I remember the day that Elvis died. I was living in Hawaii, a place that Elvis Presley loved and when he died the islands went into mourning. I bought my first Elvis record then. I knew he was big deal, like Jack Benny or Bob Hope, only younger. Elvis was too young for my parent's generation, and too old for mine. But I still remember when he died. They called him simply The King.
Another king, the heir apparent, died yesterday. I remember Michael Jackson too from childhood. I was ten, maybe eleven years old. I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons and both the Osmonds and the Jackson 5 had Saturday morning cartoon shows. There was a press rivalry between Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond - in fact, I remember when the two of them presented an award, it might have been the American Music Awards. My friends and I taped it with our bulky and awkward cassette tape recorders pressed against the single mono-speaker of our color TV. And then we played it over and over again.
A clip of that show is on YouTube:
My friends and I had that clip memorized. We thought it was the coolest thing. It's still pretty cute. This was how I remembered Michael Jackson when I was growing up.
And then of course, came Off the Wall, and then craziness with Thriller and those younger days were like they never happened. Now he really was cool.
And then the crash and burn, like Elvis. Over in an instant - and it wasn't as if we didn't see it coming. Bob Dylan, of course, crashed too. But he didn't burn. Gotta wonder about that.
Michael Jackson was immensely talented, who broke down racial barriers almost when no one was looking, before things got really strange, before the roots were pulled out and he was set adrift, lost.
Lots will be written about the life and death of Michael Jackson. For those of us here at the Cafe, though - through the Thriller, and the Billie Jean, and the Rock with You, and the Don't Stop Until You Get Enough, and the Off the Wall, and the Beat It days - we still go back in time, to the less-than-cool days, but perhaps realer days, to the first Michael Jackson song I ever bought and say good-bye.
Good-bye, Michael. Tell Elvis, hey.