He was good. He made us love the unfamiliar. And how. But….Who was he? What was he? We knew nothing but his name. And all songs (the few rather that we knew) were known more by their description of what happened in that particular song than by its name. The attempts to hum the tune to tell the other guy what song you were referring to were as much as the songs themselves. Lyrics were irrelevant, as we didn’t know or speak english. Track names, what’s that? All that mattered was that we were listening to “foreign music”. And having a ball of a time crowded around an old tape recorder, each trying to outdo another in his “understanding” of this weird and unfamiliar yet strangely alluring music. With their fast pace, their dancy tunes, their strange instrumentation and above all, that great voice.
I remember those futile but insanely funny attempts when a few of us school boys tried moonwalking and dancing after seeing MJ do it like only he can. With lots of loose flailing limbs and crotch grabbing in a manner only awkward adolescents can. There was no cable then, no youtube, no DVDs, but a rental Video Cassette (at 10 rupees per day) that we all pooled in with a rupee or two in to see what it was all about. I remember that video cassette also had “that song where the Michael walks on the footpath and the tiles become bright bright as he walks over them”. I clearly remember that day after we watched the video mostly because of all the bruised knuckles and painful fingers we inflicted on ourselves during PT class in a bad, misguided and pale (no-knife) imitation of the Bad video. Total fun. Lots of Iodex was used in many a classmate’s household that night.
In effect that I think is what this is about – it wasn’t just Michael Jackson who died today, but a small, if very significant part of me as well. A part of a childhood lived in a bygone era, unrecognizable today. So selfishly I mourn today as much for that part of me as much as for Michael Jackson. All the artifacts, the little cultural reference points, the shared experiences slowly eroded by death, and fading with the march of time leaving behind the detritus of nostalgia and echoes of the past.
All I can say is I’m glad I lived when I did. And given a choice to redo things, I would still choose to have Michael Jackson as my first tentative step into the world of foreign, western music.
Rest in peace Michael Jackson and do the moves again on the great dance floor in the sky.
Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.