Ministers often talk of death as going home; and if going home is indeed what happens when you die, then Michael Jackson has finally made it back to Gary, the home he sang about so soulfully in “Going Back To Indiana.”
Like a Little Brother Who Made Good
Michael Jackson, an extraordinary entertainer, died today of cardiac arrest, the most ordinary of causes. His death, at the age of 50, is untimely and anticlimactic in contrast to the meteoric life he led. News sources are calling him the King of Pop, but to a whole generation who watched him grow from a childhood hopeful to full blown stardom, Michael Jackson was like a little brother who made good; and his death comes as a personal blow.
Michael Jackson’s five member family group became popular during the late sixties, straddling the R&B/Pop line of demarcation by dancing and singing a bouncy repertoire of original songs still popular today. Kids of all backgrounds tried to master Michael Jackson’s dance moves, including one child actor, Alfonzo Ribiero, who launched a lifetime career on his ability to moonwalk like Michael.
Michael and his brothers, Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine, were known as The Jackson Five; but from the very beginning, Michael was the clear star. While each of the brothers sang lead from time to time, it was Michael who performed the stand out hits, belting out songs like “I Want You Back” and “Who’s Loving You,” sounding every bit as soulful as the grown version of himself would sing in later years.
A Steel Town Family-
Michael Jackson spent his early childhood with his parents and siblings in Gary, Indiana, the steel town he sang about in “Going Back To Indiana.”His brothers founded their group in Gary where entertainment was a family affair. Most of the eight Jackson siblings, indluding sisters, Rebe, Janet and La Toya, went on to solo careers of their own. Janet made her first well publicized appearance on the sitcom, “Good Times.”
Surviving the shift from childhood star to grown up idol, Michael’s fame never really faded. It waned only a little and rose even higher with the 1983 debut of the album “Thriller.” During a time when few videos featuring African-American singers made it to the relatively new MTV, Michael premiered his video “Thriller,” as a mini, 13 minute motion picture released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Jon Landis, with Quincy Jones as producer and a “Rap” by Vincent Price.
We Are The World-
Michael Jackson was one of the driving forces behind “We Are The World,” a 1985 song by USA for Africa (United Support Of Artists for Africa). It was the first highly publicized celebrity collaborations devoted to doing good. In addition to Michael Jackson, it included singers, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Dianna Ross, Harry Belefonte, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Wonder and many others. The group recorded a single and video with proceeds going to feed victims of an Ethiopian famine.
Despite troubles over the years, Michael remained popular not only with those who had watched him grow up, but also with fans around the world. To the Boomer Generation, he was always like a little brother who did a few strange things, had a few quirks, but he was loved and will be missed. And he’s finally made it home.