The crowd waited in anticipation as the performer headed to the stage. His signature flooded jeans, white socks, and loafers made their way up the steps onto the platform. He turned his back to the audience, pulled down on his one white glove, and tilted his head down grabbing the end of his hat, striking his signature “starting” pose. As the rhythmic beat of that familiar drum base began, the crowd went wild as they knew they were in for a dancing treat. The hips moved, the legs kicked, and the screams from the audience increased. The show was on!
No, I’m not describing the historic 25th Anniversary Motown Celebration where pop icon Michael Jackson did his thing to his #1 hit “Billie Jean.” What I described was MY performance, as a sophomore in high school, at an annual YMCA Youth and Government talent show. Yes, I too was a Michael Jackson fan (atic). I had the one white glove, the shades, the flooded jeans with white socks and penny loafers. I could do the Moon Walk and I knew the Thriller choreography by heart. MJ’s album Thriller was more than just a collection of songs. It was a collection of hit after hit after hit. Every one them was great. It’s no wonder it still is the best selling album of all time.
Last Thursday, on June 25, the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” went into cardiac arrest and a few hours later was pronounced dead. He was only 50. Yet, despite his fame and fortune, Michael lived a troubled life. Alleged paternal abuses as a kid (physical and emotional); low self-esteem; his strange antics as an “adult” (I use quotes because despite being 50, Michael hardly ever came across as an adult). And let’s not forget the pedophile accusations (for which he was acquitted). Oh, and how ’bout the many faces of MJ (I think Thriller was the last “face” that was the most “normal.”) It’s safe to say, he was troubled.
But are you really surprised? From the age of about four until his death this week, he lived in the public eye. Imagine what kind of pressure that could put on a person. He NEVER had a normal childhood. Could that be why as an adult he was so attracted to hanging out with children.
As I look back on his life, I can’t help but think about the fictional character Charles Foster Kane, whose last word “Rosebud” was the impetus for the story in the film. ***Citizen Kane SPOILER ALERT*** (Of course, announcing a spoiler for Citizen Kane is kind of like announcing a spoiler for the big reveal in “Psycho.” If you haven’t seen it by now, you deserve no warning.) Anyway, we find in the end that “Rosebud” represents the lost childhood of Kane. I can’t help but wonder if on Michael’s death bed, there wasn’t some long lost toy or friend that called to his mind his lost innocence. (Ben, are you there?)
LIVE LIFE WITH PURPOSE AND PROPER PERSPECTIVE
I think the tragic, unexpected death of Michael Jackson is proof positive that fame and fortune are no guarantee for happiness. The man literally had the world at his finger tips. He was arguably the most famous person on the planet. Yet, lived a very sad and disturbed life.
As you go through your life, reaching for those riches, busting your butt to be the next great whatever, I hope you keep it all in perspective. I hope you remember that life is fleeting. That every day is truly a gift. That no matter how much fame, fortune, or Facebook friends you wrack up, it’s all meaningless without proper perspective about what’s truly important in life. Family. REAL friends. Your health. Doing what you do because there’s a greater purpose behind it. Yes, economic times are hard. Yes, we all wish we had just a little bit more. But when I see the life and times of a man like Michael Jackson, as much as I wanted to be him when I was a kid in high school, I thank God I am just me. Ron Dawson. Husband. Father. Friend. Those are all the riches I need.
Rest in peace Michael.