I was 6, and all I wanted in life was for my mother to marry Michael Jackson. Dangerous had just come out, “Remember the Time” was my jam, and both Michael and my Mom were single—my precious, precocious mind figured, “Why not?”
Michael Jackson gave me and my family a whole world. My mother, though she didn’t end up marrying him, saw him in concert three times, in all three eras of his career—with the Jackson 5, with the Jacksons, on the Victorytour, and solo Michael on the Bad tour. I watched from afar, on TV screens, traumatized by the “Thriller” video (as today, my six year-old cousin Billie Marie is), entranced by the dynamism of his music, in love with the pureness of the pop.
Michael Jackson, tragically construed as his story is, changed the landscape of American popular music forever. And he changed it for the better. Most of us in our daily routines just chip away at history, doing little things here and there to try to change our lives and the lives of others—but Michael, a kid from a big family in a tiny home in Gary, Indiana—made it so that the musical landscape was barely recognizable after he laid his golden touch to it.
I was one of 10,000 ecstatic fans at Michael’s 51st birthday celebration, organized by Spike Lee, in rainy Prospect Park last Saturday, dancing, singing, and “enjoying myself.” From the impersonators who seemed to have coordinated their outfits beforehand (somehow, each was from a different era) to the children who didn’t grow up with Michael, but still came dressed like him, with their mini-MJ moves in tow; to the men and women, like my mom, who remembered afroed Michael, cartooned Michael—sweet, innocent, bell-bottomed Michael; to the thousands in between with their various encounters, favorite songs, and best memories, the energy was strong, and the message was clear: This man changed us. We may not have been the fans who passed out at his concerts, or the ones who could nail the moves; but we all carried, and will continue to carry, a piece of his legacy in our hearts.