It seems funny now, but it’s nearly impossible to overstate how big Michael Jackson was in the early 1980s.
Everyone – I mean EVERYONE – dug MJ’s music. Plenty of white kids who had never bought an album by a black person bought Off The Wall – including me. And many more bought Thriller.
I recall in 1982, as I set off for my freshman year at the University of Missouri, I had the sleeves jammed up on my jacket, just like him.
When the Thriller video debuted, a bunch of the guys in my frat house – all white – sat around the big TV in the living room to watch, spellbound.
And I have especially good memories of “Beat it,” with that rockin’ guitar line. It was a real crossover hit, a sign that music’s divisions could be broken down with a clever mashup of styles.
This is the Michael Jackson I will remember, not the freak show version that eclipsed the complicated man and his brilliant music. RIP MJ.