Everybody's talking about Michael

Michael Jackson is dead, Prince needs two hip replacements..........where does that leave me????? It's so strange how the death of someone famous polarises opinions. Michael Jackson's tragic death has had an astonishing impact on the world at large but I don't know quite HOW I feel! Like everyone else, I grew up with Jackson's signature "OOH HOO" blaring from the radio. I watched the launch of the "Thriller" film video and was astounded at that now much replicated dance sequence. But my first brush with Michael was when I was a student, living in a terrace house in Richmond with my friend Maureen and we would watch him singing "Blame it on the Boogie" on our crappy black and white T.V (we were students after all, we couldn't afford colour). I remember us both thinking how gorgeous he was in his dinner suit with his 'fro' and that ENORMOUS '80's bow tie, but then something happened.......he started to change.

By the time I watched him on telly with my own kids (little though they were they loved him too) he looked like a different person and it wasn't just his visual appearance, it was his whole persona. I must say I "went off" Michael just after the "Dangerous" album and felt far more excited by Prince, Bjork and others who were pushing the boundaries of "pop" by incorporating rap, jazz, coral and classical influences into their music. I guess I actually "went off" pop music per se, not that I'd ever really been someone who was into "Top 40's" music, but Michael had always been different.

So, by the time Michael died on June 25th, I rarely thought about him. All of the courtcases, the financial stories, the weird outbursts, the masked children etc. had drifted by me virtually unnoticed, I no longer had an "investment" in him. With this in mind, I was interested to observe my reaction to his death. Like most of the world, at first I couldn't believe it, I thought it was a hoax. Then, once confirmed, I like the rest of the world spent every waking hour for the next week watching Michael Jackson "tributes" on the telly, abusing the hosts for interrupting the music clips with their inane babble. I felt sad for his family and somewhat guilty for opinions I had expressed about him in latter years. I watched with interest the media "circus", the distraught fans, the impersonators and the community response to his death. I wondered at the outpouring of intense grief from people who had never known him personally, of kids who weren't even born when "Thriller" was released and it reinforced to me the whole concept of "centrality", of how we often associate a person with significant times in our lives.

For me Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack to my youth and therefore his death is a reinforcement to me that "those days are gone". I will never be able to recapture the excitement, the adrenaline, the anxiety, the angst of those years when I was evolving from a teenager to an adult and I guess Michael was one of the links that took me instantly back to the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of those days. In a way his death represents the death of THAT PART of my life and therefore I am entitled to grieve for that loss. And this is what I've been witnessing on a global scale. Even for those who have never liked Michael's music, he was such a huge figure on the international stage, that there would be few people in the world who do not know of him and therefore it is likely that he represents to all of those people similar aspects of themselves as he has to me.

So Michael has died, as has my youth, however I realised the other day, I wasn't "grieving" in a personal sense. Yes, it's sad that he has died, but I felt more sad for him when he was alive, to be truthful. As far as the death of my youth, well there are just as many joys in the growing wisdom that (supposedly) comes with age, as there are joys in youth, or I think there is, but then unlike poor Prince, I don't need a hip replacement, so maybe I'm not qualified to comment yet. Maybe I'm just not old enough to have an opinion on ageing..........YET!

If Michael leaves an enduring legacy (apart from his catalogue of music) I hope that his death has required parents to talk to their kids about death and grief......to explain to them that death is a part of life and that it's OK to grieve for someone who you considered central to your life.........even if you have never met them.

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