Rest in peace, moonwalker.
On the day when an iconic part of music died, I dug out Off The Wall and Thriller from my record stash, cued them up and listened for hours – something I had not done for years.
And I marveled at the purity and joy of the music created and delivered by young Michael Jackson back then.
Those were exuberant days for MJ. His music blended R&B hooks, clever pop, daring rhythms, emotional and extraordinarily beautiful singing, funk, disco and rock, and yet all of that delivered free of schmaltz.
I wore out my cassette tapes of those two albums while listening to them constantly over my dad’s old Philips receiver boombox at home. I bought the records later, and then replaced them with ceedees. But those were the only two MJ albums I’ve ever bought. His later albums, from Bad onwards, had – to me – lost the addictive grooves, joyfulness and sense of whimsy that made MJ so endearing.
It has been saddening, over the years, to see the bizarre circus that has become the life of a one-of-a-kind talent whose music brought joy to so many. I treasure MJ’s music and it has been one of those few markers that would immediately transport me back to the pleasantness of my primary and secondary school days.
The first MJ track I heard was One Day in Your Life, from his 1975 album Forever, Michael. What a sweet track that was. Then I discovered Off The Wall and lapped up the electrifying Jackson-penned Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough, and also the haunting She’s Out of My Life. Off The Wall remains my favourite MJ album, followed by Thriller.
Thriller is perhaps the last joyful album by Jackson.
Chroniclers will write about the amazing run of number one hits, the moonwalk, a world-record 750 million records sold, the nose job and a life spent trying to recreate a lost childhood. For those who loved his music, the indelible memory will be one of happiness that his music had brought us.
ps: there have been so far many performance tributes to MJ all over the world and in cyberspace. But I thought this old YouTube post, of young Sungha Jung playing Billie Jean, would make a great reminder of how timeless and beautiful MJ’s music was and how it continues to relate to the newer generation.