Music,Michael and me ... Fans' Memoir
Music, Michael and me...Memoir of a life fan, kindred spirit of Michael Jackson.
Cecelia A. Quarles
Like millions of fans around the world, I went to see the movie "This Is It," the incredible documentary of Michael Jackson's' rehearsals for his much anticipated London Tour. For weeks after his death I could not stop thinking about his March 2009 press conference, announcing the tour. As he articulated his plans, he emphasized, "these will be my final show performances in London." Stinging my spirit to the core, I did not like that choice of words and he continued, "this is it, I mean this is really it, this will be my final curtain call." I purchased my ticket weeks in advance for the IMAX showing. Arriving 45 minutes before the doors opened, I stood behind about 25 others of all ages, most races, walks of life. None of us seemed like we would ever have anything in common.
As I watched Michael Jackson, I saw all of his knowledge, experience, purpose and talent come full circle all over again. This master, once the consummate humble student is undeniably now the consummate humble teacher. His voice sounded the same as it did in 1988. The pure joy on his face while performing, was the same as it was in 1972. I would forget at times that he had died, it is still so hard to accept, then it would hit me. When the movie ended, a thick sadness hovered heavy over the theatre. No one moved for about 10 minutes. It was surreal. I put my head in my lap and cried freely. I purposely went alone. He shouldn't have had to die for some of us to finally see !
Conversely, many people are not interested in the movie. Many have recovered from the loss and are pretty much indifferent to Michaels' passing. While I can respect and understand this sentiment, I have written the following article for those of us who are still grieving. Our love for Michael and shared loss, in a way, creates a distinctive kinship. When Jermaine confirmed the news of his brothers death, I said out loud between sobs and copious tears, "I feel like I lost my best friend!' I still feel that way. Compelled and determined to do my part in keeping his legacy and love-spirit alive, I have written this article as the first of many efforts in doing just that.
This world feels off balance without Michael Jackson no longer here. Since his death, I have come to realize that the deep loss and sadness I feel isn't so much because Michael is gone, (although it will always hurt), but because of the way this world treated him for the majority of his life. Michaels' life long commitment to spreading love, peace and joy, as well as his devotion to children were some of the many qualities that kept me devoted to him. Keeping the company of children and animals probably came as close as he could have gotten to experiencing unconditional love and realness. I related to Michaels' mission. I always understood that his concern for children and preserving the family-unit to help heal humanity was what he was all about. I too believe, that without healing and cherishing our children and family-units, the future of our world is in serious jeopardy.
Michael came to us as a man-child and we watched him develop into a child-man. He willingly and continuously gave to us the honest, pure spirit that God gave to him. He was always showing us how to love one another.
World On His Shoulders
As a child, I understood that this boy genius willingly carried the future and success of The Jackson 5 and the responsibilities that came with it on his shoulders. It is common knowledge that Michaels' childhood although glamorous on one level, was besieged with trauma, huge sacrifice, insurmountable emotional stress, pain and isolation. Aside from hurting from his fathers stern demands, there was never any opportunity to develop friendships outside of his relationships with his brothers and family. As the lead, Michael was left in the studio alone to record, while his brothers went about the business of being kids and teenagers. His childhood consisted of years of touring, recording, interviews and rehearsing all while keeping up with the insatiable demands of a major record label.
The pressures and stresses fr0m years of this could have caused Michaels' immune system to progressively weaken. According to Deepak Chopra, MD, "stress especially in childhood, can lead to many physical and emotional ailments, such as vitiligo, a loss of pigmentation in the skin, and lupus an inflammatory autoimmune disorder." Michael suffered from both of these conditions. I have always known that anyone who had a childhood like Michael would undoubtedly have an adulthood much less similar than others. I mean to me, this is common sense. What I could never understand, was how some witnessed the exact same course of events as I did, then conclude that he was weird, a pedophile and any ugly lie that continually surfaced. We probably have no idea the amount of unwarranted law suits and other unnecessary stresses that this Black Man dealt with for years. I believe he rightly became weary, too drained to withstand any more of the limitless cruelty that this world never stopped unleashing upon him.
