Who can forget a phalanx of choreographed ghouls, eyes agog and backbones flipping to the beat? That was “Thriller.”
The memories come fast and fabulous of Michael Jackson, the man behind the video, the dance, the beat, the lyrics, the glistening silver glove. It’s like thumbing through the veritable Rolodex of Pop, rife with energy, cunning and diabolical joy of the best kind.
There was jaunty little Michael from Gary, Indiana, in 1972, upstaging his older brothers as he sung of ABCs and schoolyard crushes precisely on key, his moves bold for the audience who cheered him, for the cameras that chronicled his childhood.
And he grew up. Long of limb, his style emerging with a touch of magician and Jeri Curl, this longer-limbed Michael invented dance moves that seemed miraculous. There was Michael gliding through his signature Moonwalk. He was a dancing machine, a haunting and robotic hoofer to be reckoned with.
Michael, oh, Michael. The girls began to scream — and the young man moved to the stage, to the movies, interpreting the role of Scarecrow in “The Wiz.” And during some fantastic dance routine, on some distant day in 1979, he fell and broke his nose. It was the genesis of his lifelong obsession with plastic surgery and his looks.
But who cares?
The man had gifts to give, and give them he did, with a ferocious generosity that continued in great, spangled waves until his death. Consider the 1982 album “Thriller,” which stayed on the Billboard Top-10 for 80 consecutive weeks, the best-selling album of all time according to some sources, with 109 million copies sold.
But there was so much more to be done. The Grammys, the chart toppers, the crowds, the fans, the adulation. Michael Jackson won citings in the Guinness World Records for the sheer size of his audiences. And while rumors persisted over his eccentricities, hypochondria, anorexia nervosa, drug addiction and psychological abnormalities, there was one place in his body that was intact.
Michael Jackson had a big heart. Throughout his adult life, he gave money to people. Consider that he donated millions from his tours and recording profits to charity, earning him plaudits from President Reagan and a visit to the White House. He had empathy for those were not perfect, or who longed for simple contentment.
But even fabulous things can get old. They can get weird. Yes, this fixture of American culture had difficult years, but he has consistently roared back at those persistent telephoto cameras lenses seeking his imperfections, he doggedly returned to the dance studio. Michael Jackson was probably his own worst enemy, a poignant figure, a lonely soul. Shy.
Yet there are millions out there who wish they could have shared one little dance with the guy, and said, “Thanks. Thanks for the joy, Michael.”
But more importantly, Michael Jackson kept on making his art, doing his dance and spangling the decades with glittering, inimitable Jacksonian stuff. He survived long enough to make a legacy that is not just Pop. It’s Boom. It’s Crash.
And it’s fabulous.
So thanks, Michael.