between EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE and BEAT IT for the top spot on the year end countdown. I was pretty sure that BEAT IT would take the top spot that year, but EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE was the Number One Song of that year. Furious, I wrote to AT40 questioning their decision and wanting an explanation. I was 15, after all. Surprisingly, they wrote me back! I received an explanation and all was well. And I actually really like that Police song now! Strange.

Michael, rest in peace. Know that you did make an impression on this world. I hope that if you are still in pain, you find a way to resolve that. Your music will live on.

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