RIP Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

Pete’s Thoughts

My first memory of seeing Michael Jackson was May of 1983. I was 12 years old, and a 7th grader at Jerstad Junior High in Racine, Wisconsin. My drama teacher, Mrs. Mottl, wheeled in a TV and VCR one day, excited to show the class a video of Michael Jackson dancing and singing on the ‘Motown 25’ television special. It had aired just a night or two before (May 16, 1983).

The whole class sat awestruck as we watched Michael kick, dip, glide and stride across the stage – and of course – watching him moonwalk across a stage for the very first time. It was a defining moment in his already storied career, and certainly the same for those watching him. Michael was truly one of a kind, the ultimate performer, and I am very much saddened tonight as I write this.

It’s not that I’ve been a huge fan of Michael Jackson (as a lot of you know, I’ve spent most of my life obsessed with the music of Prince). But I always enjoyed his music, and admired his showmanship, and the undeniable force and presence he was in popular music.

Michael Jackson, to people my age, is our Elvis. He’s our John Lennon. His impact on the world of entertainment and popular culture is certainly on a par with Elvis and John. We grew up with him.

Yes, Michael had his problems. The last 10-15 years of Michael’s life were filled with tragedy, bizarre behavior, and deplorable accusations.  But tonight, I think back to Michael Jackson the entertainer – the amazing young talent moonwalking across that Motown 25 stage.

I’m still numb, like a lot of you. It doesn’t seem real, does it? It’s hard to even fathom right now that Michael Jackson is no longer with us in this life.

Truly a dark day. May you rest in peace, Michael.

Michael’s Thoughts:

It’s hours later and I’m still a bit stunned. Rather than write the words that will be written over and over in the coming weeks and months, I will say that the Michael I will choose to remember is the man that brought us all joy through his music, his dance, his passion and his desire to leave the world a little bit better than he came into it. I will celebrate his work and his legacy. Pray for his children and his family as they weather the days ahead. Celebrate his life and legacy… dance and sing, not out of sadness, but in honor of all the good he brought this world.

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

Kanye’s updated Billie Jean

For the 25th anniversary of Thriller, the reissued CDincludes some contemporary versions by the likes of the ubiquitous, overrated and overhyped, Fergie, Akon, and Kanye West. Ol’ Kanye offers up “Billie Jean 2008”. After hearing it, all I have to say is: “Wow!” Like, “Wow, what a piece of shit!” Adding a signature Kanye beat and uttering a couple of “Uh Uh”s is talent? They thought this would enhance the reissue of one of the greatest albums in music history? Not to these ears.

It made me think of the Live Earth performance where Kanye joined the Police for “Message in a Bottle”. It made me think of the awards show (AMA’s or Grammys?) where Jay-Z barked in on Paul McCartney & Linkin Park singing “Yesterday”.

Maybe it’s cross-genre synergy they’re shooting for, but it does nothing to showcase the talents of a good rapper / MC. Watch these, and tell me, does screaming “Yeah” and “Uh Huh” over  otherwise great tracks enhance them in any way? Are there really people out there who hear & see these who think to themselves: “Woww, Kanye/Jay-Z is a genius, man!!”

I don’t get it.

“Billie Jean 2008” (Kanye West Remix)