Michael Jackson was my first idea of cool.
Before the inevitable disintegration that follows every shooting star as sure as a tail, he provided a generation of youth the idea that you don't have to shoot people to be cool. You can sing and dance and wear a single glove and a jacket with completely useless zippers and perform moves that seem to defy the rules of physics. I don't know what sort of effect this had on us - we who emulated this King of Pop with our break dancing and style. I still wear white socks with a black suit because frankly Billy Jean is not my lover.
You remember when MTV played music? That's what we have to talk about here. A Golden Age of popular song. A time when mass media was just beginning to realize the untapped potential of invading everyone's eyes and ears. A time when a single man could rise above it all and ride the charts into the hearts of millions world wide. Provide an iconic and powerful hero to inspire a new generation of diversity and integration. Before Michael, there was a long and lauded line of black artists who had achieved greatness but not acclaim. Michael took the investment to the bank and cashed it for all to see.
He was the original Smooth Criminal. Not because he made a career with the blood of movie foes. Not because he promoted violence and hate. Not because he used his station to promote himself into fortune, but because he stole the attention of the world. He let us dream that with enough talent and drive that we could achieve anything.
Of course, then he started being crazy. Through surgery and genetics Michael changed. Warped. What is happening to Michael? We would worry. The monster depicted in our imaginations came to life as a fair-skinned doe-eyed fiend. Some storybook fairy who stole away infants and dangled them from windows. Icarus had nothing on him. The crater Michael has left scattered red leather into space. The media, a hive of rumor and sensationalism, did their level best to destroy the man. I guess in the end they won. The prospect of a come back was too much for him.
In the end he was stripped of everything. His fortune, credibility, respect, and health. I only hope that he met his end with some semblance of peace.
For my part I will thank him for inspiring a younger me to reach for the stars... because maybe it would turn me into a giant robot. More than that I thank him for providing us all a cautionary tale that will be told to our posterity for thousands of years. Whatever he was and whatever he became he will always remain, undeniably, a legend. May flights of Angels sing thee to thine rest, you unfortunate man.
Jeremiah Liend is a Bemidji actor.