I grew up in the 80s, against the backdrop of Michael Jackson’s music. I remember my parents listening to Thriller, Billie Jean, and Beat It. In many ways, Michael Jackson defined music in the 80s.
I remember, as a kid, going to EPCOT - yes, back when it was EPCOT and not Epcot I remember we went to see Captain EO, which featured Michael Jackson. I remember wearing the 3D glasses and watching as Michael Jackson lept out of the screen and right out in front of us, along with a massive amount of special effects. Afterwards, you could go dance on the dance floor that lit up just like in the video for Billie Jean.
Later on, I remember when the video for Black or White premiered on MTV in 1991 (yes, back when MTV actually used to show gasp music videos!), which had Macaulay Culkin in it driving his parents crazy with music and sending his dad, in recliner, to Africa. I also remember the video for Scream , with all its futuristic imagery of spaceships and a ball game played in zero-G. I remember watching it in awe of how much money they spent on it.
And, c’mon. If you were alive in the early 90s and saw Free Willy, you couldn’t get away from Will You Be There. I remember sneaking my walkman on the schoolbus so that I would listen to that song going to and from that song. I still listen to it.
One of his lasting legacies was the virtual creation of the music video. Whereas other generations had radio, or disco, or eight-tracks, I grew up in the age of the music video, and Jackson was an indelible part of that. Three of the top 100 videos, including the number one video ever made, were Michael Jackson videos. Before him, videos generally consisted of just videos of musicians playing or the occasional strange experiment. After Thriller, music videos became an art form. A way to tell a story with both song and visuals. Everything changed after Thiller.
Now, everyone knows what happened there towards the end. The allegations of child molestation, the multiple plastic surgeries and creepy appearance and just generally strange behavior. But, against all of that, I’ve always wanted to remember Michael Jackson from back in the 80s, when he was at his absolute prime, much the way people want to remember young and fit Elvis and not fat, stumbling and drugged Elvis. It was so difficult to separate what Michael Jackson had become in the late ’90s and 2000s as opposed to the King of Pop who reigned over the 80s and 90s.
R.I.P. Michael Jackson. Thanks for the music and memories.