In the Summer of 1983, my grandparents bought the biggest Winnebago there was and took seven of the grandchildren on a tour of the USA. We drove from Atlanta to Ventura to Jackson Hole to St. Louis to Atlanta, stopping along the way over the course of six weeks, and spending tons of time in Jackson, where my grandma was born, visiting family. "The Trip" is legend in my family. We cousins grew far closer because of that vacation together than we ever would have otherwise. If I remember correctly, the RV had a cassette player, a big deal in 1983. One of my cousins had just bought the Thriller tape before we left. We listened to that album repeatedly for six weeks. "Don't you kids want to listen to the radio?" "No, turn it over to side B, pleeeeeeeeeeease."
"Beat It" was our favorite song. Some of the hotels we stayed in (at times, sleeping nine people in an RV got to be too much) had MTV......we'd watch until the video for "Beat It" would come on and then roar with excitement.
In 1993, when I still saw the world in Black or White, I thought Michael Jackson was a child molester. In 2005, at the last trial, and after I watched the Martin Bashir interview, I felt that he was still a little boy...that he had been damaged when he was young, and that the evidence against him was all circumstantial. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. He was never convicted. While I wouldn't have let my kids go to Neverland, I still enjoyed his music, and he was a touchstone of my life. If I ever hear a song from Thriller, I can still see the black ink on cream plastic lettering on the cassette tape. My wife had the inside poster from Thriller on her wall, and she was in love with him. Her Barbie married her Michael Jackson doll, not Ken. I so desperately wanted a red jacket, though you couldn't have gotten me to wear just one sequined glove. Had my parents let me, I have short, curly, woolly, kinky hair, and I would've done geri-curl. I believe my father's exact words were, to a nine-year-old boy, "Hell no, son."
Michael Jackson was the biggest icon of the 1980s. Bigger than Madonna. Bigger than Bill Cosby. Bigger than all of them combined. He was, the King.
He's an inextricable part of most people of my generation's lives. He's one of the best singers we've ever had, especially in pop, and well, because his music is such a big part of my life, to paraphrase him, he's just another part of me.