Originally Posted on June 28, 2009
When I was about six or seven, my father asked me to pick out an album as the first one I ever owned. I looked around and saw the “Greatest Hits” collection of the Jackson 5. It seemed so appropriate a starting place for someone so rooted in R&B music to embrace the five eldest sons of Joe and Katherine Jackson.
From there, it all fell into place. For another decade or so, the music of the second youngest son, Michael, was the foundation for every form of music I listened to then and now. From “I’ll Be There” to “Scream” (the duet with his sister Janet – and the last Michael song I truly enjoyed), that voice defied convention and rose above the music behind it.
This weekend, a few days after the pronouncement of Michael Jackson’s death, I soaked in my fill of tributes to the “King of Pop.” An old Jamie Foxx radio show had super-producer Teddy Riley talking about the backstory of recording “Remember The Time.” Between the words and the groove, Michael came up with Riley’s biggest hit.
This weekend’s Foxx show, live from BET Music Awards Press Day, had the crew, their guests and Foxx reminisce over moments with Michael. Foxx recalled attending the Jacksons’ “Victory” tour at Texas Stadium in Irving from eleven rows from the stage. The experience of watching Michael influenced Foxx in his endeavors. You can hear the admiration for Jackson in the voices of Keith Sweat, Lyfe Jennings and football great Doug Williams, among others.
The Poetess was right on one point: “(Jackson) belong to us…to the world.”
What truly struck me as poignant was the discussion that transpired on my Facebook. My classmates from Reseda jumped in on how much a part the Jackson were part of the lore of the San Fernando Valley. Michael used to run through the drive through of my first job at a fast food place in Tarzana. Katherine used to go door-to-door spreading the word of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tito was the spokesperson for a local bank my mom used to do business with. Our parents had the family as clients for repairing appliances and such. Still, they maintained their compound south of Ventura Boulevard in Encino to this day.
Even as I stepped away from this weekend’s Pride festivities and drove around The Cities, I couldn’t help but bop around the car with “Working Day and Night” on the radio. I was doing the rock to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” on the freeway. I recalled the words to “Rock With You” and sang them out loud!
For me, it wasn’t “Thriller” that was the album of choice as once thought at around my senior year of High School. It was “Off The Wall!” Thirty years later, that album still resonates as penultimate in remembering the sudden loss of Michael Jackson.
I know a lot of folks won’t forgive Michael for what he did, whether it is true or just left in accusation, after the success of “Thriller.” The accusations, the strange behavior, the snap weddings – we would never know what went through his mind from 1983 until last Thursday.
We hope that in death, Michael Jackson will be remembered for the time he given us through his music.