Remembering Michael Jackson

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Hard to believe that a year ago this week Michael Jackson passed away. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news? To commemorate the King of Pop, we’ve got another exclusive PCA/ Entertainment Tonight poll for you to check out. Where you can go and weigh in on all his music, his videos, and more. Just the other day someone asked me if I was a fan of Michael Jackson’s music and I thought this a curious question, because I’ve yet to meet a person within a twenty-year age range of me who wasn’t. The other reason the question felt odd was because with Michael Jackson (and about 5 other artists who quite literally made up the soundtrack to our youth) the notion of being a fan was not even contextually relevant. I don’t know from the rest of the planet, but if you grew up in the Northeast during the 1970’ and 1980’s, Michael Jackson was pop music, he equaled what was on the radio. So the “fan” part never came up, the discussion would simply be about which songs. Which albums. And of course which videos. And these discussions could be quite polarizing indeed. Thus to query someone about being a “fan” would be like asking someone if they liked having cars for transportation. Of course they did. The question should be does one like having a red sedan or does one prefer navy blue station wagon. I had – and have – two copies of the Thriller LP, a dogeared Jackson 5 anthology, plus my brother’s copy of Off the Wall, which he still doesn’t know I stole (he still thinks he left that and Billy Joel’s Piano Man at the beach). Then there were the Thriller cassettes. You had to have 2 cassettes: one for the car and one for the house. Until my other brother showed me how to record two albums onto a blank cassette so you could get Bad and Thriller on one tape. I remember watching Michael moonwalk during the Grammy Awards in 1984 – there was also a Motown 25-year Retrospective around the same time where he did it as well. I was in Florida at my grandparents’ for spring break and no one, nobody, had ever seen anyone move like that. And of course, it wasn’t like he was some kind of unknown Cirque Du Soleil acrobat or masked dancer – these were moves coming from someone who was already beloved. Now at that time — long before Tivo or YouTube –  the Moonwalk phenomenon could be divided into two groups: you’d either seen it or you hadn’t. Period. Until the Thriller video came out on MTV and all that changed, because if you bought the VHS cassette called “The Making of Thriller” you got, as part of your special 30-minute package, the Moonwalk segment. Nor was this a time when people bought a lot of videos. You would rent them.  And I remember really, really wanting to own it. Fortunately my older sister had seen it as well and she too approached the incident with the same reverence as one might describe witnessing man walking, well, on the moon. With two children endorsing the acquisition, my parents had no choice but to relent and purchase it so we could watch the Moonwalk segment. Over and over. And so we could invite friends over to watch it. Over and over. He was a phenomenon simultaneously charismatic and decidedly nonthreatening –when I was little I had to wear loafers a lot because my mom thought they were smart, even though I was awkward to begin with and thought they were very, very dumb. Once Michael Jackson started spinning around in black loafers? Not so dumb. And forget the Man in the Mirror video. Cannot even get through it now. Plus let’s not forget that he promoted a certain cultural awareness. How else would we have learned the phrase “paternity suit” had it not been for Billie Jean?  His influence is really immeasurable, so I’ll stop trying to quantify it now and get to our poll. We’ll be talking more about MJ over the course of this week; right now, voice your choice in today’s featured poll and let us know which Michael Jackson album was your favorite:

1) Bad

2) Dangerous

3) Off the Wall

4) Thriller

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