The way he made me feel

A week has passed and I have been reliving my childhood, feeling sad, happy and nostalgic. I did not want to write this and come off as just another person engulfed in the mania, but I write this post as a dedication to a man who almost defined my childhood. As soon as I penned this post, I came across a similar retrospective written by my cousin. He is at least 20 years older than me, and it is interesting to see how the same man influenced both of us, in different ways.

I must have been a foetus when I heard MJ for the first time. Thriller came out shortly after I was born. Having music-loving parents ensured my exposure to music started young. Having elder siblings also meant getting exposed to the "cool stuff" a lot faster than my peers. I can safely say that my relationship with the pop Gods of the 80's started when I was very, very small.

I was 7 or 8 when I heard the Bad Album (a few years after it was released). I would amuse aunty-jis who came home with my rendition of 'Bad'. When I was 9, my sister and I recorded our own version of 'Smooth Criminal' on our cassette-player-cum-recorder. She sang the bass, and screamed and howled (trivia: MJ howls 14 times in Smooth Criminal, and its one tough song to sing!). We had an argument as to whether he was saying "energy walking" or "everybody talking"…till we managed to get hold of the lyrics (a difficulty, back then.) When we finally realised he was saying "Annie are you o.k." we broke our heads wondering who Annie was.

That summer was a special one for me, for I had FINALLY learnt to do the moonwalk :) Sadly, I was only able to moonwalk that well that summer only.

I was 11 when 'Dangerous' came out. At around the same time cable TV started in India, exposing Gen X to the ever-so-popular MTV. Everyone was enthralled with the 'Black or White' video, some of us even wondered why he sang this song after becoming a white man (we did not know about his skin condition.) The lucky kids at school, who had relatives abroad, managed to get a copy of the album long before it came to India. MTV also played his older videos - and each MJ video meant the opportunity to learn a new dance step.

My 12th birthday was the best one ever - my sister gifted me the Dangerous album. Anyone who had a copy of that album was automatically deemed as 'cool'. Later that year, my classmates and I sang 'Heal the World' at the school annual day function. I'm sure it was sung at many school functions.

Two years later…HIStory was made, and we did not have to wait too long for the cassettes to come to India. Class 9 of my school did an aerobics dance to "They don’t really care about us." Weird choice for a PT dance, but it was fun. I also got the nickname of 'MJ' from my sister's friends, as I would go on and on and on about his music, dance and style.

The following commercial pretty much sums up my childhood – as I was addicted to MJ and Pepsi! Us kids would have moonwalking and break-dancing contests during lunch breaks. For all the 6 years that I was in Army School, there would be at least ONE dance to an MJ song for the school annual day celebrations.

A few years later, many truths about Pepsi and MJ were exposed. The child-abuse allegations left us confused and disgusted. It was not uncommon to see people engaged in endless discussions on whether he was a victim of detractors, or if he was truly twisted. MJ made some music, like 'Scream' and 'Blood on the dance floor', but they hardly compared to the awesomeness of 'Bad' or 'Beat It'; and with that, the euphoria started to die...

I remember college cul-week the year I was 17. We had theme based competitions the entire week. On ‘villain’ day, I wore my skull T, ripped my jeans, folded my sleeves, and put a fake tattoo on my arm. My intention was to sing a Metallica song and bag a prize. I'm not sure what happened when I was on stage, but I ended up singing Bad, complete with a howl and a twirl. I did not win any prize, but I did shock a few people, and had so much fun!

My post-teen years were mostly about studies or work. Once I got myself an i-pod, I made it a point to discover new music. I knew little about the Jackson 5 and quite enjoyed listening to their Motown hits. I had heard ‘I want you back’ as a kid and always wanted to know who sung it, and was thrilled when I came to know it was young MJ on the vocals :) (It is my current ringtone)

With each passing year, there was new music to discover. I did not go out of my way to listen to MJ, except for a few favorites here and there. There was news about his converting to Islam, which I thought was a big bad joke. Three weeks ago I heard of an opportunity to win tickets to MJ’s concert in London. Boy oh boy! Was I kicked?! I missed seeing Jacko in Mumbai, maybe I’d get lucky now. I rang up a fellow Jacko fan and we both decided to participate in this contest...

And then…it happened. I was shocked. I felt a dire need to listen to some MJ songs…and tears started rolling down my yes. The last time I cried at the news of a celebrity death was when Lady Di passed away (I was 16). No, I was never a die-hard MJ fan, I never bought his albums the day they came out…but so many fond childhood memories came rushing back and the news of his death made me feel absolutely miserable! I wondered if I was being brainwashed by all the media hype. It was only when I got calls from friends who felt as bad, and for the same nostlagic reasons, I realised how much MJ meant to children born in the 70's and 80's.

I get teary-eyed as I type this. Again, it's not so much for the love of MJ…but due to the fact that he played a HUGE role as a childhood icon and as an ambassador for peace. He made us groove, and also inspired most of us to "make the world a better place". Every album of his had at least ONE song dedicated to a larger cause. For me, he gave the best memories I could have of my sister and me :)

Sure there were the weird stories, but who does not have a screwed up personal life? Celebrities in particular, are constantly in the media eye - having to live a surreal life of pleasing the public and having no private life. For MJ, it started at age 5.

