Forget scandals, remember the music

Published 11:34 pm Friday, June 26, 2009

For those too young to have witnessed it, the date was May 16, 1983. The Motown 25 special aired on CBS and millions of people were watching. I was only 6 years old but the fact that I can recall this date and all the goings-on so vividly without the help of much research should suggest just how memorable it all was.

Everyone in my neighborhood flocked inside at around 8 p.m. All the parents were excited to see acts like the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. But for kids like me, we were all ecstatic to know that a certain young pop virtuoso would be taking the stage that night. We just didn’t know he would make a lifelong impression on so many people of my generation.

When a then-24-year-old Michael Jackson introduced us all to the moonwalk in his electrifying performance of “Billie Jean” on that balmy night in May, he ignited the imaginations and moved the bodies of millions of young people, establishing himself as the coolest man on the planet.

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It was the night many thought the King of Pop took his throne. Even I, a man who is envious of no one, found myself staying up into the wee-hours of the night trying to imitate the pop star’s every move and wishing I had more than just my grandma’s old white church glove to complete my Michael Jackson ensemble. And if an entertainer can have that kind of effect on me, he must be something special.

No one before or since has been able to entertain the world on the level that Michael Jackson did.

So with the latter part of his life and career enveloped in scandal, I prefer to remember what that 6-year-old boy in me will always remember, awesome music from an awesome artist.

Not many can say Michael Jackson hasn’t contributed to the soundtrack of their life. Whether you were listening to “Rock With You” the first time you roller-skated with your first girlfriend or “She’s Out of My Life” when your first girlfriend broke up with you, Michael was there.

Or maybe you recall cranking “Beat It” to the rafters just before heading out on a Friday night for some fun and a little trouble. “Remember the Time,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Ben,” Dancing Machine,” and who can forget “Thriller” — the list of Jackson’s song titles stretches around the globe, as did his reach and humanitarian efforts.

I can only hope that in his passing and in the passing of time, there will be no more jokes about children or bizarre behavior. Perhaps someday all the snide remarks about the King of Pop will die down, and we will be left with what I always felt was there — a huge, impressive catalog of popular music, a colossal talent and the memory of a man who never got to be a boy.