What is it about human nature that allows some to look to tear down, criticize, freely mock and disparage that which we don't understand, or even try to understand? For all of the music, joy, magic, example and excitement Michael willingly gave us, for more than 40 years, his spirit, character, and skillfully designed image was ripped apart at every turn. It is true, Michael was sensitive and shy by nature, but he was powerful and strong, never weak, empathetic and highly thoughtful and intelligent. Jane Fonda in a recent interview describes Michael as being "like a harp string. Michael was so sensitive and vulnerable that every breath of wind or emotion would reverberate through him in sensitivity."
I understand sensitivity like this. In my opinion, this is a special quality that should be cherished and nurtured. Unfortunately, for Michael and all of us, this was not his experience. How could a 12 year old sing "Got To Be There,""Ain't no Sunshine," "With A Childs Heart," "Whos Lovin You," "Music and Me," and countless other heartfelt songs with such astounding knowingness, depth and emotion (not experienced), without being extraordinarily insightful and spiritually connected? Michaels' voice was blessed in divinity, purely angelic. Michael was a gift. How did we left this blessing slip through the cracks? How could we continually attack, threaten, harass, analyze, judge, persecute and vilify him? Why didn't we protect, support, celebrate and cherish this gentle musical giant, when we had the chance?
Please watch early J5 performances. You can clearly see and feel Michaels' goodness, his pure heart and eagerness to please. the love that all the brothers have for each other is infectious and overwhelmingly evident. If we all possessed this level of sensitivity and love, Michaels' journey on this earth would have been so much different. He would still be here with us. Ironically, the first child molesting charge surfaced a few days after "Thriller" was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling album of all time! Once Michael brilliantly acquired the publishing rights to Sony and The Beatles catalog, the massive lynching hunt began. It did not stop until June 25. 2009.
I remember when Michaels' plastic surgeries began. His metamorphosis was gradual yet undeniable. As usual, many mocked him. They were so consistently cruel. I have witnessed so-called fans standing in line to purchase his music while saying terrible things about him and his appearance. It was as if they forgot that he was a human being. The question is why? What did this man ever do to deserve such cruelty and disrespect?
It was during this time that I became a little angry with him. I couldn't understand why he did not see how fine he was. There were times when I would struggle to see that gorgeous boy I saw when we were kids. Then there were times when I could see that boy clear as day. During those years, those who knew me, knew not to talk about Michael in front of me. I would defend him to anyone-make them look past the outer and into the inner man. Regardless, his spirit and energy never changed from the moment he became famous in 1970. His glorious smile and beautiful eyes were still the same. We all believe that the eyes are the window to the soul. Michael Jacksons' voice is the door. I used to say, "Michael could turn purple and sprout wings for all I care, I will always love and support him.
As reports of his health issues began to surface, I realized that he had nothing to do with the lightening of his complexion. How could anyone blame him for doing what was necessary to even out his complexion to one shade, as oppposed to blotches of 2 shades? I propose, that if he were not "The King Of Pop," the vitiligo may have never even developed. I believe the repetitious surgeries was in-part due to his never-ending quest for perfection. But for a perfectionist, perfection is never attainable. What's ironic is that with each stage of his physical transformations brought with it another level of musical genius and achievement.
Reasons For Eccentricity
I'd like to challenge anyone to name just one person who has performed on stage since the age of 5, then was thrust into superstar status overnight, and from that point never lived a so-called normal life. Don't people understand that age 8, 9 is very early to lose all sense of freedom? I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to BE a child, yet not able to BE a child. How does that unfulfilled energy manifest itself? How does this child express and release the frustration, bewilderment, disappointments and loneliness that comes with being a healthy normal child, yet trapped in a lifestyle that demands adult behavior? On top of that - he had many adults dependent on his talent for their livelihood...Theres no way that I could have handled that pressure as a kid - no way. While growing up fast, Michael had no friends his own age. How could he really? The only other people Michael came in contact with, other than his family, were in this mass of screaming, star-struck fans. Once their first release went #1, his life was no longer his own.
Can you think of any child who has had a similar childhood? Can you think of any child at age 12 was sitting in the back of a limo watching cartoons on the way to perform in front of 20,000 people? Can you name one other 13 year old who was receiving 200,000 dollar checks in the mail monthly and whose only request was to buy bubble gum and candy? Can you think of just one? Michael was the one and the only - the only one.
