In his death, the King of Pop has returned to where he loved to be; on the pinnacle of popularity charts, making headlines, making people cry, laugh, dance or just get plain hypnotized by his presence.
Now, of course it’s for his sudden absence that the world is not just hypnotized, it is shocked beyond belief.
Today I can’t imagine leaving my comfortable sofa and jumping up and down in casual dance jives, what with my desk job; but there was a time when not just I, but everyone else, wanted to thrust the pelvic in a way that only MJ could.
I wanted to grow up to be Michael Jackson.
It was not his songs that ruled the charts, not his millions of records, not even his dancing that kept generations hooked on to ‘Billie Jean’- Michael turned out to be the essential pop act that gave shape to the music of the century.
Nobody knows if he realized the same when his first four albums ("I Want You Back", "ABC", &q
uot;The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There") created a history of sorts by topping the charts, but what Michael did can be safely said to have shown a beacon to many others - Timberlake, Britney, Usher etc.- to sing and dance their way to our hearts.
That he was not just an entertainer, but a clever businessman can not be missed out. The best thing was, he combined the art and commerce in a way that thrilled us all. His ‘Thriller’ album single-handedly launched the pop video era, leading the MTV to be once called Michael TV. That was also the time that he broke the race barrier.
People could see he was Black, but his aura was too bright to be resisted. It’s the way he made us feel about his work.
For me, Jackson became the icon that he was- since this morning I have been thinking Michael defined the word icon and not the other way round- when he splay-footed with people of various cultures- I always waited for the scene where he did a Bharatnatyam step with an Indian girl. That was a thriller.
His high-pitched singing, punctuated with squeals and titters, hiccups and screaming made for a audio treat in itself i.e. of course, if you could take your eyes off his legendary backward-gliding moonwalk. It’s unbelievable how choreographers and laymen attempt that gravity defying step till date- and are unable to come near it.
The legend that Michael was became a reality for me when he came to Mumbai on HIStory world Tour in 1996. The dailies were splashed with the pictures of Sonali Bendre welcoming him in the traditional Indian style and the buzz was that he was going to do something spectacular as his equipment was flown in three Russian cargo planes. Sort of- he emerged from a space capsule to the cheer of thousands.
And it would be unbelievable to remember that Shiv Sena organized that concert. Bal Thackeray may hate western culture but he sure loved MJ’s dancing. He is reported to have said, “'Jackson is a great artist… Not many people can dance that way. You will end up breaking your bones.” Right. Even the moves of his men are quite bone breaking- lessons learnt in 1996, I guess.
There in lay the charm of the singer: he was looked at in awe by everyone who knew there is a thing called TV or radio or newspaper etc. From Bal Thackeray to Viswanathan Anand to Farah Khan, all were starry eyed before MJ. Farah has gone on to say that he was her unofficial guru. “Whatever I learnt was from watching Michael Jackson by watching his videos, especially 'Thriller' over and over again,” she said on learning of his sudden demise.
His India trip made all the difference for my generation. It was akin to the Beatles spiritual sojourn to Rishikesh. Jackson’s trip was much better- he showed what he had got and touched so many hearts when a message written by lipstick was found in his hotel room’s mirror and pillow covers that he used. “I love India” he wrote if I remember correctly.
That the man’s life was anything but black and white and that it had a heavy tinge of grey makes little difference for his fans who love his genius. In his death, he is set to emerge as a bigger personality with the world mourning the passing of the legend.
In the end the sleeping in the oxygen chamber or taking hormones didn’t help nor did his skin’s color make a difference. As a shocked fan in a New York street said, “I thought he could never have died- he was one of those really.”
Surely, I couldn’t have imagined the man would just die like that and it still has not sunk in. But one thing is for sure, Michael will continue to egg me to relive that humid evening when I burst into dancing on a Telugu song in a public park in Visakapatnam, trying to show-off that could move my arse like Michael Jackson too. I certainly didn’t- but got a lot of applause from some people who had gathered around.
This is it, then- Michael Jackson was the showman of our times. And I have little doubt that the show will go on, but will miss him.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)