Tuesday, 25 June 2013

4 Years On: Remembering Michael Jackson…

On June 25, 2009, just a few minutes to midnight, East African time, I switched on to CNN and found a breaking news story: Michael Jackson Suffers Cardiac Arrest. All the other major international news networks were carrying the same story and there seemed to be a lot of buzz around it.

There were many talking heads on some of these channels speculating on the unfolding events in Los Angeles, but one medical doctor caught my attention. He was explaining the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest because apparently many of us didn’t go to med school on account of not paying much attention in heart class in high school.

A heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle dies because of a blocked coronary artery, but the heart continues to beat. Which is why many people might suffer one and not even know it, particularly if the accompanying chest pains are mild. On the other hand, a cardiac arrest happens when the heart completely stops beating.

Now, what the doctor was saying was that people don’t usually come back after a cardiac arrest, and he actually went as far as to say that if Michael Jackson wasn’t dead already, it was just a matter of time before they pronounced him.

Well, TMZ.com did just that, seeing as they were the team of doctors attending Jac-

Oh, wait. Actually, they are just an entertainment website that likes to be the first to break a story thank you very much we’ll confirm the facts later!

So, for about half an hour or so, they were the only website on the globe that had “Michael Jackson Dies” as its lead story while everyone else was twiddling their thumbs waiting for word from UCLA Medical. Sadly, it turned out they were right.

I can’t remember the exact moment I first heard Michael’s music, but it was in the early eighties. The album Thriller had come out and it was proving to be kind of a big deal the world over. And by that I mean in my universe. In my young mind, that album was the most artistic, versatile, eclectic, beautiful piece of music I had ever heard! I didn’t even know the meaning of some of those words I just used (hint: now I do, thanks to Google).

Young Michael Jackson

No, actually that’s my nephew Larry Lari, a budding gospel musician. He’s got a single called Ombi. Check out the video on YouTube!

Young Michael Jackson

Granted I didn’t have anything to compare it to, having gleaned all my musical knowledge on the only TV and radio station in the country, VoK, but just the fact that it turned out to be a big deal not just in my mind, but in every country on earth (well, apart from Lebanon because they were busy fighting a civil war and were kind of douchebags about taking time off to appreciate some record breaking music) proved that he was destined to be the biggest musician of our time.

I remember as the years rolled by, I would recruit some boys that I grew up with, brothers Jaymo and Michael (yeah, you know who you are!) into my one man Michael Jackson fan club. And boy, did we break out some cool moves!

I followed his every career move with the dedication of a super fan and even managed to get some of his older music from his days with Jackson 5 and later The Jacksons. Some of his solo projects from the seventies were beautiful pieces of work too. Have you ever listened to Ben?

He released that song in 1972. He was singing about a… pet rat, which I’m going to go ahead and assume was, I don’t know, kind of a stupid thing to do. But for me, it remains one of the best songs he ev- A RAT? MICHAEL, REALLY???

In 1979, he released his first solo album, Off The Wall, and if the world hadn’t been paying attention before, it did now. This 21 year old was gonna go places! If only there was a way his music could find acceptance across the racial divide. You see, in those dark ages, and by that I mean any time before the eighties, black folks and white folks in America listened to music only from their own kind!

Michael Jackson was the first crossover artist to appeal to all races, particularly when he performed Billie Jean in front of a live audience and millions of TV viewers, and introduced the moonwalk to the world at the Motown 25 event in 1984. That performance was a thing of beauty at the time. And everyone just loved him.

In subsequent years, he did go on to make beautiful music, including the albums Bad (which did really well), Dangerous, HIStory, Invincible and other singles. But he was never able to replicate the success he enjoyed throughout the eighties.

I guess part of the reason that a lot of his fans started looking the other way was when his complexion started changing and they took offense that he was trying to change from black to white (pun intended). Of course, we did come to know that he suffered from a skin condition called vitiligo. This results in the de-

What; do you not know how to spell Wikipedia?

So anyway, it saddened me that the things that were happening in his private life, the cosmetic surgeries, his odd behavior including sleepovers with young boys - how could he not know that there was no way that was going to have a happy ending? -  the alienation from family and friends, etc were distracting his fans from the genius of his music.

That in the end, it would be a sad epilogue to his life that the King of Pop would be forced to try and make a 50-show comeback in London just to keep his head above water from all the debts he had managed to incur in the course of time. 50 shows that there was no way a 50 year old man with a record of poor health was ever going to pull off!

Be that as it may, if there was one thing I will always admire Michael Jackson for, was his dedication to perfection in his work. If you watched This Is It, you know that he wanted to put on the greatest show of his life. 

During the rehearsals, every lyric, note, dance move, the lights and sound effects, everything had to be just right and if it wasn’t, it had to be done all over again until it came out the way he wanted it to.
How many of us do that at our jobs, our businesses? Food for thought.

1958 - 2009

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