Michael Jackson, who’s loving you?

While he lived, he was quite possibly the most listened to person alive. The most sampled and copied. The most played. The youngest person to make people move. The person most people tried to move like.

He made us move like zombies, like water, like freedom. He made us trip and fall backwards trying to moonwalk, and trip and fall forward trying to see if the lean in ‘Smooth Criminal’ was possible.

He showed us his mad genius world in videos, songs, movies, tv specials.

He injected sex into our hips. He got us wearing shiny gloves and overwought leather jackets. He taught us to walk with such rhythm that we lit up the sidewalks.

There are sung phrases that are of our collective history and can incite any crowd of several generations into vicious emotion or movement…1, 2, 3; I wanna rock with you; Make that change; Billie Jean is not my lover; the way you make me feel; Sha-mo (or whatever he was saying…); Mama se Mama sa… The opening chords to Thriller and Pretty Young Thing have made us move in ways we didn’t know were possible. His young voice out of nowhere singing, “When….I, had you. I treated you bad, and wrong my dear…”

He broke race barriers in the pop world which opened doors in the political world – he crossed over and back. He morphed.

When the signs started to become clear, that the boy wasn’t right, that he was too isolated, underdeveloped, imperfect – we laughed, we stared, we assumed. He was our first boyfriend before he became our crazy cousin – always family.

We didn’t see the pain, we saw the bizarre, and we are vultures for scandal.

Still, he kept producing for us. As he got lighter he brought us an image of black Egyptians. He made us scream, cry, faint, and mob.

When it became clear that the boy’s face we had loved had become the face of a man who didn’t love himself; we judged him. We tore at him and he fell apart. He was living proof of the impact of our rabid pop culture, an early sacrifice to the new mechanisms of fame which allow no privacy, no time to learn, no mistakes.

Still, he kept producing for us.

When the rumors and the truth were all too prevalent (the children, both his and others), and he wasn’t getting the psychological support and accountability he needed, we turned from him and derided him. We made the distinction of loving the child, but ridiculing the man.

How many times did his heart break before this? How many times did he experience happiness, community, belonging and love in his life, in his off-the-stage life?

My entire life is framed by his songs. I have had ecstatic moments to his music while high, while drunk, while sober, while sad, while in love, while in heartbreak. It seems silly to feel this way over a pop singer, and yet its crucial to feel this way over an artist who reshaped how we understand music, movement and communication. He was at every good party I ever attended (which is where I have felt more release and unity with other people than just about anywhere else).

I suspect he always will be.

I don’t know if he experienced peace in this life, much less joy. When I heard the news today, I looked out the window and a rainbow stood complete from one horizon to the other. I don’t know if nature follows the news, but I hope that one was for the kid and the man, and he’s over there.

For real, rest in peace Michael Jackson. Thank you.

40 Responses to “Michael Jackson, who’s loving you?”


  1. 1 gmf

    Wow, thank you for saying this so beautifully.

  2. 2 Steph

    Beautiful! Thank you for this.

  3. 3 Jill

    Beautifully said.

  4. 4 Kim

    Right on sister…Thank you for your honesty and powerful words.

    RIP MJ

  5. 5 fly

    thank you for saying everything i needed to read and am feeling. i am so fuckin inconsolable, but this helps. rest in power & peace michael.

  6. 6 WM

    Beautiful tribute. Thank you.

  7. 7 Amanda

    I found your post through Racialicious. Thank you for writing this and posting this.

  8. 8 Pop

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  9. 9 trish

    You have said it best. Thanks for this posting.

  10. 10 Heavy Armor

    Words like these are not spoken enough.

  11. 11 Guenet

    ..your words expressed my feelings perfectly. thanks.
    He will be missed but never forgotten.

  12. 12 Safiya Outlines

    I’m another who found you via Racialicious. This was beautifully written and so sadly true.

  13. 13 JennPozner

    Thank you, Adrienne, for (as you always do) holding so many complex thoughts at once, and expressing them artfully and truthfully.

  14. 14 Xi

    BEAUTIFUL! Thank you so much! You expressed my feelings better than I could myself.

  15. 15 Tiffany

    Thank you for this. I’ve been searching for a response that makes sense to me, and this has.

  16. 16 Lisa

    I know it might sound weak, but thank you for putting a lot of what I – and many others – are feeling right now, and in such an eloquent, honest way. We didn’t just lose one of the greatest performers of our lifetime, but I think what’s making us so sad and inconsolable is that maybe we’ve lost a little piece of our childhoods too…. RIP, Mr. Jackson

  17. 17 Westerly

    “There are sung phrases that are of our collective history and can incite any crowd of several generations into vicious emotion or movement…1, 2, 3; I wanna rock with you; Make that change; Billie Jean is not my lover; the way you make me feel; Sha-mo (or whatever he was saying…); Mama se Mama sa… The opening chords to Thriller and Pretty Young Thing have made us move in ways we didn’t know were possible. His young voice out of nowhere singing, “When….I, had you. I treated you bad, and wrong my dear…”

    This, and your entire post sums it up so beautifully. Thanks for writing this.

