Exactly four years ago today, the world was dealt a mighty blow when one of its brightest luminaries abruptly left the building. Michael Jackson, one of the greatest entertainers of all time died at the age of 50, just weeks before his comeback tour was due to kick off in London. I will never forget that day. As I was about to check my e-mail, I saw a newslink stating “Michael Jackson, King of Pop dead.” In shock, I said to my flatmate, “Nah man, this has to be some kind of joke.” After all, his comeback tour was due to kick off in London in a few weeks and millions were pumped and primed for the King of Pop to make his long awaited return. I read the article which stated that Michael had died at his rented home in Los Angeles after failed attempts to resuscitate him. In disbelief, I concluded that this had to be some kind of mad publicity stunt cooked up by MJ’s management. There was major hype surrounding “This Is It,” including a well publicized appearance at the O2 by Michael to promote the tour. Although I was over the moon about his comeback, I was concerned about his ability to do all the shows he’d been slated for. As tickets sold like hotcakes and demand soared, additional dates were quickly tacked on. At the press conference, Michael looked thinner than usual though he put on a good front. I thought the most probable outcome was that he would do a few shows, collapse from exhaustion and the tour would be cancelled. But to hear that Michael was dead put a different spin on the scenario altogether. The world was in an uproar as various sites were overwhelmed and crashed, besieged by millions of fans eager for information. In the back of my mind, I always thought the day that Michael Jackson died CNN would be all over it like white on rice but surely, that day hadn’t arrived just yet.
Still in a daze, I headed to Lower Marsh Market in Waterloo. It was a hot summer Friday and the market was bustling with activity. Everything seemed like business as usual…except for storefronts with posters of Michael Jackson with “RIP” scrawled across the surface in Sharpie. I couldn’t believe it.
Approaching the stall of my Sardinian friends, I exclaimed, “Did you hear the news about Michael Jackson?” They confirmed that they had, it was sad and they couldn’t believe it either. Bronco gave me a tub of juicy olives, cheese and olive oil and told me not to worry about it. Laden with appetizing delectables, I left, still under the impression that I was dreaming. I would wake up and discover I was in bed, bereft of market goodies and my mate would laugh in my face when I told him I dreamt Michael Jackson was dead. Yeah right…
In search of answers, I found myself at Piccadilly Circus, standing outside the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue where the Michael Jackson musical was being staged. Tributes of bouquets, votive candles, drawings and posters adorned the main entrance. Outside, a small crowd had gathered to pay their respects. A news reporter asked me what I thought about Michael’s passing as the camera rolled. I can’t remember a word I said, except I smiled and put on a brave front. A group of around 100 cyclists biked down the lane playing Jackson’s music from a mobile sound system. Yes, this shit was really happening…somehow. I took photographs of all the lovely tributes, still not believing MJ was no longer with us. This was my childhood hero after all, the man who’d electrified the world with his extraordinary music and now he was supposedly gone.
The following week I scrutinized news items carefully, waiting to hear the announcement that Michael Jackson’s death was a tasteless prank perpetrated by overenthusiastic PR’s who’d get their asses fired. A major fallout was sure to follow. Instead, there was a mad media circus of allegations surrounding his demise with fingers pointing left, right and centre. I blanked out all the bullshit and waited. Approximately one week later, the Jackson family emerged in funerary garb to confirm what I didn’t want to hear: Michael Jackson was dead. And then it hit me. Although I experienced one tenth the pain his family endured, I felt like I had lost a relative. I’d been listening to Michael’s music ever since I could remember. I saw how “Thriller” changed the world and “Beat It” revolutionized choreography. The impact was deep. I knew that I would never see another entertainer of his caliber ever again, but I felt fortunate to have had his presence in my life. Despite numerous scandals and challenges that would destroy your average human being, Michael Jackson’s legacy is incomparable. Just ask Elvis.
One night at a rave back in the 90’s, I wondered which DJ would be brilliant enough to recognize that “Pretty Young Thing” was a single just dying for a remix. I could hear all the sonic possibilities in my drug addled brain, yet the guys up on the decks didn’t seem to notice. It seemed I was destined to be stuck with this maddening bolt of inspiration, but then Roy Davis Jr. finally made my dream come true a few years later. I went bonkers when the beat dropped and I woke up to find myself composing this blogpost about the dearly departed, much maligned, misunderstood gifted genius whose influence skirted the outer limits.
Rest in peace, Michael Jackson. I don’t care what those mean-spirited idiots say about you – you were the best. Your
soul lives on through your music and superb artistry that bears your indelible stamp of perfection. Thank you for your amazing gifts. I love you so very much.
Here’s a track that ripped up the dance floor back in 2000. French house DJ Sebestien Leger‘s supercool remix of “Off the Wall.”
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