Leaving it on the dance floor

Karol Collymore

I love Michael Jackson without an ounce of shame.

It started in kindergarten when I received my Thriller album; complete with white sparkly glove and stuffed tiger. My mom followed up that gift with a VHS copy of the Making of Thriller. It had commentary by Michael, director John Landis and step-by-step dance moves. Guess who learned the dance? Yup, me. I had it down - mostly - for my single digit years and learned it again and danced it in public for Greek Sing in college.

My sister and I held hands and sang We are the Word and cried when Michael's hair caught on fire during that Pepsi commercial. I became very, very aware of starving children watching MTV play Man in the Mirror and Heal the Word and aware of AIDS from Gone to Soon, a video about Ryan White. I attempted, in vain, to do the Smooth Criminal lean. I finally know now that Michael is dead that it took special shoes. My cousin and I still do the dance we made up to P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) and I can start any party with Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.

Michael Jackson songs punctuate so much of my life timeline that I can't help but feel a little piece of my childhood is fading away. In the last two weeks I've re-watched almost every MJ video, downloaded songs I'd long forgotten (Dirty Diana, anyone?) and even tried to dance Thriller one more time.

There is no doubt that Michael was a troubled soul but for me, he told his story on the dance floor. As my friend Marissa so eloquently said: No matter how deeply flawed we may be or become as human beings, we're all capable of bringing great joy to the world. When was the last time a death sparked so much dancing?

Here, here. Now dance, people.

Comments

  • Boats (unverified)
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    I love Michael Jackson without an ounce of shame.

    How unsurprising.

  • Emily G (unverified)
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    So eloquently put Karol. This is a great video to share. He was like no other and has created a soundtrack for our lives.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Lightening fast, precision footwork...elegance and dramatic production....great emotive expression in voice and song. I expect Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley would have admired his work.

    Look!...even ol' Boats and his like seem to have found something to do with MJ that they just can't get enough of.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    The only dancing I'll be doing is on McNamara grave.

  • scottJ (unverified)
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    "When was the last time a death sparked so much dancing?

    Here, here. Now dance, people."

    I wonder if the children he fondled are dancing in celebration of his artistic genious?

  • (Show?)

    Tchaikovsky died at about the same age as Jackson, and led a similar life punctuated by distasteful scandals that shock the conscience (he is accused of seducing his nephew, for instance; which may have been a factor in that man's suicide at a young age.) Yet today Tchaikovsky's music is taught to school children and those of all political persuasions flock to performances of his music. The 1812 Overture with its cannons is even a favorite 4th of July tradition in many cities, especially those with military bases.

    I don't like Jackson's music, and I don't like him as a public persona. The messages in some of his music is patently offensive, notably his recent antisemitic rants. I like what I know of his parents even less (can we all agree on that?) But if you like the music and can separate the art from the artist as well as the Tchaikovsky fans do; then I agree: shut up and dance!

  • vndavis (unverified)
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    Well said KA! I'm happy to have made it to Blue Oregon.

  • TomK (unverified)
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    Celebrate the music, not the person.

  • Boats (unverified)
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    Celebrate the music, not the person.

    What does one do when the music sucks and it was performed by a pervert?

  • JP (unverified)
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    So I come to this site every week or so and look into the comments section on the first post that comes up.

    Always I can count on good ol' Boats, apparently having absolutely nothing better to do than be a prick. I don't care what one thinks of Michael Jackson (for the record, my opinion of both his music and his personal life is mixed, and I have no idea how anyone else couldn't share that sentiment to some degree), Boats is just here to speak ill of the dead and spit on their graves. Classy. I feel for poor Missus Boats, who he apparently kisses with that grimy keyboard, it having melded to his mouth.

    I will gladly become a more regular reader and commenter when, and only when, the site admins grow a pair and do something about the troll problem in general, and this one guy in particular.

