During the time of this writing (June 24), eight years ago tonight, Michael Jackson was in Los Angeles California, hard at work for rehearsal for his upcoming 50 concerts at London’s O2 arena scheduled for July of 2009. Michael Jackson and the rest of the world was going through another day. In 2009, the nation was still deep in the Great Recession and the job market was still hemorrhaging jobs. None of us and not even Michael Jackson could know that his time on this pane of existence was about to end, leaving a massive hole in the lives of billions across the world and in the music industry that still resonates to this day. This article is to remember Michael Jackson and how his death affected me as a person. I feel it to be fit to keep this article personal because I grew up listening, imitating and giving an almost obsessive loyalty to a man I didn’t know personally, even through his darkest of times.
June 25, 2009 was a day that began with the news that Farah Fawcett had lost her battle with cancer and my then boyfriend put on a shirt with her image on it and he let me borrow another shirt of his with her likeness on it. We went out to eat and came back home and not too long after there was a “Breaking News” story on CNN saying that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital in full cardiac arrest. When the news came that Michael Jackson had died, my brain couldn’t comprehend the news. This man had been the staple of my life for 31 years at the time and I’ve never known life without knowing that he was somewhere on this planet living his life and hopefully making music that the world would be blessed to hear.
With the news that Michael Jackson had died, the world stopped. I mean the news cycles stopped, radio stations stopped and took time to remind us why Michael Jackson was as popular as he was by playing his hits (which was rare to hear his music on mainstream radio at the time). To give an example of how huge the passing of this one man was, for those of you who were too young to remember, the two wars America was in became the news that were scrolled at the bottom of the screen if you were watching CNN Headline News or CNN. The shocking death of Michael Jackson made other news stories secondary and Michael’s death remained THE news story for well over a week after his passing.
It was well known that Michael had problems with addiction that some said that started back when Michael suffered second and third degree burns during the filming of a Pepsi commercial on January 27, 1984.
I remember growing up hearing jokes about this accident. It wasn’t until the day after Michael Jackson’s death did video of the accident was leaked to US Weekly. Watching what happened was a horrific and grotesque. Michael could have been killed, but fortunately he wasn’t more seriously hurt. After the accident, Michael had surgery to reduce the bald spot. I don’t think any of us knew just how severe the burn was except for Michael and those who were there on the scene to help him. It was after this accident that Michael first took pain medication. I can’t imagine, nor do I ever want to experience what it feels like to have my scalp burned as badly as he was.
The Pepsi accident made headlines and the commercial that he was working on premiered on MTV during an awards show. I remember watching the commercial on television and being excited every time it came on. Knowing what I know now, I definitely don’t view the commercial the same way anymore. Michael was in a league of his own and many of us didn’t view him as a human being, but something like an alien. No one knew the man, but only what the media had concocted and that was something that was not even close to the man his family and children knew.
Michael Jackson left us with a trove of hits and anthems that all of us could relate to. He was an advocate for the planet and he cared deeply about how we’ve treated the only planet we have. I’ve learned through the trial of the doctor who contributed to his untimely death, that on June 24, 2009, Michael’s last song he sang was “Earth Song”. In a way, I think it is kind of poetic justice because it was one of his favorite songs and it was a plea to take care of the Earth. Michael was also an advocate and activist for people living with HIV and AIDS, an LGBTQ ally and cared deeply for children who suffer with poverty or illness. Please take time to watch “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”. What Michael was working on would have been something audiences would have been amazed by. Rediscover or discover the talent that many we were blessed to have walk among us but was taken too soon. I can’t imagine how Michael would think about how things are today, but the songs he left behind, or his anthems will give us clues. In my opinions, it is his songs that touch on social and climate issues that are his true gems. Here are my top 4 anthems that Michael Jackson has blessed us with.