G0d gifted Michael with great talent and Michael sacrificed his normalcy and his life for us. One "beautiful,beautiful boy" given a gift he did not ask for, yet used it and developed it because he loved to perform and he loved us. He loved making us happy with his talent. He cherished all the love he received back from so so many. And what did we do when we witnessed and enjoyed this talent? Many of us, myself included wanted more, more, more. Not only did Michael gives us what we wanted and so much more, he even gave us what we didn't know we wanted.
Beginning Fan From The Beginning
I chuckle when I hear people talking about Michaels' "Thriller" album phenomenon as the time they began worshipping at the alter of Michael Jackson. If you were born in the early 1980s' obviously you had no choice, this was your era. However, any Black American, age 43 and older knows The Jackson 5 and knows the phenomenon started with them. From the beginning they were ours all ours and we were theirs. We all loved them like family. Each of them were great, talented, dynamic, gentlemen and FINE ! Check out the musicality in "Hum Along and Dance." I am surprised that no one has not sampled that yet. There was nothing like the excitement they gave, and growing up with them within the magic of their music.
My journey with Michael started right out of the gate from which they came. The mania was overnight and immediate, and I was right there in the starting line-up. The connection was so powerful and organic, that my devotion to him and the group was then cemented for all time. I was powerless, never getting enough.
My dad brought me their first album, "Diana Ross Presents," the day it was released. I think it costs $3.99. Michaels' voice immediately pulled me in and then took me wherever it wanted me to go. Michael was 11, (although Motown told him to say that he was 9-see album cover), I was 7 and proudly told anyone that I slept with his picture under my pillow. I felt it was confirmation of my good taste. I witnessed and felt his complete magnetism on stage, his infinite talent, beautiful voice and undeniable cuteness.
Something powerful happened between Michael, the music and me back in 1970. When a childs' voice connects so completely with another childs' spirit, a love-bond is born that is unconditional and eternal. I feel so blessed that God put me here during this era. The Jackson 5 was my first major musical influence - how grateful I am for that awesome foundation.
I never knew Michael but I did meet him. Because my uncle was City Solicitor and the first Black man to run for mayor of Baltimore in 1972. I was 9 and my cousin and I were in the front row during their first show tour to Baltimore. After the show my uncle presented the group with the "keys to the city," and we went backstage. In 1979, I sat 5 rows from the stage. Mid-way through the show, while singing "All I Do Is Think of You," Michael walked directly to me, took my hand stood me up and sang to me. I could have had a massive stroke right then and died happy. But I was cool though, never will forget it and that song it truly one of my favorites. I am a Virgo like MJ and share similar personality traits. I am shy until I get to know you. Michael did not stike me as shy, but I could tell even then he was really smart, cautious, guarded yet sweet and sincere. It is just my opinion but I believe that Michael knew the power and magnetism in the gifts that God had given him. He knew he lit up any room he enterred. I believe his shyness was real but it was also a means for him to keep the spotlight off of himself. He loved pepole so much and I believe part of his shyness was his way of not flaunting. His love for humanity and concern for others was much more his focus than talking about himself and his greatness. So so so special....
I own every album (vinyl) The Jackson 5 ever made. I can still sing by heart most of their music, not just the big hits. When I grew older and heard the original versions of songs like, "Whos' Lovin You," "LaLaLa Means I Love You," "People Make The World Go Round," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "My Cherie Amor," "I Don't Know Why I Love You," I already knew all the words and love the songs because the J5 had covered them on the first albums. I would lay on the floor with my head next to the speakers and play their songs over and over for hours. Each time I heard or felt something different. I would look forward to their music taking with them. I was part of the stories their voices were singing about. I remember sitting in front of the TV wishing I could crawl into it, when their TV special "Going Back to Indiana" aired. I took pictures of the TV trying to hold onto the moment. VCRs' did not exist then. Even then, I knew that I would have to share Michael with millions, even though it always felt like he was singing only to me. That was part of Michaels' magic however, millions feeling like he was singing to just them.
