On June 25th, 2009, you died. Like millions of fans across the world, I watched with baited breath after the news announcement that you had been taken to the hospital in cardiac arrest. I cried as thousands cried, mourning collectively together across the country and the globe when the announcement came that you had passed away. Lay lines of pain, connected only by eyes on the screen or words on the Internet, as celebrities and reporters gave their tributes and countless fans stepped forward to join a collective shout of “Why?”
One year later, we still haven’t been given a definitive answer. At the end of the day, the cause of your death is irrelevant; when you died, you took a spark of life with you which had been an inspiration for millions for decades. Your music touched so many of us on a deep, personal level that it was like losing a friend. Worse-we lost an icon, and the world lost one more person willing to stand up and tell everyone that what we’re doing to the planet, to each other, to ourselves is wrong. Even more than the loss of you as a person, Michael, I mourn the loss of you as a source of hope and change. You did everything but scream at the top of your lungs that we should wake up, and change; I am grateful that “Man in the Mirror” became the soundtrack of your death-a perfect example of the lessons you were here to teach us. “Gonna make a change/for once in my life/It’s gonna feel free good/gonna make a difference/gonna make it right.”
Suddenly, you were MJ again-beloved, respected-not the phantom stranger, whom the media taunted, ridiculed and persecuted. Fans that turned their back on you, during your most dire hours of need, were suddenly at the forefront claiming you had changed their lives and they would miss you. Even Madonna, a superstar who shared the spotlight with you throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, came forward in a tribute on MTV to admit she had abandoned you. I was so thankful that Madonna had the courage to stand up, and scold everyone for forgetting how wonderful you were, and that above all else you were a human being who deserved love and respect. “There is no question that Michael Jackson is one of the greatest talents the world as ever known,” she said to the audience and the world who watched with sad hearts and an absolute hunger for any mention of you in their grief. “Michael Jackson was a hero.”
During a scandal, people like to forget that the person on trial-whether in court or among the restless mob-is still someone’s brother, son, friend. After your death, your family came forward to remind everyone of these facets of your life; at the tribute celebration, the speeches made by your previous unseen and unknown children were some of the most potent, heartbreaking moments my generation will remember about Michael Jackson. For some, they will only remember you as a celebrity surrounded by speculation and scandal, because we were too young to truly experience the King of Pop in your glory days. I am still, to this day, so angry that the world turned their back on you, Michael, as though you existed to amuse and entertain us without anyone wanting to admit that we needed you. The witch hunt began, and it was just too inconvenient or questionable to stand by your side, and so we abandoned you. While I never believed the claims, and I never stopped admitting my love for your music, I should have been one of the fans to reach out and say that much louder that it was wrong.
But I will remember, and mourn, the man who introduced me to a love of music which has infused my life with so much enjoyment. I was four years old the first time I saw you, Michael; I came into the living room to find my family watching “Smooth Criminal,” and while I do not remember their comments and critiques I do remember that I was spellbound. That Christmas, I received my first cassette tape: Your Dangerous album. Although it wasn’t as”cool,” or “hip” anymore to tell everyone that Michael Jackson was your favorite musician, I did. When the news of your death broke, several friends and relatives contacted me, knowing I would be devastated by the news; I was.
I was one of millions to cry, watching the story of your passing and your life unfold over a few agonizing days when the world stopped to pay attention to the son they had forgotten. I longed to travel to the Apollo Theatre in New York, and join the throes of fans flocking to mourn together. United by a common pain, which spanned race, religion, age, class and station; once again, Michael, you managed to erase the lines which separate us as humans, imposed by society, ignorance and hate–thank you for once again reminding people that anyone anywhere can share the same experience with you, the same grief, anguish and anger over a star gone from the sky.
The week following your death was full of your music, Michael, and I dare say that the amazing amount of media coverage and celebrity tributes can be attributed to introducing your music to a whole new generation. Suddenly, it was “cool” and “hip” to love Michael Jackson again; another generation of children who will never say “who?” Not that I ever expected you to be forgotten; no one who reshaped the face of music and forced everyone to pay more attention to the music and less about the color of each other’s skin will ever be forgotten. Once again, I remembered how music was once a hallmark of my life, a constant soundtrack being played during each of the events to better remember them for a lifetime–again, Michael, you gave me the music.There will never be another like you, Michael, and is with great sadness that I accept that the world which turned its back on you will forever suffer the loss of your genius, your talent, and your humanitarianism. While I am sure you have gone on to a better place, our planet is that much colder, that much more hopeless without your voice for change. We will never again have the gift of your music, Michael, and over time more people will realize the loss of you that we all share. My lingering hope is that the overwhelming sadness at your death will encourage people to make the change you begged us to make for decades.
I am going to make a change. I won’t forget the music, Michael, and I won’t forget you.
Forever Your Fan,
MTV, “Madonna Pays Tribute to Michael Jackson”