I hit the road for Detroit at 7pm on Thursday. Not knowing whether I could make the trip solo (i.e. without another adult driving) I sent a shout out to both Twitter and Facebook, looking for virtual road dogs.
I read someone twitter “MJ RIP.”
I knew he wasn’t talking about Jordan, not even Johnson. And I refused to believe. Went to NYT.com and even though they hadn’t reported it yet…they had reported that he went into cardiac arrest. Before I left for Detroit it was confirmed.
Stopped by the gas station to get gas. A black brother about my age was pumping gas. Asked if he’d heard. Of course he had. His mother called him.
It wasn’t until today that it really caught up with me. I was listening to a two-hour Michael Jackson house mix on handzonradio…and at the end they just played a few tracks. When “I’ll Be There” came on I lost it. Cried like a baby. Over the past several years it was clear that Jackson had become something else, something ethereal, something ghost like. Someone–maybe Nelson George?–said that by the end Jackson looked more animé than he did human. One of my white friends noticed that most of us skirted around the child molestation charges. And yet someone else noted that he was probably worth more dead than alive, given the new interest in his past work.
They are all correct. And they all–well, probably not George–miss the point.
Michael Jackson was a harbinger. He more than any other figure foretold the future even as he burned himself into our past. He foretold the rise of the music video. Foretold the erasure of “white” pop music charts. Foretold the rise of body modification (this one is coming, isn’t quite here yet). As far as I’m concerned there is him, Prince, and everyone else. Losing him is like losing the soundtrack for the post-civil rights years of the 20th Century. I thought he’d live a day short of forever.
A dear friend asked me if I was going to write something. I told her that I didn’t have the words. That tears would have to suffice.
That sounds about right.