by Marciano A. Paroy Jr.
Writing about Michael Jackson would immediately reveal that one grew up in the 1980’s – and thus reveal one’s age. That pegs die-hard MJ fans to be at their 30’s now. But then, he started out in the show business as a young kid, so his multitude of fans include my generation’s parents – those who knew the songs “I’ll Be There,” “Ben,” “Music and Me,” in their original Jackson 5 versions.
To set the parameters clearly, my generation would be described thus: die hard MJ fans who grew up in the 1980’s, loving and memorizing each single song from his two definitive 80’s albums “Thriller” and “Bad.” This generation went with him as he donned his hat, moonwalked, hiccupped his way into his songs (much like another 80’s icon, Cyndi Lauper), and became lighter and lighter in complexion – add to that the fact that the nose became thinner and thinner.
The two aforementioned albums contributed a lot in shaping how my generation perceived the world then. I would not dwell on a review of said albums, though, as I lack the experience in attempting to evaluate them. I would just like to especially single out “Man in the Mirror” from the album “Bad” – which influenced a lot of people from my age group. The song speaks about changing the world in very sense of the word “change.” Michael throws the challenge “If you want to make the world a better place, start looking at your self, and then make a change.”
A simple sermon really. And an easy one to accomplish at that. The moment I consumed the theme of the song, I cemented Michael Jackson’s ability to influence other people.
With his penchant of using a choir for backup vocals, Michael established himself as one of the few composers who wrote advice-giving songs that became hits. Of course, first on the list is another song which he co-wrote: “We are the World,” also from the 1980’s.
It would be several years before he released his next album – “Dangerous” in 1991. By then, my generation were first year college students and were caught up with the many influences that college life brings. Given the many options that were sort of presented on a tray before us city freshmen, I still maintained my admiration and high regard for Michael Jackson. By then, “Heal the World” was being played non-stop in radio stations all over the world – further adding to his repertoire of songs that speak about the imperative need for us to change the world.
Alternative music was the “in” thing in the early 1990’s – with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, U2, REM, and their contemporaries, plus hard-rocking bands like Bon Jovi , Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith. Oh yes, I went along with the crowd and digested songs from these bands – but I never once forgot that Michael Jackson was still around, and that no matter what type of music may be “in” at any particular time, his brand of music remains high above the rest – a genre of its own kind, so to speak.
“Dangerous” topped the charts, of course – and the series of hit singles came one after another. There was the pulsating “Black or White” on which he asked the “in” guitarist of the time to play: Slash of the band Guns N’ Roses. Slash lent his chords in another song from that album: “Give in to Me,” which remains to be one of my favorites up to this day.
But one particular song stood out from his “Dangerous,” at least for me. I would like to mention “Will You Be There?” The song simply presents the situation where a person is in need of support – with failure knocking at the door. MJ then inserts the query “will you be there?” When the song was used as the theme song for the movie “Free Willy,” which was about a young boy’s determination to grant a dolphin’s wish for freedom by being sent back into the open ocean, I tagged the song for life.
By then, Michael Jackson was busy with his Heal the World Foundation. The charity organization brought underprivileged children to Jackson's ranch, to go on theme park rides that Jackson had built on the property after he purchased it. The foundation also sent millions of dollars around the globe to help children threatened by war and disease. All profits from the “Dangerous World Tour” went to the "Heal the World Foundation," raising millions of dollars in relief.
This pre-occupation with children then started the rumors that eventually turned into scandals – causing wide dents into his well-managed empire. From then on, the world started to look at MJ as a freak. Those in my generation were starting our careers already, and we lost interest – or we were simply busy finding employments that a simple cursory glance on a Michael Jackson article would suffice.
Other artists rose and fell in the mid 1990’s, and in recent years. Musical taste changed, and there was a shift towards R & B. Alternative music still held sway among its followers. New names dominated the charts. Not one single name held on for a long time, as he or she would soon be toppled by another talented artist.
Then Michael Jackson died.
And the music world stood still. For it lost not only an icon, but a true shaper of pop music as we know it today. Never mind the weirdness attached to all famous people anyway. Never mind the allegations of sexual abuse. The artist must be isolated from the man – in order to truly appreciate his contribution to the arts.
Quite easy to do. Anyone reading a newspaper with a negatively toned article about Michael Jackson, but who would listen to his songs afterwards, would find himself creating a line between what he has read – and what he has heard from the CD player speakers.
Forever a Michael Jackson fan. That’s me… and I know that, here in Tabuk – as one Michael Jackson hit declares – other creatures stuck in the 1980’s and 1990’s would tell me “You Are Not Alone.”
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