Michael Jackson - May your soul R.I.P and may your soulful music rip the world. You will not be remembered for the allegations, but for the legend you left behind; for your music, for the way you moved and the way you moved us...and with that, I hope you can find your peace.


  • Anonymous | July 04, 2009 10:47 PM

    Hey! :)
    That was a really well-written post. Thanks for sharing the MJ milestones of your life with us! You've really captured the essence of he meant to all of us.

  • Anonymous | July 04, 2009 10:57 PM

    Oh! And didn't he BLEACH his skin? He claimed that he had a "skin condition" but according to this CNN documentary that I saw he began to get obsessed with the idea of undergoing plastic surgeries and changing his appearance right after an accident on the sets of that famed Pepsi commerical. According to some other news reports, he altered his appearance because he did not want to look like his father. And according to this psychologist/psychiatrist from Harvard (did he feature in the same documentary?), he suffered from body diysmorphic disorder. So. Poor man. He was quite screwed up.

  • onely | July 05, 2009 5:33 AM

    This is the most interesting MJ retrospective I've read. I loved the part where you abandon Metallica for Bad!

    I feel a certain nostalgia too, even though I was never a huge fan--but he was a part of our childhoods whether you were a fan or not. You couldn't get away from him, sort of like breathing. We lived in some places other than the U.S. and as your post indicates, he really did pervade the globe.

  • Cynic in Wonderland | July 05, 2009 4:02 PM

    .. i think for all of us, its linked to growing up. so his death is in some way is the death of an age, or an era, or innocence,of something.

  • sou | July 05, 2009 7:27 PM

    * sigh * yep MJ was my window to a LOT of things in the world.

    i only recently found out that liberian girl = girl from liberia .. when i heard the song for the first time (7-10 years old i think) i thought he meant to say librarian girl :D

    some of my fav fav Jackson 5 and early MJ numbers - ben, happy, rockin robin...

    * sigh * yep sure am grateful for those numbers.. many were a lifeline at different points in my life. shaped how i thought (heal the world, man in the mirror)


    hope he is at peace now

  • The Singlutionary | July 07, 2009 8:10 AM

    MJ was a visionary and he changed performance and music. And he might have been crazy but he was also brilliant. We're about the same age, I think. And although I never had any of his albums, I am deeply appreciative of his legend and legacy.

  • autogato | July 07, 2009 12:01 PM

    People can say what they will about his mental state and actions, but there certainly is not questioning his musical talent. He was an exceptional artist and performer

  • frissko | July 08, 2009 8:53 AM

    My knowledge of MJ is limited to a tamil song that goes 'Michael jackson aen machaan, aen aattatha paathu copy aduchaan'!!, which doesn't say much...So, for me, this was just a news item...But we've discussed the deaths of people not really part of our lives affecting us in an unexplainable way...In that sense i can relate to this post...Heartfelt and very well written trauma...

  • Mom | July 08, 2009 2:57 PM

    I heard about MJ only after I heard my kids sing Smooth criminal - Annie are you OK - and that cassette was a gift from my sis's kids.

    My fav song is "heal the world"
    Heal The World
    Make It A Better Place
    For You And For Me
    And The Entire Human Race

  • Anitha Sera | July 08, 2009 2:58 PM

    Good post. When I started watching MJ videos after his demise, what came to mind was fond memories of watching them with my bro n sis eons ago. Sad for MJ. :'(

  • Soumya Rao | July 08, 2009 3:00 PM

    i am teary eyed too as i write this comment....most of my teen years went in watching MJ on MTV, and particularly remember glued to the tv when a weekend dedication to the king of pop was presented by the handsome hunk rahul khanna! we performed 'heal the world' when in 11th std and ' we are the world' at med favourite solo is " you are not alone" ...many such school/college memories where a MJ no. seemed mandatory in annual day functions him for his moves and the visual treat over the decades....thanks....

  • Reena Didi | July 08, 2009 3:00 PM

    I read this in today's TOI
    "Though a comeback Concert Eluded Jackson This side of the Grave,Ironically His Last Journey Became The Show Of
    All Shows,The Comeback Of All Comebacks.In Death,He Regained All The Lost Glory That Was Tainted By Accusations
    Of Child Molestation.He Became Richer In Death Than He Was In Life."

    We shall always miss him.You have penned your thoughts beautifully.

  • Berry | July 12, 2009 9:42 PM

    lovely, express very beautifully so much of what's in my mind...and a lot of minds, i guess!

  • Popsy didi | July 19, 2009 12:05 PM

    Great words! I liked Michael a lot and was lucky enough to go for the Dangerous tour. I also never judged him despite the media frenzy. He was a great artist.

  • captainjohann | December 09, 2009 3:05 PM

    I think you said it all in a very correct but with lot of emotion and love.

  • Sarah Siegel | December 03, 2012 6:40 PM

    What a great intro. to your writing! Maybe the sweetest line was about how he gave you great memories of being with your sister, and maybe I felt that way because I have two sisters, too. They were 5.5 and nine years older than I, though, and didn't share my MJ fascination. Luckily, my best friend Amy (who was an only child) loved him, too, so I had someone around whom to dance in our respective living rooms.

    Thanks for giving me some good memories and for covering yours. The only other musicians to die in our lifetimes who deeply saddened me were Freddy Mercury of Queen and Teena Marie.