Tag Archives: tribute

What Are Your Michael Jackson Memories?

28 Jun

Amidst the very unclear and devastating tragedy of Michael Jackson’s death, what is clear is how many people’s lives he touched through his music and performing and very being, in both obvious and more subtle ways.  The past few days as I walked down the streets of  Brooklyn, I’ve passed cars with his music blaring through their windows like a time capsule of the 70’s and 80’s.  I’ve been surprised when I’ve turned on the radio and his music was not playing, as since Thursday it feels like the whole world is united in listening to Michael Jackson together.

Among my friends and I’ve noticed memories surface, memories of listening to his music throughout our lives.  His songs were not just songs in a vacuum at a certain moment that then evaporated and disappeared; his music is tied to our memories, feelings, stories, and so much more.

I remember…

-Listening to the Thriller album on my plastic Fisher Price record player when I was 7 or 8 years old, sitting on the floor in my living room as the record spun, the album cover nearby, playing the record straight through, from first song to last.

-Being 8 years old, the summer before I turned 9, visiting my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mark in Cleveland, OH.  I was tan and my short feathered hair (before my hair turned curly), was parted in the middle and flopped open.  I think I was wearing a turquoise cotton sundress, and one large single cooking mitt to simulate Michael’s single sequined glove, and, performing for the audience of my family, I had just done a moonwalk and spun around and threw up my kitchen mitted-hand into the air when someone snapped a photo.

-When my parents got divorced, my Dad moved into a small apartment a few towns away that sat at the entrance of a dead-end alley.  My sister and I would go there every other weekend, and sometimes we would visit my Dad’s neighbor Nancy, who lived a big old run down house at the end of the alley.  She was in her early 40’s and the youngest grandmother I had ever met, we’d play Parcheesi and she had a huge record collection filled with albums like old classic Billy Joel, and The Jackson Five, and I associate her house and Parcheesi with the first time I ever heard “ABC.”

-Being planted in front of the television in my wood-paneled family room watching the video for “Say Say Say” on network television, back when they used to play videos on network TV, riveted by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney driving away on the back of a truck, and Michael Jackson’s tearful clown make-up…

-My seventh grade class trip to Washington, D.C. I associate with the song “Man in the Mirror.”  I had the cassette tape of “Bad,” so maybe I listened to it on a walkman on the bus ride down.  I remember the first sense of freedom, four 7th grade girls staying in our very own hotel room, and there was even a telephone in the bathroom, and we went sightseeing, and to a mall, and on a boat cruise, and stayed up late talking to boys, one of us from the phone in the bedroom and someone else on the phone in the bathroom, and there was always the possibility that a cute 7th grade boy you had a crush on, or wanted to practice flirting with, would knock on your door to say hi.

-Junior year of high school, my friends and I going over to Chip’s house to watch the television premiere of the “Black or White” video.

-The summer after I graduated from high school, my best friend Zoe and I cocktail waitressed at The Chart House.  The restaurant played the same official restaurant soundtrack over and over again, and one of the songs on it was “Wanna Be Starting Something,” and I remember being giddy and delirious after a 10 or 12 hour shift of working outside on the patio in the blazing summer sun, cleaning up and stacking cocktail trays and packing table tents away in bus bins, when that song would come on and we would dance, standing up tall to “It’s too high to get over, Yeah, Yeah” and ducking down low for “Too low to get under, Yeah, Yeah.”

-Being in acting school after college, getting there early in the morning and bringing in cds and blasting them on the boom box in the classroom, some of us launching out of our chairs that were lined up in rows to have a dance party before our first class started, before 9am.  Dancing and moving to have fun, and release some anxiety before an angsty day of difficult classes, and somehow those early morning dance parties helped get me in a happier and lighter mood, where I could feel more in control, and maybe deal with the criticism that was to come a little better.  Dancing to The Jackson Five, “ABC,” or “I Want You Back,” and feeling that burst of energy and joy that music can bring.

Michael Jackson’s life ended too soon, and tragically, and seemed to be characterized by an unknowable…something… sadness or loneliness or trouble or torment…  But for everyone who has lived in the past 40 years, his life reached out and touched all of ours.  We all have our own different Michael Jackson memories but we are all connected in that we all have them – memories, feelings, and stories we associate with him and his music – and we were all affected at different times, at different ages, in different places, and at different moments, by his music, and his presence in this world.

So, in honor of Michael Jackson’s life, and the ways in which he was a part of our lives, for the inspiration he provided, for his music and dancing that brought people glimpses of joy and upliftment and connection, for his passion and drive and dedication and creativity, and for all that he created…

What feelings and stories do you remember?  What friends and family and people and places and times and ages do his songs make you think of?  What are your Michael Jackson memories, where are those pieces of your life when his music was playing along, creating the soundtrack of your stories?

“And my goal in life is to give the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and dance.”  – Michael Jackson

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam