When I was eleven, I treasured nothing more than my Farrah poster and my Off the Wall LP. Each spawned an awakening in me. It’s hard to articulate just how beautiful Farrah seemed then; if you made a movie of my memory, you’d have to represent her face as a luminous glow, a physical form that could not be replicated or represented. I didn’t know much about women then, but she made me certain that I wanted to be near them. Farrah filled me with a wonder that is reserved for the young.
Michael simply filled me with awe. I had known him since I knew anything. When I first discovered music, he was still fronting the Jackson Five, and he was the most electrifying thing I’d ever seen. To watch him tear into “The Love You Save” on Flip Wilson’s show was to understand that music had mystical, magical powers. It was alchemy and electricity. It was the power of possibility. At a time when we were still visiting the moon, I’d watch astronauts and Michael Jackson with equal slack-jawed amazement, in wide-eyed wonder that mankind could do that.
That Michael Jackson vanished twenty years ago or more. The damaged shell that walked around that past couple of decades bore no resemblance to the force of nature that came before. In 1983, during the Motown 25th anniversary show, an entire nation gasped and cheered, held riveted while he performed “Billie Jean.” And he was lip-synching. Dressed like Sgt. Pepper, he was the new Elvis, able to move the earth with the tiniest twitch.
Michael Jackson-Billie Jean-Motown 25 live
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What followed was a sad descent to madness, interrupted by occasional flashes of brilliance. But no matter how weird it got – and it got really, really, uncomfortably weird – the memory of what he once was remained. The big afro and million-watt smile are frozen in time. That Michael Jackson never grew up, never got old. That Michael never left Neverland.