Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Michael, My brother

The first record The Leopard ever bought with my own money was a 45, The Love You Save by The Jackson 5. In my world, everyone I knew loved the Jackson Five. When we saw these young, good looking, talented kids on the Ed Sullivan Show, we saw ourselves. My friends, cousins--everyone I knew had a record or two somewhere in their house, even if it was just a cut out cardboard record printed on the back of a Post Sugar Crisp cereal box.

It wasn’t even something anyone discussed. The five boys from Gary, Indiana were like family to us. I remember our school used to receive catalogs from Scholastic, and the first book I ever owned was a little paperback about the Jackson 5 where they were pictured riding on mini bikes around their house. I wanted to be Michael Jackson. What could be better than to sing cool songs with your 4 brothers, dance on Soul Train, wear groovy threads and ride around on little motorbikes?

As I (and The Jacksons) got older, I kind of lost touch with what they were doing. Michael and his brothers dropped the “5” part of their name, and started to have more adult-sounding hits like “Dancing Machine” and “Can You Feel it”. Then things got quiet for awhile, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Michael came out with the album Off The Wall and everything changed. Produced by Quincy Jones, the music on Off The Wall sounded fresher than anything else that year.
Of course, by the time of Thriller, Michael had completely reinvented himself and was in a class all his own. There have been many child entertainers over the years, (think Donny Osmond) but Michael was one of the very, very, few that lived up to his earlier potential.

He also showed a remarkable ease with technology, creating not only cutting edge sounds, but brilliant visuals, in the form of videos, to go with his groundbreaking music. Michael surpassed everyone’s expectations of him, as a dancer, songwriter, musician. In retrospect, it almost seems fitting that he would eventually simply burn out like a light. But what a bright light it was.

No comments: