One year ago today, I was standing on the corner of 35th and 8th in complete shock. He was gone. Michael Jackson was gone! It felt like all of New York City had slowed to a snail’s pace. We were all in shock. This had to be a dream, I kept thinking to myself because I was just watching the clips of him practicing for the “This is It” tour and he looked fine.
As I listened to his music nonstop, I started thinking about how many times I’ve turned to it in times of uncertainty. In many ways, it has been the soundtrack to my life. The first song a boy ever dedicated to me at a party was “She’s out of my life.” I was 13 years old. Hearing that song always brings me back to that time and place in my life. When I’m in a good mood, but want to feel great I play PYT. When the pressures of Wall Street try to suffocate me and I feel like I might crack, I listen to “You are not alone.” The words and melody always make me feel free.
As I sat watching his televised funeral, I wondered how is it that Michael Jackson’s music could build my self-esteem with the flick of an on switch, yet he suffered from the most extreme levels of low-self esteem and depression? Why didn’t he turn to the very songs that made me feel like I could go on?
As the days and weeks since Michael’s passing wore on, I continued to play his music nonstop, and just like with anything else you indulge in continuously, you start to find new messages. We’ve all had a fish bowl view into his lack of a childhood, so when he sings songs like “Have you seen my childhood” it’s more than just a song for Peter Pan. It was his life! In one of the lines, Jackson sings “Before you judge me, try hard to love me, the pain for youth I have.” This is indeed a cry to hold on to a time when he was free from it all, the judgment, the skin disease, the criticism, the accusations–probably a time before he was famous. Can you imagine what kind of blow it must be to bear all this yet still produce some of the most amazing music ever?
The list of songs that shows his every emotion is vast, but “Human Nature” and “Keep it in the closet” echo his desire to be who he was without fear and to move past his early years of denying himself anything that could jeopardize his career. When Jackson sang “If this town is just an apple then let me take a bite” on the “Human Nature” track, my mind conjures images of running free, without caution. As beautiful as both songs are, if you really listen to them, you can hear his pain.
In his later years it seems depression gave way to anger and on some level a sense of self acceptance when he sang lyrics like “They don’t care about us” and “I’m tired of being a victim of fate, remember me I’m a product of God sake.” Michael seemed to be finally getting a handle on who he was, but the molestation allegations ended that and sent him into a downward spiral of increased facial alteration. He seemed to become a hermit during this time as well. Again, I ask myself why Michael suffered like this. Why couldn’t he be healed from hearing his own words instead of trying to change how God created him? The judgment from society was so harsh that I believe he imagined he could change his face and gain the acceptance and the love that he always wanted, but seemed to elude him.
One could reason that these songs were written by someone else and Michael Jackson just sang them, but that would be false. Lyrics on a page are brought to life by a musician is able to filter in parts of his life and pain. M.J. mastered that. Even with the claims of vitiligo, the cosmetic surgery and the hiding behind masks, he managed to produce songs that would enlighten and hold his fans captive. And as he did, we watched his self-esteem evaporate like water in a glass. His family, still riding off the fumes of fame did nothing concrete to help him–with respect to Janet and Latoya, it’s hard to see anyone taking advice from people in the same boat. They watched as their brother, son, and friend indulged in self hate. That’s really what it all comes down to His foundation was dredged in self-hate, and there is no coming back from that.
We are born with a healthy dose of self worth. I see it all the time in my 4-year-old. He’s not shy, often telling the world that he is the greatest. I work hard at making his world happy. I make a conscious effort to nurture him and his winner’s spirit because when he gets to be an adult he’ll have that foundation. The more I learn about M.J., the more I see he didn’t have that. His weak foundation lead to a lifetime of battles, leaving him broken, wanting and too willing to sacrifice who he was to be who he thought he should be.
A few weeks before he died, video of him performing for his “This is It” tour surfaced. He looked happy. He sounded great and he danced like he was 20 -something again. It looked as though he was about to pull himself out of it all, and then he was gone.
“Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight, here one day, gone one night….Gone too soon”
I thank him for leaving all of me with a discography that does just that: amuse, inspire and delights. I wish him peace and everything he couldn’t reach on earth.
M.J., you were loved. You are loved.
Has Michael Jackson’s music inspired or touched you in any way? Please share.
Krishna R. Davenport is the Senior Post Trade Research Analyst at The Investment Technology Group (ITG) in New York. She attended Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA and received a B.A in Economics with a secondary concentration in Business. Krishna runs and contributes to the following blogs: http://www.randomnycsarcasm.com/ where she rants about her life and other things in the world. She chronicles her life as a mom on Wall Street at http://www.wallstreetwomom.com/. She also contributes to: http://www.kittybradshaw.com/ as a book reviewer. You can also follow her on Twitter at f_uitlist
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