You guessed it right. It’s indeed Michael Jackson I’m referring to. It’s his birthday today (sob, sob). As a generation, we grew up on his songs. Then I was a youngster; I could just listen to his songs and enjoy them. As I grew up, I could write too – that’s what brings us to this blog, today. I wanted to use this opportunity to pen a few lines about the King of Pop. Unlike a few other worthless singers who audaciously titled themselves ‘King of Pop’, MJ was named that by his producers, critics and fans unanimously. That’s what a true legend looks like.
Mah nigga… wait, I’m not Samuel L. Jackson, so I’ll drop the n-word. MJ was born on 29th August 1958; 18 years before I did. That’s approximately one generation ahead. No wonder, my Mamas (maternal uncles) were hooked on this kind of music. The household I grew up in, was quite liberal in terms of religion, politics, music, etc. – no bounds, no limits. Audiotapes (it was the ’70s) of M.S. Subbalaxmi, Yesudas, Ilayaraja could happily co-exist with MJ, Boney M, Carpenters, ABBA, etc. This is what exposed me to equal amounts of Indian and Western music.. both contemporary and classical.
Getting back to MJ… he began early as the lead singer of The Jackson Five. His parents’ musical pursuits brushed off on him too. While his father played the guitar in his leisure, his mother played the clarinet and the piano. Music already ran through his veins. I am sure that is what made him joined his brother’s band – aptly titled ‘The Jackson Five’. They were Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael (R.I.P.). The other four brothers are alive, though. It was around 1975-76 that MJ decided to go solo. But hold on…. this is not his biography. This is about how MJ’s musical timeline coincides with my life. Let’s get to that point now.
My first brush with MJ music dates back to his fifth solo album – OFF THE WALL which was released in 1979 (I was 2, going on 3). One song stayed with me – the soulful ballad SHE’S OUT OF MY LIFE. Unlike other fast-paced MJ songs with oodles of oohs and aahs… this song was slow and melodious. If I had a break-up, it would cut right through my soul. But I was just 2 – a toddler. ‘Relevance’ hadn’t set in yet. I just enjoyed the songs.
Cut to 1982. Then I was 6. No longer a toddler – I was then a boy and could walk and talk properly. While the entire world was going ga-ga over the song THRILLER from that album – I was replaying a few other tracks too – from the slow-paced HUMAN NATURE to the medium-paced BILLIE JEAN, BEAT IT and THE GIRL IS MINE all the way to the fast-paced WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’. I loved THRILLER too (so does my 9-year old daughter). Those were the days – school days – carefree days full of fun and frolic.
BAD was released in 1987. Then I was 11 – a bigger, BAD-der boy. I just made up that word. I had my entire peer group crooning to the tune of the melodious, slow-paced LIBERIAN GIRL, I JUST CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU and MAN IN THE MIRROR – moving on to THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL, DIRTY DIANA, SMOOTH CRIMINAL and finally asking who’s BAD?
Then came DANGEROUS in 1991. This time though I was slow on catching up with MJ. It was only in 1997 that I graduated from college and got my first job that I could PURCHASE my first audiotape… MJ’s DANGEROUS. I relished on gems like BLACK OR WHITE, WHO IS IT, REMEMBER THE TIME etc. While REMEMBER THE TIME reminded me of the time when I had my first brush with teenage romance (one that failed miserably), soulful ballads like HEAL THE WORLD begged the whole to restore peace and harmony. BLACK OR WHITE sent a message asking all of us to get above RACIST lines. These songs indeed had a considerable influence on my persona.
This stage of my life marked my growing distances with MJ’s music. This was the time when I was introduced to the INTERNET and had access to other artists’ music. All I had to pay for was internet access. I could (surreptitiously) download several MP3 tracks. That was the in-thing those days. ‘In-thing’ = ‘trending things’ in millennials parlance.
Somehow I could never get MJ’s music out of my system. I bought his audio tapes (no money for CDs or CD players, you see). The DVD was for the rich. We could go as far as CDs. I could barely manage 1.44 MB floppy disks. Hence – audiotapes. One thing led to another and one sad day, i.e. 25th June 2009, I got the sad news of MJ’s death. I was in a movie hall. It was the interval and I had gone to buy some coffee. It was purely instinctive. I bought the coffee, turned around and saw the large-screen television flashing the news of MJ’s accidental death (lethal overdose of propofol).
I was in tears. To me, he was a living legend (till that day – afterwards we could not use the word ‘living’ alongside legend). I was amongst a crowd. Many MJ fans like me, were confused – not sure how to react. I wanted a release. I dumped my coffee and headed for the loo. I locked myself and wept my heart out. It was over in a minute. I was 33, a man and crying in public was not meant for men (that’s what the society said and I believed then). I regained my composure, washed my face and walked out of the movie. After that, I could not watch the movie for obvious reasons.
I went to my apartment and crashed (went to sleep). I didn’t want to talk to anyone that night. All his melodious songs were racing in my mind. I’m sure some readers may think, “big deal – he was just an artist”. They say, “to each, his own”. For others, it may not be a big deal – but to me it was. Not that I went into mourning, or drank heavily – nothing like that happened. It was just immense grief – that’s all. I was out of it the next day. The show must go on. Time waits for no one. In a few days, I was over my grief completely. Akon gave me a good parting song for MJ – HOLD MY HAND. While the song was recorded in 2007 i.e. when MJ was alive, it was posthumously released in 2010. That song still gives me a ‘lump-in-the-throat. It’s been over a decade now (12 years to be precise).
The void he left in the musical scene (in my opinion) remains vacant. For people like me, there won’t be another MJ. So here’s to you MJ – Happy Birthday. I’ll miss you till the end.
May your soul rest in peace.