When I heard the news about Michael Jackson today, it made me sad. Sad for the King of Pop I knew when I was little, who had dance moves I'd never seen before, whose rise to fame was almost as staggering as his fall to ignominy.
I was 6 years old when "Thriller" came out, and I remember staring at the cover of the record, not necessarily at MJ, who was certainly dreamy enough in 1982, I suppose, but at the tigers. The baby tigers must have been his, right? Which made him extra cool.
My dad used to record videos on MTV and "Night Flight" and let me watch the ones he considered relatively harmless. I loved "Billie Jean" because the sidewalk lit up when Michael's shoes touched the squares. And the stairs! And the lamp post! And the bed! The video conveyed the idea to me that he must have magical powers, powers of lighting stuff up, at least. I had no idea what the words meant, being 6 and all, in fact, I thought he was saying "The jet is not my gum." Which makes no sense, of course.
It's weird when someone famous dies. Michael Jackson has been off my radar for a long time; I wrote him off after all of the weirdness and controversy. Also, my taste in music changed as I grew up. But it never occurred to me that he might succumb to mortality.
From the looks of the current top albums selling on iTunes, I'm not the only one remembering the impact he had on my childhood and my love for something with a good, danceable beat.