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Remembering Michael Jackson: For better, not worse June 26, 2009

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

I’m guessing I was 6, maybe 7-years old. Just beginning to cultivate an interest in popular music, I remember being with my mother at a discount department store in Batavia, N.Y. She was allowing me to purchase some singles—those ‘45’ records that looked like flat, oversized donuts—to play on our stereo at home. And despite my young age, I remember my concern as clearly as anything—should I get the Osmond Brothers or the Jackson 5?

I also remember the clerk—a young, African-American woman—who stepped along side my mother and me to see if she could offer assistance. Embarrassed, I pretty much shut down at that point, forcing my mother to relay my dilemma. Osmonds or Jacksons? While I can’t remember her exact words, I so remember the clerk’s smile as she basically told me, without question, the Jacksons were where it was at.

Wow, was she right! No offense to Donny and the boys, but this guy Michael was something else. I didn’t totally appreciate that until I got to college, back when MTV was in it infancy (and, yes, back then it really was Music Television).Thriller cover

The year was 1983, and I was in my second full semester at St. John Fisher College. The only true motivation for doing laundry back then was access to the cable-TV outlet located in the Haffey Hall basement lounge, which was adjacent to the laundry room. While the laundry did its thing, I would sit in the lounge watching MTV and hope for the Michael Jackson video to his new single, Billie Jean. I rarely recall being disappointed. It was in heavy rotation, and man was it amazing! Later that year, I remember watching his “Motown 25” performance, and that pretty much closed the deal. This guy was destined to become a legend.

Flash forward 26 years, and the only real surprise for me is that Michael Jackson lived as long as he did. Sadly, the bizarre nature of his lifestyle seemed destined to take him early. And the circus that surrounded his antics surely diminished his appeal.

But as I consumed the news coverage of his passing today, I couldn’t help but reflect on his remarkable talent with admiration. Michael Jackson’s impact on pop culture very much colored my informative years. It brought joy in the form of entertainment that remains firmly implanted in my psyche. In fact, Billie Jean, along with a variety of other Michael Jackson songs from that era, remains a prominent part of my iPod rotation. They helped me survive a few marathons, seriously.

It’s hard to witness a life implode. Michael Jackson seemed to spend the better part of three decades destroying himself. But today, I reflect on his amazing talent and the remarkable impact he had on my generation. On this day, I believe that’s what he deserves.



1. Jackson songs listen - June 26, 2009

Just wanted to say I just ordered this Thriller Album, to bring back Michael in our memories. I grew up with MJ. He is the Best! We will certainly miss you.

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