On June 25, 2009, TMZ reported that Michael Jackson had been taken to the hospital on account of cardiac arrest. No one wanted to believe it. With TMZ at times being compared to the Jerry Springer show of entertainment news, millions of viewers/web-surfers shrugged off the news — or at least looked around for a more verifiable source. Naturally, we weren’t prepared for TMZ to be correct — especially when they reported that Jackson had died. Again, no one, not anyone, wanted to believe it. Even when CNN, MSNBC, and other “more reputable” media outlets reported on the situation, verifying his condition, it took a long time for it to really sink in — long after Twitter broke. It was almost as if the world stopped.
The news came just after lunch during the workday for me. I got through the rest of the day all right, but distinctly remember leaving the office in a daze. I’d stopped at the grocery store on the way home and the girl at the register was in tears. No one was behind me in line, so I stuck around so she could talk to someone, thinking, really, what could be done?
For the next few days, weeks, months, Michael Jackson’s songs were piped through the speakers of almost every car that drove down the street. With the windows down with the volume up a bit more than usual, one could hear any (or all) of the following lyrics: “Billie Jean is not my lover”… “Somebody’s starting something”… “If you’re thinking about being my baby, it don’t matter if you’re Black or White”… “Do you remember the time when we fell in love?” Music television station VH1 aired the film The Jacksons: An American Dream for days, if not weeks. MTV, now hugely known for their selection of reality television shows more than their music videos, aired Michael Jackson’s videos well into the night — also for days, if not weeks after his death. E!‘s True Hollywood Story on Michael Jackson played on repeat, also for days. Interviews, appearances — kicking up the good, the bad and the ugly — were everywhere for everyone to see. The King of Pop was in high demand even in death, and understandably so — a good portion of the world was in mourning.
Like so many of my generation, I became enamored with Michael Jackson during his Bad years. Born in 1985, I didn’t have the benefit of the earlier years, but became fully immersed with such points in pop culture such as the 3-D show Captain EO at Disneyland or, admittedly, The Simpsons episode in which “Michael Jackson” is in the body of a fat, balding White guy. Over the years, with the scandal and media attention, I veered away a bit. Personal opinion as to what really happened or not, I still loved his music and the presence that came with it. The single “Scream”, featuring his sister, Janet, was what really solidified my distant “relationship” with him. No matter what happened, Michael Jackson would always be someone kick-ass.
Michael Jackson’s death became final for me well after I visited his star on the Walk of Fame, long after I downloaded a few albums I’d misplaced along the years. It really became final the day of Michael Jackson’s memorial service, held on July 7, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I was on the Metro Red Line Union Station. The subway had stopped at the 7th/Metro stop — a direct route and transfer to the Staples Center. I remember taking a good look at the people in the station before we pulled out. A number of them were carrying tickets. Some were wearing or carrying flowers. But even more of them were wearing Michael’s signature armband or glove. The pit in my stomach began to grow.
When I got to Union Station, an older gentleman was playing a broadcast report on where Michael’s body was en route to the Staples Center for the memorial service. It was really all too surreal. The world was getting ready to say goodbye to The King of Pop, although he had already been gone for two weeks at that point. It was then that the tears started to well up.
Here we are, a year later. It certainly doesn’t feel like a year. Feelings of loss still run rampant. While there is closure as to how his death came about, there is still the wonder of how things would have played out had this tragedy not occurred. But while fans, friends, and family would have loved to have seen him tear up the stage during his This is It tour, and what else would have been up his sleeve for future musical projects, there is truth in the phrase “rest in peace”. Michael Jackson was an icon to the world, but with all of that, he was a father, a son, a brother, a friend to the ones who knew him best. From what it seems (for what it’s worth), idiosyncrasies, financial situations, or personal life factors in general did not deter from whatever role he played in the lives of the many who loved him. All the same, it would have be preferred that he not have gone so soon.
RIP Michael Jackson