I was 10 years old when Michael Jackson released Thriller. I was an awkward, sensitive kid who had trouble making friends and was always being teased. The class bully was the biggest and most vocal Michael Jackson fan in school. In my desperate attempt to be accepted by the girl who teased me more than anyone else, I became a Michael Jackson fan and made sure that everyone knew about it. Suddenly, the bullying stopped and I had made a new friend.
At that point in my life, I was too young to understand the importance of this record and Michael Jackson's contribution to pop music. Last year, when the 25th Anniversary edition of Thriller was released I didn't hesitate to download it even though I still have the original vinyl in my collection. The new edition came with lots of bonus footage including the Grammy Award performance from 1983 when he won 8 of the prestigious trophies for the Thriller album. What amazes me about this performance is that even though it was lip-synced, the audience went nuts. You never see people sitting in the first few rows at an award show standing up and dancing during a performance. Typically, this is where the artists and celebrities sit and they don't normally show that sort of enthusiasm at these types of things. But he was that engaging and charismatic on stage. And the music, was brilliant for its time. There was nothing else like it. At one point, you can even see the orchestra musicians getting into it, clapping and grooving along.
My guess is that few people really knew the person who was Michael Jackson. So much has been written about him in the press. His eccentricities, his troubled family, the allegations against him. We will never know what is true and what is fiction. But what I do know is that his music was a very important part of my growing up. That's what I choose to remember.
Thank you Michael. May you rest in peace.
ETA: Because I am an idiot, and went with my memory instead of doing research, I referenced the above video as being from the 1983 Grammy Awards. It's actually from the Motown 25 tv special from the same year. Oops. Thankfully, me error doesn't make the performance any less significant.