It’s hard to believe it could be true, but according to the website TMZ.com, Michael Jackson has passed away at the age of 50. The singer suffered a cardiac arrest at his home and paramedics were unable to revive him.
Whatever I’ve thought or wondered about Michael Jackson in recent years, nothing can take away from the wonder and awe that he inspired in me in my younger years.
Like most everyone else of around my age (30), I grew up with Michael Jackson — Off the Wall was the first album I ever bought – I bought it proudly, shyly, in the tiny, one-room record shop in North St, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, called Sounds. I had actually wanted to get Thriller, but — surprise, surprise — it was sold out and all they had to offer me was the earlier album. I didn’t care. I took it home, treated it like it was gold. Which, of course, it was.
It was Michael Jackson, he was incredible, and my sisters and I couldn’t get enough of him. My sister’s side of the room that we shared was plastered in press pictures of the time he played Cork city. (I had been too young to go.) For months after the gig, she’d talk of nothing else. We spent a lot of spare time round the house trying to learn how to moonwalk and wearing one glove with a certain hopeful air of glamour.
The first time I got caught watching a film that was too old for me was when I was discovered behind the couch sneaking glimpses of the mini-film Thriller that my sisters had brought home. It was an unmissable showing, as far as I was concerned — I think that was probably the moment when my mum truly first saw my stubborn streak emerge…
But for me, the first time I really and truly got a shock wave of utter excitement watching the television came when I saw Michael Jackson at the Motown 25 gig. It was the 1980s and I was very, very young, but I remember being in the sitting-room while my family was chatting away and then suddenly this man came on the television and… honestly, it’s hard to even describe how taken, how utterly awestruck I was by that moment.
I had never (in my admittedly short life) seen anyone arrive on stage harnessing that level of commitment — his dedication to his craft was so total; the music seemed to have fused with the blood in his veins. Every move that he made was perfectly judged; his face shone with sweat and passion and joy. It was a performance that taught me what it meant to strive, to care, to be committed.
He went on stage alone, with nothing but his hat as a prop — and he delivered more than anyone else there that night.
As a reminder, I’m putting the video of his performance at the Motown 25 below. RIP Michael Jackson.