I was at work yesterday when the news came through. “No way,” was my first reaction, refusing to believe that it was possible, assuming it was nothing more than another ridiculous tale from the ever-churning rumor mill.
But it was true: Michael Jackson, at only 50 years old, was dead. The self-proclaimed King of Pop was gone, and I was in utter disbelief and shock.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why that was my gut reaction, and why part of me still can’t wrap my mind around this sad notion. I’ve never been a huge MJ fan, although I can easily sing along with every No. 1 hit he attained. And despite my brief attempts at the moonwalk in my youth, I have no memories hinged to the star. Yet something inside kept me glued to my television last night, rapidly flipping between CNN, MSNBC and MTV as this story unfolded. I simply could not walk away from the remote, nervous I’d miss something important or interesting. And it was on my couch that I fell asleep, MJ news still streaming from the set when I finally woke up around 4 a.m.
June 25 became a day when history happened. You hear people today talk about the day Elvis Presley died, or John Lennon, or Jim Morrison, or Kurt Cobain. Our parents or grandparents mention these musical figures and how the news of their deaths affected fans around the world. And as conflicting reports came in from CNN versus the Los Angeles Times yesterday, I was watching the same kind of moment in history; the day a bright star in the sky finally burned out.
Naturally it was sad when Ed McMahon passed away earlier this week, and Farrah Fawcett took her last breath yesterday morning. But – as horrible as this may sound – their deaths weren’t surprising. As an older man with a variety of health issues, McMahon’s death was sad, of course, but nothing shock-worthy. And articles were written nearly daily about Fawcett’s consistently declining health as she battled anal cancer for the last three years. For many, Fawcett’s death was merely a question of “when.”
But Jackson … very few individuals can truly say they saw this coming. Like the others, there were noted health concerns, and maybe a few mental health inquiries as well. But he was 50 years old and slated to embark upon a 50-concert tour in London within the next month – a tour that was said to mark yet another comeback for the star whose peak likely came in 1980s. I can’t imagine anyone seriously believed with more than a grain of salt that his death would be imminent.
So when it unexpectedly occurred, it was nothing short of a monumental moment in history. This phenomenal pop star, the man who paved the way for so many others, was dead and my eyes were transfixed to this news. Maybe it was the journalist in me, or maybe the girl who, one day, would like to tell her kids where she was when MJ died, but I couldn’t pull myself away and I’m glad I didn’t.
Listening to what this man meant to so many, ranging from the everyday person on the street to some of today’s best performers in the entertainment industry, clearly Michael Jackson touched their lives in some way. And to hear that, to see the musical legacy he will leave behind, was quite significant.
Yeah, sure, he also unfortunately departs this world as “Wacko Jacko,” a man who was accused of child molestation, who had a pet chimpanzee, who dangled his child over a balcony ledge, and whose appearance was regularly tabloid fodder. However, his talents could never be denied and his popularity still remained strong despite the crazy tales coming out of Neverland Ranch and beyond. And though some may want to focus on his weaknesses, the iconic symbol MJ has become will never tarnish for the majority of fans mourning his death today.
As corny as it is to say, Michael Jackson was more than a man – he transcended to both myth and legend. He may be gone, but his reputation – both the good and the bad – will live on, and I can nearly guarantee his death with hold the same semblance as that of Elvis. People will talk of this moment, of this single fatality, for years and decades to come, and I can say, with detail, where I was and what I watched unfold. And even though this particular entertainer held little astonishment for me, his death will remain more than historic. It’s pretty damn epic in my lifetime.
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