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Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

My dad was in the navy when I was a kid and we moved frequently.  In the 60’s and 70’s, we crossed the country 5 times by car, my sister, brother and I trying to keep from killing each other in the backseat of our red Chevelle.  On trip 4 from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, things were getting pretty tense between my sister and myself in one of those “I” states when my mom flipped the radio to a pop station.  A few minutes later, we were dancing in the back to Michael Jackson’s soaring falsetto singing A-B-C, 1-2-3.  As long as Michael was singing, we called a temporary truce.  Michael Jackson saved my sister’s life.

We grew up with Michael.  It was hit after hit during the 60’s and early 70’s and we knew every word.  “Ohhhh, baby give me one more chance”  On Saturday mornings while the PUs slept in, my sister and I munched our Captain Crunch and watched the animated cartoon adventures of The Jackson Five.  We thought he was just an average kid, like us.  He had brothers, he liked to sing, he got to travel around the world, his family was Jehovah’s Witness.  Yep, totally normal.

Well, there was that love song he sang to a rat but we figured it made sense in the movie.

Time passed.  We moved on to other music.  Heart for me; Steve Miller for my sister.  We came out of  the disco era relatively untouched.  We were too young to go to the clubs.  I went to college and discovered Leo Kotke, Pure Prairie League and the Eagles.  I figured Michael Jackson was off pulling all nighters too.

We resurfaced together.  One night, my mom called me to watch a something on TV.  “Do you know who that is?”, she asked.  It took me a minute.  There on the screen was the face of a black angel on the body of Fred Astaire, alternately strutting and gliding across the floor.  My jaw dropped, “THAT’S Michael Jackson?!”  If it hadn’t been for the instantly recognizable light head voice, I almost wouldn’t have known him.  His physicality and  performance wasn’t anything like his brothers’.  He was his own creation.

And what a creation.  Thriller was so big.  It was hit after hit again.  The video format was perfect for Michael.  The songs were stories with narrative arcs.  The dancing was precision.  How did he do that?

Then the bad times came.  He burned his scalp.  He wore the glove.  He erased the black angel and retreated behind his plastic mask.  He built a fantasy world and hid in it.  His savvy business decisions made him a fortune and attracted the good and the bad.  When the accusations of child molestation started, I hoped it wasn’t true.  I hoped he was just a victim of our generation of fear or some fortune hunter who exploited his predilection for recapturing his lost youth by surrounding himself with real children.  I don’t know how much of an effect his family’s religion had on him but he wouldn’t be the first Jehovah’s Witness kid who felt like he lost out on a real childhood.

Then he disappeared again.  Once in awhile, we’d see him do something, um, unorthodox.  I thought it was probably better for him to stay out of the spotlight.  He had a habit of attracting the wrong attention and it was clear that the public just didn’t understand.

Brooke called me to tell me Michael died.  Cardiac arrest, they say, caused by a disruption to the heart’s electrical signals.  Prescription drugs were mentioned.  The Big Satan researcher in me says a hERG problem.  It can happen.  Who knows what off label use he was testing?  I feel for his children who he clearly loved and enjoyed.

May they remember him as fondly as I do.

Goodbye Michael.  Thanks for leaving your music behind.

My favorite Michael Jackson video is Black or White.  It highlights his dancing at its prime.  The embed has been disabled so you can find it here.

Share your memories of Jackson with us tonight on Conflucians Say at 10PM EST.

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65 Responses

  1. Absolutely tragic. May he rest in peace. He was one of the most talented child stars of the 20th century.

  2. I’m just in shock – I cried – YES, I cried for Michael.

    I’m an 80s kid, so I grew up to the Jackson 5 & Michael’s Off the Wall & Thriller albums, I’m typing & listening to TMZ.com’s live LA news feed.

    LA Homicide is investigating the case. Coroner is doing the autopsy.

    I can’t even begin to put my thoughts together on HOW MUCH IMPACT Michael had on the entire globe.

    Every country in the world KNOWS Michael. No matter the religious/cultural differences, everyone loved his music.

    Love you guys & had to come here to mourn.

    • I cried too. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I’m a child of the 80’s as well and I loved his music.

      His life was so profound and so tragic.

