As of this writing, July 2, it’s been a week since Michael Jackson’s tragic death on Thursday, June 25, 2009. I’ve thought about Michael a lot during that time. About his music, his youth, his meteoric and sustained fame, and his troubled personal life. All the while I’ve been listening to Green Day’s “21 Guns,” a song off the band’s new release, 21st Century Breakdown. It has become, for me, the soundtrack of Michael’s death.
The first pop album I ever owned–way back in 1970–was Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. I was a big fan of the group thanks to the Saturday morning cartoon show that featured the brothers in silly animated adventures that were highlighted by their great songs. By the time I started collecting DC comic books in early 1972, I had three of their albums, and my favorite was ABC, because it had my favorite Jackson 5 song, “I’m The One You Need (Come Around Here).”
I recorded the first half of the album (the second side didn’t do much for me) on a tape recorder, and I took it along with me on a family vacation to the American Southwest in the spring of 1972. Those songs, “The Love You Save,” “One More Chance,” “ABC,” “2-4-6-8,” “I’m The One You Need,” and “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” became the soundtrack of my first two weeks of comic book collecting–to eventually be replaced by a Michael Jackson solo album, Got To Be There. So, yeah, Michael’s death has greatly affected me as it brought back some great memories of the comics I bought on that trip.
They were the first comics to grace my collection, and they included Green Lantern/Green Arrow 89, Adventure Comics 418, World’s Finest Comics 211, Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane 121, Batman 241, and Action Comics 412.
In the 1980s, Michael soared with Thriller and Bad, and I partied throughout the decade. It almost killed me. Then along came the 1990s and I sobered up, but Michael got increasingly peculiar. Then along came the 21st century and I started to relapse but pulled myself together, and Michael fell into even more trouble.
He was three years older than me. He was always the superstar closest to my age. I’ve looked at the past fifteen years of his life in dismay, but understanding perfectly well what was going on with him–concerned yet removed. The entertainer he was as a child enhanced my own childhood but cost him his.
As an adult, he tried to compensate for his lost childhood. He became mixed up. And yet, I kept hoping he would step out of the self-confined box that was Michael Jackson and take a long, hard look at himself. I don’t know, maybe he finally did. Maybe the upcoming comeback tour would have shown that. And then he died.
Since his death, I’ve watched and listened to the interviews with him. I’ve agonized at times, but I still understand what he was saying, no matter how out of touch he had become.
I remember last week on television when they were removing his body from the helicopter at the coroner’s. He was wrapped in white, and I saw him from above, I was looking down at him. He wasn’t soaring anymore. He hadn’t been soaring for a long time.
It’s a circus now, this Michael Jackson Beast, and it has become an unwieldy, unruly, and contradictive beast; he’s everywhere, and he’s gone.
It’s hard to admit this, but I know why I’ve been clinging to this sad event for a week now. It’s because a part of me died on June 25; it’s a part of me that had never entered Michael’s fractured Neverland. However, it’s not the part of me that was locked into a perfect Proustian memory–when his music embellished the birth of my life-long hobby and brings me back in time to those initial comics I bought on that family vacation to the American Southwest 37 years ago.
I’ve always looked back fondly on that time as a grand beginning of the wonder, awe and imagination comics have always provided me. It’s that childhood wonder and awe, that something special that is oh so fleeting. It’s a feeling that Michael always wanted but never attained.
My perfect memory is still there, of course, but the bridge in time has suddenly closed, and a new memory haunts it. It’s disorienting. But it will pass. Over the years, Michael made me angry. He made me pity him. But a part of me always rooted for him, and it’s that part of me that’s gone forever.
I will always appreciate Michael Jackson, and will always be grateful to him. No temporary shadow can dim that. I’m sorry his life is over, and I hope he is at peace. More than just a perfect memory, I have often learned more about myself from what happened to him, and I still do.
I believe it applies to all of us: Stop at times and take a good look at yourself, because the love you save might be your own.