It's become cliché to say at this point but a part of me died yesterday. Over the past 24 hours, I've been reflecting on how important music is in my life. How it provides inspiration. How it provides education. It's amazing how songs have the power to change one's perspective or mood - how often has a stroke of lyrical genius revolutionized a generation? Or, on a more personal level, how often has loneliness crept into our hearts, only to be banished by a distant voice coming out of the radio offering reassurance (or perhaps reason)? How often are our greatest memories defined by the soundtrack of our times?
As I mentioned previously, some of my earliest memories involve Michael Jackson. He was the first entertainer I appreciated without bias from peers. His music moved me...literally. I can vividly recall my 3-year-old self dancing around the living room to the truly epic "Thriller" LP. Even though I had two left feet, I desperately attempted to mimic every move from the "Beat It" video. I never did master its choreography, but I can muster a passable moonwalk. Maybe. Its success is dependent on wind direction, time of day and whether or not I ate an egg for breakfast.
As his curious personal life became increasingly scandalous (overshadowing any musical output), Michael's influence on my CD collection waned. His sister Janet became the person I fashioned myself after. Regardless, I remember the buzz my classmates and I had after the 1993 Oprah interview. We finally were granted a glimpse inside well-fabled Neverland - The rides! The games!! The llamas!!! It was glorious and it was all we could talk about for a month. Juxtaposed to his 2003 interview with Martin Bashir, the decline of health and wealth is absolutely heartbreaking.
I took my dog for a walk today and Michael's music blared from nearly every vehicle driving past. Then I came home and watched as thousands of people gathered at makeshift memorials while singing and dancing to those same tunes. It's made me realize that music is not simply an extension of language, but rather something entirely separate from it. It is biologically tied to a primal need for community. And within these songs, these silly little pop songs, a lot of us found that. I did. The unity with which I observe people celebrating Michael's life proves that pop culture is not low-brow. What other form of artistry can unite people on such a mass scale, regardless of colour, culture or creed? Music is the thread that makes people come together.