    • I’m glad to see you SM — I think Riverdaughter did a great job tonight.

    • Like you SM, I was in shock when I heard the news and like you……I cried.

      I suppose now he found the peace that eluded him in life!

    • Thanks RD! You said all I could have said.

    • No, I like this one, but the one in 1983 in the Motown 25th anniversary – THAT WAS the original. He recopied that moment in the performance you showed above.

      I’m too upset to look for it in youtube, look it up Michael Jackson Motown 25th anniversary.

  3. He was training for his London shows, I think he was too sick – Lou Ferigno was training him for the England shows.

    Michael ate like a bird, he was quasi-anorexic.

    Jermaine’s speaking now.

    • It’s a shock but the fact that he has been hospitalized and under extreme levels of stress along with personal and financial problems must have aged him well beyond his years. He looked very frail and unhealthy for a while. I wish he had found the happiness and peace he sought his entire life.

    • YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      THAT’S THE ONE!!!!!!!!!



      • It was just him and the stage.

        I remember this moment like yesterday – I was 12 years old and LOST MY MIND.

        This moment, together with his Thriller album and videos changed the WHOLE GAME.

        I love Prince & Madonna, but Michael? I feel like a family member died today. I feel like my childhood died today.

        First Farrah, I HAD A JILL MONROE DOLL AS A KID. I had her bubblegum cards, the Charlie’s Angels lunchbox with thermos.


        I can’t.

        • Hey SM,

          I too remember watching/witnessing this performance. I had just walked into the room from outside swimming. Jackson 5 were concluding their set. And that’s when Michael “the solo artist/entertainer” emerged.

          My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with his children, family and all those he impacted in his remarkable career.

  4. Like I said on the downstairs thread, I grew up with Michael. I said that I sort of grew up. He went to Neverland. I watched the Jackson 5 Saturday morning cartoons. In those days, it was the Jackson 5 or the Osmonds. For me, it was not the Osmonds.

    Once more, my very favorite:

  5. I just watched the video to “Do You Remember the Time” on BET. Gah, this sucks.

    • REG!!! LIL SIS!!!!!

      Remember the time was the SH&&&T!!!!

      OMG, when he kissed Iman? I know, it was very staged, but the DANCING in that video???


  6. I will lose my G-DAM mind if anything happens to the members of Duran Duran.

    John Taylor & Simon Le Bon, I LOVE YOU, don’t die this week, PLEASE.

    • Who are you? Me??????? Dude get out of my mirror.

      I feel the same way about Prince, Madonna and Duran Duran. Well – I would have placed Simon Le Bon before John Taylor.


        They were/are VERY CLOSE to Michael.

        I can’t imagine how they’re doing. PLEASE DON’T DIE.

        • Taylor’s too distraught to make a statement at this time.

          I haven’t seen anything from Liza. But I keep switching channels. I’m onto the BBC now.

      • YES, we are the same people. John & simon – HAWT to this day. LOVE THEM.

        Gen X / 80s were such a crazy/genius time. We grew up in front of TVs & Dr. Lynette Long coined the phrase latchkey kids & she was right.

        We grew up with MTV as our babysitter.

        MICHAEL’s body is at the LA coroner’s.

        • They had a DD concert in constant re-run on one of the HD channels. I never saw them in concert, but HD was VERY kind to them. They looked beautiful – all tall, with Simon doing his I’m a caucasian guy but I think I’ve got rhythm – you know how you can’t really tell if he has rhythm or not?????

          But they sounded amazing.

          • I saw Duran Duran 4 times in concert – THEY ARE AMAZING.

            Please try to catch them when you can – they are phenomenal.

            And yes, they are the finest in person. And INCREDIBLE RHYTHM. MMmmm-Hmmmm.

  7. Man in the Mirror video is just as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

  8. The 20/20 special is totally out of place tonight. I think.

  9. I’m really terrible. I’m sad at the end of an era. But TV and music talents just kind of aren’t real to me. Hearing about their deaths is a little like hearing that All in the Family is ending, or Mash. I’m sad at the loss of something, but it’s kind of a superficial sadness.