  18. 18 Rachel Bagby

    for more real than you know, adrienne, once again your words are wake up and rocking chair. how do you squeeze such fierce love through thin electrons?

  19. 19 mamabaig

    I was researching for my own blog post about Michael’s passing, and I came across your thoughts. I enjoyed them. Thank you.

    http://susanshomespunlife.blogspot.com/2009/06/micahel-jackson-icon-of-internalized.html

  20. 20 magicmuffin

    Beautiful words about a complex situation.

  21. 21 Xandra

    Thank you .. beautiful words.
    a lot of people in the world judged him . Much easier than making an effort to understand why he was like he was. Then all the accusations, based on the scam whos calling themselves; ‘journalists’. Much easier to copy dirty and ugly accusations than realising that we dont know nothing.
    Deepak chopra said ( or his son, im not sure).. his soul was to pure and sweat for this world. I totally agree.
    Michael, i am sure you are happy now .. take a good rest and all your loved ones will all be together one day, in heaven. Thank you , Dear dear Michael, for existing..

  22. 22 Helen

    I liked this post. It’s one of the few that wasn’t pretentious and judgmental toward a man who needed that sincerity more than anyone.

    I also think it’s funny that my comment criticizing that one incredibly judgmental article that showed up on Racialicious magically didn’t pass through moderation to get posted. I pretty much lost my respect for that site. Oh well.

    Thank you for the words. :)

  23. 23 Jeanette Jackson

    Adrienne — thank you for your post. You captured exactly what I was feeling. We are all responsible, instead of loving him – for all that he gave us, while sacrificing himself (initially it was forced upon him, but later in life it was something that he truly enjoyed doing – or better yet, it was all he knew how to do in order to please people), we – especially the press which is dominated by white men, tore him down. And we brought into the plot with our thirst for basking in others misery – especially the fall of celebrities who we feel have gotten too big for their britches. Well, MJ is gone now, and I too, am incosolable, but I am thankful that MJ is finally resting – and at peace.

  24. 24 Luzviminda U. Carpenter

    This was truly beautiful. I got it from my friend Sunnykins twitter… love, love for writing this…

  25. 25 Christina

    Beautiful. Thank you for expressing so powerfully what so many of us are feeling.

  26. 26 laura

    just wow…beautifully put.

  27. 27 Alex

    Thank you so much for the honesty- I find myself admiring MJ’s body of work more, now that he is gone. I now also have a better understanding of his inner torment – the confusion and frustration he must have felt, while at the same time distilling his massive talents for our enjoyment. Rest in Peace, MJ!

  28. 28 Marisol

    I just love you, girl. For saying what I couldn’t figure out how to say myself.

  29. 29 JT

    Deepak Chopra wrote a beautiful and heartbreaking tribute on http://www.intent.com. It made me ache for Michael. I so hope he is in a much better place, where he can be free to be Peter Pan for eternity.

  30. 30 Freddie C Louden

    Hard to believe there will be no more music … no more magic. Well said … Well said.

  31. 31 Emily

    Thank you . . .this really does say everything I’ve been feeling. I hadn’t been able to cry for him until I read it. Thank you.

  32. 32 blair

    The best thing I’ve seen written about him, since his death. Ive been studying his life all my life like most of us but also have been writing a book of poetry about his life for the last four years. I’ve hd a number of them published including the following in this weeks Metro Times, here in Detroit. I’m wondering if I might be able to use a line or two from your post. There is a profound poetry in the line “He made us like zombies, like water, like freedom…” Also, some other parts. Just beautiful. Thanks you. Following are a couple poems that ran this week. If you get a chance to read them, I hope you enjoy. Peace, Blair

    http://metrotimes.com/arts/story.asp?id=14132

  33. 33 nikcole Gallman

    thank you.from nikcole and matthew for change.

  34. 34 Streamyx Maria

    Great website. This was enjoyable to me.

  35. 35 Margorie Veeser

    I really miss Michael Jackson. He is truly the greatest pop singer of the century. Farewell king of pop..

  36. 36 Nevaeh Green

    there is no doubt that Michael Jackson is the best ever pop music artist of the Centruy-`:

  37. 37 Muhammad Morgan

    i will really miss the King of Pop. michael jackson is truly the best pop artist in this lifetime.~::

  38. 38 Adelle Kotecki

    Michael Jackson have lived-up to be the best pop artist of the history, i really admire his talent in singing and dancing *;*

  39. 39 yachts

    Michael Jackson is and will ever be my favourite. I miss the energy and vibrance in his songs and videos. I can’t believe he is dead, I listen to his songs daily on web radios….

  40. 40 Shantae Hardenbrook
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  3. 3 Arkansawyer » “We made the distinction of loving the child, but ridiculing the man.”

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