Opinion

'Do You Remember the Time?' Michael Jackson died nine years ago

In this Feb. 24, 1988 file photo, Michael Jackson leans, points and sings, dances and struts during the opening performance of his 13-city U.S. tour, in Kansas City, Mo. The Recording Industry Association of America announced Dec. 16, 2015, that the singer was the first artist to attain 30-time multi-platinum status after his "Thriller" album sold 30 million copies in the U.S. since its release in 1982. (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa, File)
In this Feb. 24, 1988 file photo, Michael Jackson leans, points and sings, dances and struts during the opening performance of his 13-city U.S. tour, in Kansas City, Mo. The Recording Industry Association of America announced Dec. 16, 2015, that the singer was the first artist to attain 30-time multi-platinum status after his "Thriller" album sold 30 million copies in the U.S. since its release in 1982. (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa, File)

Did you ever think that we would be blessed with an octogenarian Michael Jackson? Did you fantasize that one day he might be your neighbor at a retirement or nursing home?

He died June 25, 2009, at age 50. He was human.

I imagined him in later life as a sage, retiring in my beautiful Onicha- Ugbo hometown in Nigeria, as the head of my village. I would have the privilege of attending village meetings and watching him, blessed, as he broke kola-nuts and toasted the earth with palm wine.

You might not have been privileged to watch him moonwalk, challenging human physicality. He came, he "Rocked My World." No matter where your world was, he was "Gone Too Soon." The world held onto the faith that this American whiz kid from Gary, Indiana, was not dead.

Like Elvis Presley, Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

It still feels like yesterday.

Michael Jackson was one of a few: everyone felt he belonged to them. In whatever ways we chose to separate ourselves from his strangeness, he always found passages to overcome. We expected more from him than he could manifest. I will not gloat in his demise because we are a lesser culture by his loss.

The body bag containing his remains was wheeled out, live on television, from the perched helicopter into a van headed for the coroner's office for autopsy. He came with nothing; when he expired, he left us with catalogs of inestimable music and creative values.

Whether we were “Black or White," as concert goers, we witnessed his intense artistic and creative inventions. We sat back and enjoyed the results of those preparations, especially when he called us to "Leave your nine to five jobs on the shelves and enjoy yourselves. Let the madness in the music get to you, life ain't bad at all."

He sacrificed his childhood for the universe. Do "You Remember The Time" he gyrated as a child in that famous Motown black and white studio video, capturing the innocence of an icon as he imitated the dance routines of his idols: Jackie Wilson and James Brown?

Or when he ascended from BBC studios as a 21-year old, dressed in a black velvet suit with a bow tie, smiling and commanding us to "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough," or his defining moment when he moon-walked and for brief seconds, suspended our breath with a legendary sliding dance steps at the Motown 25th anniversary.

These were memorable performances by Michael Jackson, gifts that engaged and enchanted us and would continue to remind us that, Michael, "You're just another part of me".

As Africa faced famine of the Eighties, Michael gloved his palm, assembled the best performers and led a massive humanitarian effort to eradicate hunger in Ethiopia and other poor nations because "We are the ones that make a brighter day, so let's start giving." The world massively responded to that call to action through the power of his music, his emotional and passionate pleas.

Soon after, the negative reports about his sexuality, financial and legal problems resurfaced: He begged us to "Leave Me Alone" and just "Beat It."

Two summers after his death, I saw a beautiful video of Michael Jackson being a dad to his children on TV: a very powerful moment.

Nine years still, the troubles of this great entertainer continue. Why don't we give him the peace and respect that he earned and "Keep It in The Closet."

Every June, the world pauses in remembrance. As we celebrate his music, I thank MJ for being a "Thriller," for making "History" and bouncing our sorrows "Off The Wall." Thanks for being beautifully "Bad," for reminding us that "We Are The World" and wanting us "Back" while encouraging those on planet earth to "Heal The World."

Thank you for teaching us the ABCs and 123s of one love. You were never "Dangerous" to us. You were and will forever remain our "Man in the Mirror."

Azuka Jebose Molokwu is a writer and freelance journalist. He lives in Raleigh.

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