    I think we lost Michael Jackson a long time ago, and what was left was a slightly pathetic shell. Someone on another blog said if he’d been convicted on the child molestation case, he might be alive today. It’s too bad some circumstance couldn’t have arisen that would take him away from his “handlers,” and the drugs, and the yes’s. I hope there’s an afterlife where people say no to him and turn him into a functional being — and there he’s found peace he couldn’t quite find on earth.

    I know one person who is happy at Michael’s death — Mark Sanford. Talk about headline changer. Jackson’s death might be responsible for saving Sanford’s career, which is sort of a tragic thing in itself.

    • You know – this may be naive but I never believed the molestation charges, or perhaps I just didn’t want to. I think he had deep psychological disconnect issues. Whatever his childhood or formative years were, he dealt with it by retreating into childhood (being child-like), but I can’t or couldn’t see him being sexual (that wasn’t the pathology of his youth).

      • As much of a fan I was of Michael, I believe the molestation charges.

        I think there was something so very wrong – his father Joe abused him to creating a psychotic break from which Michael never came back from.

        BUt you can never ever take away his contributions to music and American Culture.

        • You may be right – but I just couldn’t see it. I always think of him as asexual.

          • I always had serious doubts whether he was a pedophile, despite his weirdness and obvious psych issues.

            I didn’t think he wanted to diddle little boys – I think he wanted to be a little boy. He may have had weird (and likely unhealthy for them) relationships with children, but I just don’t think they were sexual in the way of most pedophiles.

          • Agreed. I never really bought those charges either.

          • I always thought of him as arrested development.

      • Me either. I always thought he missed his own childhood and his emotional growth was stunted. He built Neverland to make up for his lost childhood and picked friends of an age where he could better explore those years he missed.

        • Yep. I think his relationships with children were….twisted, and bizarre. But I don’t think they were necessarily sexual.

          I could be wrong. But the thing that always bothered me is that if he truly was innocent (and a jury said he was), how painful the assumption of the public that he was a perverted pedophile must have been for him these last years.

  10. I was not a fan of Michael Jackson, but I appreciate the sense of loss his fans are going through.

    Otoh, with his death the government of Iran can now do anything against its own people secure in the knowledge that the mainstream western media will take no notice whatsoever.

    • Get a grip. I know it’s been all Michael all the time since he died. But the truth is that news from Iran has been even more restricted in the last 48 hours and you can’t blame our msm for that.

      The mullahs have decided on a course of action and they don’t need the death of Michael Jackson for cover.

  11. Interesting that you would consider HERG. The long and short QT can raise merry havoc, but it’s usually picked up electrocardiographically. Interesting…

    • I don’t really know. I’m merely speculating. But it’s something we’re always checking for. Maybe for a person in good shape with no history of overloading on prescription drugs it’s not an issue. But I gotta wonder…

      What’s your theory?

      • I heard earlier that he actually had heart problems. One news report said his doctor was with him when he collapsed.

      • CNN talked to a Jackson family lawyer. This person said that what Jackson was doing would make what happened with Anna Nicole Smith look mild. He said the family has been trying to get him away from whomever he’s been surrounding himself with. And it turns out there was a doctor with Jackson when he went into cardiac arrest.

      • HERG is a good theory. Messin g with the QT can lead to R on T phenomena and that’s never good. He could also have had some pharmaceutical intervention ala Anna Nicole. I know that the post is tomorrow, but I’ll be surprised if the tox screen comes back in under two weeks. I’m unclear as to whether his phyician was there or whether the family called the physician rather than EMS>

        • Someone on the teevee mentioned the possibility of dialysis, something that I have not heard before. This raises the possibility of electrolyte imbalances which can also lead to some whopping arrythmias.

  12. Darn, just missed the radio show. Poop. You know, I’ll have to call in one of these times.

  13. The negative influence of the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Michael and his family have been either downplayed or totally ignored for as long as the Jackson Family has received public attention. For those readers who really want to know what life is like to be reared in the WatchTower Cult, nothing beats real world scenarios, and of real world scenarios, nothing beats actual civil and criminal court cases.

