22 August 2009

Michael Jackson: More alive than ever?

“The day that Michael Jackon died” will forever be one of these days (like Chernobyl, like 9/11) where people remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. Not that I was a particularly passionate fan of his, not that I am hysterically bursting into tears now but hey, he knew how to make music! I will always remember that for weeks in Malaysia it was impossible to go about your daily business without being reminded of MJ.

I happened to be sitting in a bus one morning on the way to work, probably really groggy and was caught by the Earth Song playing on the little flatscreen I had a straight view at from the back of the bus. I was thinking absent-mindedly to myself, what a great single actually, and the video clip was quite gripping, too. You know you've landed a hit when people, whatever they are doing, have to turn their head, watch and can't help but to sing along in their heads. That is quite some achievement, I mused half-awake, half-asleep.

The following night, I receive a text message from Taiwan “Omg! Michael Jackson died!” and nothing else. I was like, WTF?! A few hours later, I get a text message from a friend of mine in Malaysia who goes like, “I can't believe it! Michael Jackson just died!” Deprived from stable internet and the time to go surfing on it, yet another person I bump into in the office, “Have you heard?? Michael Jackson died last night!”

All these consistent reports must mean sth, so I find some internet, sit down and look up the news – and indeed: The king of pop died unexpectedly of a heart attack at his ranch.

The following days, the world turned into a surreal movie, MJTV if you will: Whenever you take a taxi (every morning!), the radio would play MJ; many shops would suddenly play his music over and over again; when you passed a roadside eatery, you would see people staring at a MJ video on an old TV affixed to the ceiling and blasting the sound from gigantic loudspeakers. You walk into a DVD/record store and all they... DO is Michael Jackson: MJ Cds/DVDs at the counter, MJ video behind the counter, MJ poster on the shop window, another even flatscreen in the shop window playing a MJ live concert...! You use a public toilet in a shopping mall and guess what they're playing in the background! You spend a few hours in a coffeeshop to use their internet and you'd hear MJ songs over and over again, whether on the radio or as a CD. And I swear many Chinese fashion stores suddenly popped gilet style clothes back out on the rack.

It was crazy!

Was it foreshadowing that my attention was suddenly drawn again to MJ after at least two years of not thinking about him a day before he died? I was not even sure if he was still in business or not and it was only when I heard about his death that I also found out he had actually just launched another series of concerts – which might account for the increased exposure that ultimately also included the music clip I saw. A fellow intern suggested that MJ probably wanted to cancel his world tour so he just died – how mean! No piety!

One evening, Julie, Anurag and me shared a cab home one evening and the cab driver changed the radio station at a red light. Of course, it was an instantly recognisable MJ's song (Billy Jean?). We ask the older Malay driver if he was also sad that Michael Jackson died and he said, “Yes, of course! I listened to his songs already from when I was still very young and he was still young too!” - “It's a shame, isn't it? He was still so young and he had so many problems when he was a child.” - “I think it is good he died”, he says calmly. We look shocked. “I mean, if you die young, it is a sign that you have done well in the lessons God gave you. If you die as an old person, it means you maybe God will give you more opportunities to learn, maybe you were not good at learning [as in, over-coming challenges, becoming wiser, becoming a good person] or there is sth he wants you to do.” - “So you mean it's like when you fail a class and God says, you have to repeat it to learn the lesson?”, I mirrored what he was trying to say. The driver finds it hilarious, we all break out in laughter, “Yes, exactly like that! You are right!”

Two months after the initial news burst and when the hype had somewhat subsided to a plateau, I went to a dinner party in the circle of medical professionals with great taste in everything the other night and Michael Jackson's record came out on the high tech LP player as well as some other really stilish house music. That's when I fully realised his music will always be a classic.

Therefore, the upcoming tribute in Vienna's Schoenbrunn Palace has my blessing!

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