He was the little guy with the big voice. When he and his fraternal band mates debuted nationally on the Ed Sullivan Show on December 14, 1969, the audience and indeed the world had no idea what was in store for them.
View the clip below to see the moment the "Jackson 5" became a household word in America.
As the video above attests, Michael Jackson was far more than a performer. Even at the tender age of 11, he was the quintessential entertainer, eclipsing many who came before and inspiring many who would come after. If you doubt the latter, examine the dance moves of Usher, Chris Brown, Omarion, NeYo, Justin Timberlake, and even a few songs from female performers Destiny’s Child, Rhianna, and SWV – to name a few. Micheal Jackson’s influence was widespread.
As an entertainer, he belonged to the world. But as a man, he was fiercely (and understandably) private. Throughout his lifetime, he would experience the love of fans, the ridicule of the press, and the support and care of his family. He was a study in contradictions. He was a black man, who appeared physically to be white. A man who loved children, and who possessed a child-like demeanor, he was an accused pedophile. He entertained and was worshiped by millions the world over, but was a lonely soul. Having earned millions, from multi-platinum record sales and sold out concert tours, he was rumored to be broke at the time of his death. An avid shopper (he once spent millions on-camera in Las Vegas during the infamous 2003 “mock-umentary,” Living With Michael Jackson, with the now-hated Martin Bashir), he is reportedly listed in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the record holder for the “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star.” Estranged in latter years from his own father, he lavished affection upon and jealously guarded the privacy of his own four children, never publicly revealing the identity of his oldest son, Omer Bhatti.
Whatever faults we may have been able to find with Michael Jackson, there are many lessons we can all learn from his life and death:
- Money cannot buy love, peace, or joy.
- Your true family will always accept you.
- Words not only hurt, they hobble (Two words: “potato nose”).
- While you’re alive, your faults are amplified and virtues largely ignored. In death the reverse is often true.
- Fans are fickle.
- The media is to be pimped, never befriended (One name: Martin Bashir)
- Everyone leaves a legacy.
- Adversity can make you or break you.
- Share your life with people you can trust.
- Every human soul aches to be loved, accepted, and understood.
- After you’re gone, the most important things you leave behind are those you loved, those you helped, and what you created.
Why did we love Michael Jackson? We loved him because for all the plastic surgery, the accusations, the non-normative behavior, and his iconic status, he was that little guy in the video above, who was part of the big family from Gary, Indiana. He was someone’s son, someone’s brother, and someone’s father. In him we saw our own hopes for greatness as well as our own vulnerability. We saw a man reach for the stars, who now rests in a grave. Michael Jackson exemplified the human condition. We loved him because he was one of us.
Whatever your opinion of him, you had one. And one way or another, your life was affected because he walked this earth.
Be blessed, Family.
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