    The following website summarizes 900 court cases and lawsuits involving children of Jehovah’s Witness Parents. The summaries demonstrate how JW Families rear their children and live life day-to-day. Also included are nearly 400 CRIMINAL cases — most involving MURDERS:



  14. This is difficult for me to write. I am sad hearing about Michael Jackson’s death, for a life lost. I feel worried for his children & feel sad for fans of his. I love his music but I also feel pretty confident that he molested children. Besides the trial, his personality & behavior reminds me of someone close in my family that I loved & trusted but fundamentally changed & broke parts of my life permanently.

    Sometimes performers are charismatic and good-looking and please their crowds. They become icons and parts of our life. However, sometimes those same performers choose to please *themselves* with people in less powerful positions, once the crowd has left & no one can see what is happening. This makes me feel like crying right now, to say this. Sorry everyone! & especially to his major fans!

    It is a sad day – but he is a man – human – fallible – not a god – I feel bad for him – I feel for other people he has affected in a positive way, and I also feel for those that have been hurt.

    No matter what, his music will last forever. I just don’t want the “unimportant” people that sometimes get hurt by stars to be forgotten in all the glory for Michael’s honoring.

    The following is my favorite video for Michael Jackson, it is not of him but of prisoners dancing to his song – it makes me cry every time to see these people (their lives quarantined) still *dancing* –

    Thank you for the post Riverdaughter & I really hope I don’t offend any fans here– thank you confluence for allowing me to be honest & not feel I have to self-censure.

  15. I will always remember Michael as he was for the Motown 25th Anniversary special. The Michael of recently was a stranger none of us knew. I’m sure he’d want us to remember him at his best.

    RIP Michael…Never Can Say Goodbye

  16. Pedantic moment — when he was a child, that was no falsetto. That was a very pure, clear, lovely boy soprano. I fear I sound snotty but high male voice is a big source of pleasure to me, and Jackson had a good one. When he grew older it MAY have been on occasion a falsetto, but even then a substantial chunk of it was just a good clear chest voice.

    Damned fine showman he was. 😦

  17. I also loved Heart ….. but I moved on to Blondie.

    Great write up – as usual !!

  18. NEW POST

  19. The Jackson 5, Charlies Angels and Captain Crunch.
    My little brother and I.
    Soul Train and American Bandstand. 1970’s. Dancing around the living room.


    Boy RD & Co.

    What a day.

    May they both rest in peace….

    I loved the way you wrote this RD.

  20. >Get a grip.

    I never lose mine, thanks.

    >I know it’s been all Michael all the time since he died. But the truth is that news from Iran has been even more restricted in the last 48 hours and you can’t blame our msm for that.

    There is a difference between the restrictions Iran places and our media simply losing interest because the death of a pop icon is a bigger ratings grabber.

    >The mullahs have decided on a course of action and they don’t need the death of Michael Jackson for cover.

    No, they don’t need it. But they do have it.

  21. What a day is right. I grew up with Farrah Fawcett as one of the cool detective chix (my favorite was the sporty Kate Jackson). I was touched today, thinking about the cycle of life, and feeling the turning of the wheel of a generation.

    Then…Michael. I was at a friend’s dinner party, and heard about it. I was surprised that I didn’t feel more. I realized later that it was too much to absorb. I was numb. I am now watching a 2 hour Larry King special, and it is still barely penetrating. How can Michael Jackson be gone? I played one of his first albums with his brothers, “We’ve got Blueeeee Sky” so many times, my older brother threw it across the room and shattered it. I saw his first moon walk, and was dumbstruck. I didn’t understand his obsessive plastic surgery, and the accusations. Was it a Peter Pan syndrome misunderstood or was there more to it? I don’t know but I do know that his gift was transcendent. There was something electrifying and magical about his talent. I am stunned.

    Peace be with you Michael–you deserve it.

    • I am stunned too, it’s just sinking in. I grew up on his music, watched him when he was a kid (and I was too, we’re the same age). Just last week we were looking at some of his video’s with our little girl and she’s been bopping around the house singing off-key thriller.

      Someone said tonight, “we’ve just lost some of our cultural DNA.” I thought that really captured this loss.

      Farrah and Michael in one day. Rest in peace.

      Riverdaughter your writing lately has been so sharp and clear, including this post. Thank-you.

  22. we’ve just lost some of our cultural DNA

    That’s a really good way to put it. I feel like part of my childhood just peeled off.

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