Thursday, June 25, 2009
RIP Michael Jackson
The Jacksons - Enjoy Yourself
Wow ... where does one begin in writing a post eulogizing the King of Pop, Michael Jackson? I suppose I should take a page from my James Brown posts from a couple of years ago. With that in mind, let me talk a moment about MJ and then I'll talk about the first Michael Jackson-related record I ever heard.
As a child of the '70s and '80s, Michael Jackson was iconic. We had a copy of Thriller, and the title track was such a favorite that my brother and I would "perform" the song, with my brother singing and me doing the Vincent Price part at the end. (I was dared at a work social to do it, but I can't remember all of it now.) So many of his songs were favorites of mine, and to watch him perform was completely electrifying. Of course, like everyone else I was aware of all the scandal that surrounded him, and joined many "Lord help that man" conversations that put more emphasis on his man-child eccentricities than his talent. But to say I was shocked to hear that Michael was dead is an understatement. As soon as I heard the news I called my wife, and I told her that his passing was our generation's version of Elvis' passing (my mother can tell you exactly where she was and who she was with when she learned that Presley was dead). I know the blogosphere will have plenty of memorials to Jackson in due time, and they will all be truly deserved.
Now, on to some music. My mother's copy of the 45 of "Enjoy Yourself" by The Jacksons got a lot of spins when I was growing up. The funky groover from 1976 kicked off the post-Motown era for Michael and his family members (the Jackson Five had left Motown - and brother Jermaine, who was married to Berry Gordy's daughter - in the middle of the '70s, and Gordy retained the rights to the group's name; they added a few of the younger siblings and kept on going). "Enjoy Yourself" was a Gamble-Huff composition and production that was released on a joint Epic/Philadelphia International label, and it rocketed up the charts upon release. It's easy to see why, because from the funky guitar intro to the bumping groove to Michael's invitation to the girl "sitting over there, staring into space" to get up and boogie, it's a solid record. Of course, Michael would stay with Epic for nearly two decades, and would turn the music world upside down in the '80s. What a way to start, though!
RIP Michael Jackson. Although the last two decades weren't the kindest to you, your singing, dancing, music videos and overall talent will forever enshrine you as part of the legacy of total entertainers like Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Brown. Thank you for making the world a better place with your music.