Originally Posted: January 31, 2013
It was June 25, 2009. It was a hot summer day in San Pablo, California. I was outside washing my mom’s car with headphones in, playing Owl City’s latest release. The summer-esque pop songs filled my ears and made a mundane chore a little more enjoyable. I don’t remember the exact song I was listening to, or even the exact album, but I remember hearing Adam Young’s voice coming out of my headphones when my mom broke the news to me. I walked in, after what I felt was a job well done, and saw my mom standing in the living room watching the news with her hand over her mouth. Without looking at the TV, I stared at my mom and wondered what was wrong. She looked and me and simply stated: “Michael Jackson died.” I absorbed the information, shrugged and said, “Wow.” Then I headed up to my room and continued listening to Owl City.
Now, I love Owl City, definitely one of my favorite artists. The optimistic, electronic sound is unlike many of my other favorites and it always helps to put me in a better mood. Owl City certainly helps to capture my current musical taste of 2009. But I also loved Michael Jackson. He was one of those classic artists that couldn’t be denied as a genius. I certainly have had debates on Owl City’s musical legitimacy, but never on Michael Jackson. He was understood as a musical legend. I grew up listening to him, but over years, I started to develop my own tastes in music, as opposed to carefully handling what had been passed down to me. This led to Motion City Soundtrack, Blink-182, Relient K, Switchfoot and bands that I felt spoke to me during my time and my life. I almost shamefully admit that MJ was not blasting on my iPod as frequently as he should have been.
One night after Michael’s death, my cousins and I were hanging out working on a puzzle together. Puzzles were our current fixation. We had the radio going because in the summer of 2009 the radio was tolerable. They played MJ nonstop, rightfully in his honor. It was also the night of his televised funeral. We watched, we puzzled and we listened. We all loved MJ, but I want to say that watching his funeral was more of a gesture to keep up with current events than it was a gesture of grief or anything else. We weren’t the crying fans you saw on TV that night. We were the, “Man, he was great wasn’t he?” fans. Later that night, long after the funeral and after the completion of the puzzle, everyone had gone to bed, except for me. I couldn’t sleep. I got up and walked over to my cousin’s computer, which was in the living room where we had just spent our night together. I hopped on and just instinctively googled “Michael Jackson.” I couldn’t get him out of my head. Not just his melodies, but Michael, himself. For hours, I scoured the Internet for every Michael Jackson music video, every legendary performance, every interview, everything I could get my hands on. Then, it all hit me.
I remembered my very first cassette tape. The very first piece of music that I owed, that was mine, all mine. I remember it being Michael Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1. It was a collection of his hits and new material. I had the best of both worlds in my Walkman. I remembered the performances I would put on in my diapers, in my living room. I would do the moonwalk and everything! His songs were fun and lively. His lyrics may have been too deep for me at the time but I always felt they were important. I started to realize how Michael Jackson played a massive role in my musical upbringing. He was the very first artist I remember listening to. One of his songs was probably the first song I ever listened to. Michael Jackson was the foundation of my musical history. In that moment, on the computer I felt I owed Michael everything. I wanted to thank him as my eyes began to tear up and I became one of those fans, even if only for a moment.
Today, I would consider myself an amateur musician. I play the guitar, the bass, the drums and a few other instruments. I love music. It plays a big part in my life and I do feel that I owe a part of that to the late Michael Jackson. His death helped me remember and appreciate my musical history and I’ll never forget it.