I was eight years old when Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released. I wanted a red leather jacket so bad.

On Thursday evening, just as we prepared to go to press, reports from Los Angles confirmed legendary pop icon Michael Jackson died from an apparent heart attack. Explanations are sure to be varied and widely debated for the next few days, if not weeks, but at only 50 years old, we can only speculate.

His legacy is yet to be determined. A rise to fame as a child performer is well documented and one of his albums, Thriller, remains the No. 1 selling record of all time.

Long before the surgical masks, Elizabeth Taylor, bankruptcy and allegations of child abuse – there was talented performer who became one of the most recognizable people in the world.

Those few years following Thriller are still vividly engrained in my mind. Seeing him perform the “Moonwalk” during the 1983 television special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.  Eight months later my cousins and I practiced the move in my great grandmother’s living room surrounded by aunts and uncles one generation removed from Croatia – and they knew exactly who we were imitating.

“This guy is really talented,” my parents used to say. At Ohio Skate his songs played constantly and every Friday night at least one “Thriller” hit would make Friday Night Videos watchable.

“The Girl is Mine” introduced me to Paul McCartney and the Beatles.

I can remember the hysteria so clearly and I am sure to feel many years older over the weekend.

Through the couple of decades his eccentric lifestyle seemed to overshadow his incredible talents, but after an untimely death, he will undoubtedly return to public favor.
I once had a Michael Jackson doll complete with sunglasses and little sequined jackets. No longer will I be embarrassed when my sister tells the story of his kidnapping and Thriller will be sunk into my CD player as soon as I finish this sentence.

John Bartus’ “Keys Disease” is available online at www.keysweekly.com.


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