Aledel Gonzalez Cuizon


I WAS cooking breakfast when I heard the news about Michael Jackson’s death. It didn’t sink in until his song “One Day in Your Life” was playing on the background while the newscaster announced the music icon’s passing. I always associated that song with death and it was especially hard that I now had to associate it with his.

I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I don’t know why. This guy, after all, had a big influence on me, considering that I’ve been a music buff ever since I saw his Thriller video and bought his album using my school allowance. John Mayer couldn’t have said it any better. “A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us,” he said of Jackson’s death.

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I have been playing his songs since he died and I can’t bring myself to open another playlist in my computer’s music player. I just want Michael Jackson providing the background while I work. Maybe this is my way of mourning.

There are a lot of kids out there who can belt songs until their faces melt but I believe no kid ever sang with a lot of soul like that eight-year-old from Gary, Indiana. An old soul, Michael Jackson was like a 40-year-old trapped in a kid’s body.

He sang a song as if he’d gone through a lot in life to convey a specific feeling.

Well into his teens, he had sung enough ballads until he made that iconic “Ooooh!” in “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”. He put the word “rock” in a disco song and still made it cool. He showed that zombies have a lot of groove and in “PYT”, he showed how tension and release could be in one song.

He was the only one to sing a song about a stalker while moonwalking his way to musical history.

Michael went on to put his feelings in his songs. He sang romantic ones. He sang anthems for change. He wanted us to just get up and dance. He broke musical barriers by merging rock with pop. He wore leather and chains while performing a jazzy routine in a garage with gangsters.

This man would just stand still as he begins his concert and people would scream their lungs out. He would sing an unheard-of word and we just let it pass. Come on, who knows what “shamown” really means?

But fame had two faces. One was the iconic star who owned the stage when he performed.

The other was a music genius who broke down barriers but built one around himself.

In his most autobiographical song, “Childhood,” Jackson sings, “People say I’m strange that way, ‘cause I love such elementary things. It’s been my fate to compensate, for the childhood I’ve never known.” Jackson was thrust in the limelight when kids his age were running around in the playground. He was the most sensitive among his siblings.

He was the total performer onstage, yet painfully shy off it.

Together with the rest of the world, I watched Jackson’s memorial even if it was 1 a.m. in my part of the globe. To me, the ceremony was both an acknowledgement and a denial.

The persons who eulogized him were people whom Michael never came in contact with him in the recent months before his death. But I believe they were there to remind the people of the Michael we all came to love – the soulful rendition of Smokey Robinson’s composition “Who’s Loving You”, the songs that defined a decade, the sequined glove and the moonwalk.

The ceremony did celebrate Michael’s life and music but at the same time, at least to me, it was a collective, though unconscious, denial of the strange things that Michael had to deal with in his life. But it didn’t matter much to me. A memorial, after all, is for remembering the good in the person who passed away.

As a Jackson fan, I saw his talent go to waste when his eccentricities began to come out. Bleached skin, heavy makeup, fascination with child stars, fondness for boys and man, what was up with that nose? His face looked like a science project gone bad.

Like many, I yearned for the ebony-skinned Michael, the music superstar who churned out hit after hit. The man, who, according to Motown producer Berry Gordy, raised the bar and then broke the bar.

Michael built his ranch in California and called it Neverland, named after the place where the characters in JM Barrie’s story live and never grow up. It was Michael’s way of regaining the childhood he never had. Michael wanted to be like Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

Michael’s heart stopped beating on June 25 but I think it was already broken a long time ago. From his humble beginnings as a crane operator’s son to his meteoric rise as the greatest entertainer in history, he trusted a lot of people along the way and got betrayed. He just proceeded to build higher and stronger walls around him.

That, to me, only made Michael into what Peter Pan actually was – a lost boy.

Nevertheless, I will remember Michael as that guy who started it all, the greatest entertainer who ever lived. I will keep playing his music, perhaps teach my daughter the zombie dance and maybe, even wait for the odd headlines saying he’s alive, well and shopping for groceries.