Friday, June 26, 2009

My Michael Jackson Anecdote

Here's the best anecdote I have about the impact of Michael Jackson in my life.

I went to high school in northern Colorado. For those who don't know the area, imagine Wyoming or Montana. Very rural, mostly small towns and long dusty roads that connected them. Most of the kids from the area were the children of farmers and ranchers. It was the kind of school where kids wore cowboy boots casually and drove pickup trucks. There was one black student in my entire high school.

In 1984, during my freshman year, the Jackson Victory tour was coming through Denver. I remember that there was a raffle to raise money for something or another, and the top prize was tickets to the concert. "Thriller" had been out since November of 1982 and Michael Jackson was still the biggest thing in music. Everyone in the school was dying to see that show. The tickets were won by a kid who just happened to be the son of the principal. I think he won them fair and square, but everyone at the time thought it was a robbery.

Michael Jackson in 1984 was pop music. Everyone listened to him, even in our little cowtown. Everyone wanted to see him perform, see him do that moonwalk and do that crazy-legged shimmying jittering dancing. There was nothing ironic about loving Michael Jackson back then. It was just what you did. That year, if you had ears, they were hearing the Thriller album.

Almost twenty years later, I was a community organizer in Seattle. I was sent to Boise, Idaho for a week to a cross-train with our sister organization, and I was driving a colleague's pickup truck to visit their members. I turned on the cassette player in the truck, and I heard "Wanna Be Startin' Something" come charging out of the speakers.

And it sounded fantastic.

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