When I woke up this morning and heard Michael Jackson had died, my first thought was, “Now he won’t suffer any more.” I have never had the impression that he was a happy man, an impression supported by what I’ve heard about his childhood, his family, his plastic surgeries and the accusation of his molesting children. So my first thought was that he was now finally at peace. A genius with music, but not with living.
I do not write about celebrities, but Michael Jackson has the odd distinction of being one of only two celebrities I have ever said hello to in Los Angeles. It may sound weird, but you can live for years in Los Angeles and not meet any show biz people. All you have to do is not move in their circles. But sometimes circles overlap, if only momentarily.
It was the autumn of 1979. I was a computer temp, mainly working part time while I went to college in the morning. One job was for an accountant in Beverly Hills. We were four girls in one office, entering various accounting data, like cancelled checks for various clients.
One day some great music came from our boss’s office. “What’s that?” we wanted to know. “It’s Michael Jackson’s new solo album,” we were told. Michael Jackson had released several solo albums as a child, but it was this album in 1979, produced by Quincy Jones, that launched Michael’s adult career away from his brothers, The Jackson 5, and Motown. And one day, he was at our office. While being shown out after a visit with our boss, our boss stopped in our doorway and invited us to say hi to Michael. We cheerfully said “Hello, Michael!”, seated at our computers, to Michael standing in the doorway. And we got a boyish and shockingly shy “hi” in return.
That did not stop us from buying “Off the Wall”. And at a party one of my office mates invited me to, the record we played the most that evening was “Off the Wall”. It was my first “grown-up” party, where I drove a girlfriend and myself, and we had wine, and we went home with a couple of guys for a bit, and by the time I got home, it was 6:30 am.
The opening track, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, is still a huge favorite of mine, and features Michael’s soon-to-be iconic, falsetto vocal insertions (hiccups) without limitation. I remember we thought it was odd, but it worked. It worked well. “Off the Wall” was a huge hit, with several tracks he wrote himself and co-produced, and gave him and the music industry faith in the new direction of his solo career.
Michael was known for his glittering glove, but before the glove were his glittering socks, as shown on the cover of “Off the Wall”. I bought the CD version on vacation in Germany several years ago, happy to reacquaint myself with a fond memory.
Thanks for letting millions of us rock with you, Michael.