Despite the hateful criticism and persecution Michael endured throughout his career, He received tons of love. His fans (like me), are for life and love him regardless. He knew this. He knew we loved him. Thank God, he knew the deep unconditional love from his mother, and his love for her is just as deep. There is nothing like mother/son love. Yet, the constant pressures and attacks on Michael, who shaped and transformed the entire music/video industry inevitably began to take its toll. I have always marveled at how strong he was withstanding so much consistent pressure his entire life, with such grace, dignity and love. He was an angel. If you want to know who Michael Jackson really was, the answer is simple. Listen to Michaels voice, really listen. Look at any early J5 performance, interviews, family time, whatever, if you cannot see or feel the love and peace beaming out of that young boy, something is wrong with you. That same spirit, energy, love IS who Michael Jackson is and always has been. There is NO WAY EVER that the evilness it takes to molest a child, could EVER co-exist with the spirit of love that has always been Michael Jackson. It is as contradictory as an ice cream cone staying intact on the top of a hot stove..."and I betcha.'" Once again , common sense. But the evilness that is alive and well in this world .... well you can fill in that blank.
So, the constant premeditated attacks to ruin him over the years I will never understand. However, what I do understand is simple mathematics. I you keep taking and taking and taking eventually there will be nothing left. As celebrated as he was, in my opinion, he never got the credit or respect that he earned and deserved. Michael believed that he was persecuted and he was. I believe that the years of attacks and the abuse caused irreparable damage. It sucked him dry. The scar that was left by the 1993 molestation trial and the ransacking of "Neverland" lasted the rest of his life. The betrayal of Martin Bashir was like a cancer that never went into remission. I saw what some had finally strategically done to him. I believe he unwillingly became addicted to prescription drugs to buffer the pain of the emotional and spiritual abuse as much as to buffer the true physical pain that he was in for years. Despite all the arrows pointed at his back, he kept giving love while swatting back hate.
I will always wonder "if," I will always wonder "why?" Nonetheless, I will always blast and I mean blast, The Jackson 5 Christmas Album in July with the top down in my car. I will always cry unexpectedly at the sound of his voice. I will always love "Lady In My Life," "Maybe Tomorrow," "Got to Be There," "Ill Be There," "Going Back To Indiana," "Come Together" "Get On The Floor," "One More Chance," "With A Childs' Heart," hell all of them. He will always be with me and us through his music. Since his death to me, his music sounds different, better, richer. His voice is more piercing and beautiful, more relevant and purposeful somehow. It is almost like I can hear him saying through his singing voice, "can you hear me now, can you feel me now?" I say, where were we when he needed us ?
Michael Jacksons' Life Was Not In Vain
As much as this article is for and about Michael, it is also for and about us. One of the many lessons I have learned from Michaels' life and example is that we all need to treat each other with greater kindness. Simply, treat each other the way you want to be treated, right?
As for Michael, I believe he accomplished exactly what God put him here to do and more. I believe he sacrificed his life and much of his happiness for the sake of trying to preserve humanity. His music touched the whole human heart. We must pay him homage by doing anything we can no matter how small it may seem to help a child in need. We must never passs up any opportunity to bring a smile to a childs face and laughter to their hearts. We must not cease to pray for his family and his mother especially whose pain must be unbearable. I believe that is some of what Michael would have wanted.
Amid all the sadness and heartache we feel, and will continue to feel, I know that God is in control of everything. God knew and I believe Michael knew, he was tired. If it were up to Michael and his fans, he would be well into the London tour right now, gaining another generation of fans - specifically those around the same age of his own children.
Michael, as much as your magnificent spirit and talent has been a part of my life, all my life, the fact that you are no longer here physically does not change the presence of your influence, your talent and healing spirit in my life still, right now and forever. Michael Jackson lives! He lives through his music and through us - as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. You have always been and will continue to be the voice, the creative genius - the vessell that God chose in 1958 to exemplify and spread His love.
Michael, "You're every wonder in this world to me," A treasure death can't steal away....
Thank God for Peter Pan ! You Are Finally Free ... Fly My Prince Fly..
Michael came into our lives as unexpectantly as he left, teaching us all the while, to create magic, to believe in magic, that Magic is Real.
Now do you believe ??
What is a man if he doesn't have a spirit? What of mans' spirit if it cannot connect with the Master OF Life?
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