The sudden death of larger-than-life world celebrity, Michael Jackson, shocked me to the core, but it was only as I surfed my pre-set radio stations in my car and found all the stations were playing Michael Jackson songs that I started having flashbacks of where I was in Guyana when certain songs came out, that I actually found myself tearing up as I drove for an appointment in New York on Thursday.
To say I grew up ‘with Michael Jackson’ would not be disingenuous, because even though he was born in Gary, Indianna and I was born and grew up in McKenzie, Guyana – he was born three days before I was – I literally grew up from around the late ’60s or very early ’70s listening to him and his singing siblings – The Jackson Five. Then, when he went solo, ‘Ben’ was one of my favourite songs while I was in high school, and back then when I had lots of hair, I grew my hair afro-style to mimic him. By my late teens, I partied a bit but distinctly recall loving to ‘party hearty’ to his high-energy Off The Wall album. Then there were Thriller and Bad which continued his legacy.
On my arrival in America in 1988, I was living in Georgia when Michael Jackson performed at what he dubbed his retirement concert in Atlanta in the summer of that year, and I recall reading a glowing feature story in the Atlanta Constitution and Journal on his performance in which a white elderly man attended the concert at the goading of his teenage son, and said he was pleasantly surprised at Jackson’s onstage performance. The man said that for a guy who was going into retirement at the age of 30, Jackson exhibited more energy than most guys he knew who were getting ready to retire.
Music critics and celebrity commentators could slice and dice his life to show the bright and dark sides of a man described by some as a musical genius and others as something of a manic ghoul; maybe they can add eccentric and eclectic, but I just want to remember him for the joy he brought to me and hundreds of millions around the world, including Guyana, with his music and energetic performances.
He may have had financial difficulties, but I am convinced his life was never supposed to be about money as much as it was supposed to be about entertaining. At the time of this writing, some are speaking of him as a man who was often in pain and often sad, but even if true, he certainly knew how to turn his pain to our gain and his sadness to our gladness.
Michael Jackson was not merely gifted; he was God’s musical gift to the world. Unfortunately for the world, the Giver decided to retrieve His gift on June 25 before it could be shared and enjoyed again after a long lay-off in what was supposed to be the start of a 50-concert performance starting July 12.
The world has indeed lost a human treasure in Michael Jackson. He will be remembered all over the world even as his songs continue to be played over and over and over again, both on the airwaves and in our hearts.