  • genop (unverified)
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    What a boring world this would be if all opinions were harmonious with our own. Yes Boats reflects a narrow, judgmental mind, but he is not alone and we need to know it. Please do not censor the Boats of the world, they sharpen our debate and help us realize that there are many mean spirited among us.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    What does one do when the music sucks and it was performed by a pervert?

    Listen to Garth Brooks I guess

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    "I love Michael Jackson without an ounce of shame." - Karol

    Karol, you sure got that right. Hey, you can sing and dance, it doesn't matter if you're a child molester!

    Hey BO, you should have Bernie Ward write a few columns for you. He probably has some extra time these days.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Michael Jackson was, and is a musical genius. it is easy to separate the music from the man; especially when there never were convictions.

    Karol, I still have my original vinyl album of "Thriller" and remember when all of us young, hip 20 somethings gathered around MTV for the video to play the first time.

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    Jackson was undeniably talented, but then so were:

    Peter Townsend, Karl Rove, William Burroughs, Yussuf Islam, Leni Riefenstahl, Genghis Khan, Michael Vick, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and........you get the idea.

    I guess we'll disagree on this one Karol. I'll patronize artists based at least in part, on my perception of their moral code (dead or alive).

    There are millions of people out there endowed with all sorts of Mad Skillz that don't set up distateful associations in my head when I access their various contributions to society, whether artistic or otherwise.

    <hr/>

    I saw the Jackson Brothers live in Bend Oregon, wa-a-a-ay back in the middle '70s and they did indeed rock the house.

    I had a good friend and room mated back then who later, discussing an overseas job in Africa, laughingly told the tale of "marrying" and subsequently abandoning a 13 year old local girl who serviced him during his overseas tour.

    Haven't seen my friend since, although I see him mentioned occasionally in local publications.

  • Boats (unverified)
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    What does one do when the music sucks and it was performed by a pervert?

    Listen to Garth Brooks I guess.

    That solution only takes care of the perverted half of the problem.

    BTW, there was $20 million in benjamins paid that do not scream out "Michael was innocent."

  • delosangeles (unverified)
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    Remember that there was a Michael Jackson pre-accusation era. During his physical transformation there were likely some mental/emotional transformations going on that may have lead to the "accusations". He was eccentric in his later years.

    That should not negate his contributions to our American culture through his music and dance. I was 16 when the Jackson 5 debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969 and have watched as generations pick up where the last left off listening to MJ and emulating his moves. He was an international musical icon, singer, dancer,composer, humanitarian and philanthropist donating more than $500M to charity. I'll dance to that.

  • Harry (unverified)
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    The saddest part of the MJ fest was when some famous African American (Gordy?) stated that MJ hated his blackness so much he bleached his skin white, and lied to him about the reason being some disease. Why did MJ hate his blackness and his old nose so much? May he RIP.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Whether the music 'sucks' or not is a matter of personal preference. Don't listen if you don't like the music.

    The 'pervert' part: Jackson was never convicted, correct? Exactly what he did or did not do that might satisfy what some people rush to conclude is the behavior of a 'pervert', was never proven in court. So at this late date, that aspersion associated with MJ may be nothing more than a lot of wishful thinking on the part of people obsessed with perverts and the specific details of what they do.

    Presumption of perversion, even when facts that would prove that tendency either fail to be presented or exist, can be a very powerful, destructive weapon. Doesn't matter what a person did...or whether they're innocent. If enough people want to insist someone is guilty of a heinous crime, that person is going to pay whether they're innocent or not.

    If you want to find what others might consider perversion, look to yourselves;the stuff you wouldn't tell anyone else, or can't because you're too scared of the consequences from your...friends...and loved ones. Look to your neighbors that aren't so skillful at resolving or keeping bottled up, the same kind of tendencies that, if known, allow people to conclude such a person is weird, a pervert, or some other destructive categorization. Those people pay...big time.

