Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson - a part of HIStory

It was a shock to hear of Michael Jackson's death. He was born in my hometown so he is a part of my story. More importantly, though, he is a part of world culture's history.

I remember seeing posters about the Jackson Five on light posts all over Gary all the time. They constantly were performing. The family grew up in the shadow of Roosevelt High School, my alma mater. The boys were always performing on the talent shows and always won. My husband's claim to fame is that his jazz combo beat the Jackson Five in a talent contest there. It was unheard of for someone to beat them. In my high school yearbook there is a picture of the Jackson Five performing at the Masque and Gavel Talent show. This was before they became a national phenomenon. Jackie, Michael's oldest brother, even sang in the Madrigal Choir, the elite singing group of my school, with my sister.

When they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show it was a major event for every Black person from Gary. It may be difficult for this generation to understand how important that was to Black people. Whenever any Black entertainer appeared on the Ed Sullivan show it was a red letter day. I remember the day I heard that the Jackson Five would be on TV and would sing "I Want You Back." Of course, I watched. I got to see them in person before they disbanded and observed the madness of fans' obsession at close range.

The citizens of Gary were so proud of the Jacksons. We got bad press all the time but we could point to the Jacksons and Avery Brooks and Deniece Williams and William Marshall and Ernest Thomas of "What's Hapening" and say Gary can't be all bad. It produced all these people.

Before Michael Jackson, music was divided by race. He changed that. That was monumental. Today's generation doesn't realized that. He transformed the music video into a necessity for marketing music.

I am so very sad. I have always been a fan and ignored the bad publicity that followed him. He is gone too soon like his song. And like his song, we never can say good bye. He was not just a super star. He was a super nova, shining so brightly and extinguishing too quickly. Rest in peace. The king is dead. Long live the king.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

Jennifer, I enjoyed your entries about Michael and your experiences in Gary. I am a little younger but Michael was still a big part of my life...every Christmas as a child we played their Christmas album & when I was 12, Thriller came out. I'm still in shock & very sad. Those pictures you posted were a real treat! We've got to touch bases again....