    So go ahead Boats and your ilk...have your good time...yuk it up all you want about the people that, even though proof is non-existent, you insist upon regarding and labeling as perverts. As you continue to do so, your own deficiencies loom ever larger.

  • delosangeles (unverified)
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    Harry, MJ's dad would always criticize his appearance. He complained that he had a wierd nose and skin. MJ tried all his life to earn his father's affection and approval. Instead, his dad bullied and beat him and forced him to work on performing.

    I think he developed a dissatisfaction with his appearance and tried to improve it...obviously going too far.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)
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    I think time will tell if Michael Jackson's music stands up to that of other personally deeply flawed musical geniuses such as Tchaikovsky and Richard Wagner. We'll know for sure in a few decades.

    As a young man growing up in the 1970's and 1980's I can tell you that Michael Jackson was a revolutionary force not only in music, but in our musical culture. I can remember in the late 1970's hanging around with a bunch of guys and gals who wouldn't have been caught dead listening to any African-American performer, who derided "jungle music," who purposefully melted down "disco" albums such as Saturday Night Live.

    And then "Off the Wall" came out, and then "Thriller," and suddenly a bunch of white kids were listening to music by black musicians. I can still remember my astonishment as a group of friends and I started dancing when Michael Jackson "oohed" near the beginning of "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough," the first track on Side A of "Off the Wall." The walls of the musical ghetto had fallen, and now both the good and the bad of music by African-American artists floods our mainstream airwaves.

    That's why I enjoyed the embedded video from Karol so much, even though the music is clearly not from the live performance. It brought back great memories of a great album, which was followed two years later by an even greater album, that remade American musical culture.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    Good post Karol and well said WS.

  • fuckjesus.com (unverified)
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    Bleaches himself white out of shame to be black, and our identity politics editor loves him without an ounce of shame.

    Many suspicions in the past, now we have a solid bead on Karol's level of reality testing!

    [Trademark infringement in comment author name removed -editor.]

  • Boats (unverified)
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    Michael Jackson as "music revolutionary?" In what reality was that? He was disco light from beginning to end once out of the pop/Motown sugary Jackson 5. All manner of African American musicians have and had way more influence on the musical mainstream and managed to be "racial crossover" phenoms well before Michael Jackson's voice never dropped.

    You do short shrift to scores of pioneering African American jazz and blues musicians like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and John Lee Hooker, rock 'n' roll pioneers like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and James Brown, pop music pioneers like The Platters, The Supremes, and other Motown acts, true geniuses of entire genres, like George Clinton in funk and Jimi Hendrix in rock, when you elevate a musical lightweight and choreography heavyweight like Michael Jackson to the "revolutionary" pedestal.

    Hell, I'd even give a shout out to Prince as being WAY more musically influential than MJ ever dreamed of being. Prince has still managed to chart hits into this decade, something MJ had not done since the turn of the 90s.

    MJ has a great claim to being a pop icon and an influential dancer, but as a musician/songwriter, he wasn't that great. His parallels to the career of Elvis are rather eerie. The image will hold up, but the music already sounds terribly dated during all of this MJ nostalgia in the wake of his death. MJ's musical influence is trapped in the amber of three albums, all basically "80s" dance music: Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad. Everything else was mostly misses, has no sincere imitators or many younger artists avowing a musical debt to him, and only a few of the songs will be "oldies" in 2040.

    But the Jackson clan will still somehow make a mint on his copyrighted image and those dated disco tunes, but on the whole the entire MJ catalog is surprisingly thin and not very interesting in its musical progression.

  • Will (unverified)
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    Well said, Karol (and ws),

    As a fat old strait white guy in his 60s who joined 2 teen clubs so I could go to 2 dances a week all through middle and high school, and an avid collector of record albums, I still think Thriller is in serious contention for the greatest pop record of all time.

    I want to add to the list of the songs Michael has done that have been called back to memory: Ben. Who else could fill a love song to a rat with a touching lyric?

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