On June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson passed away. I know this isn’t a historical thing for many people, but as one of his many fans, I remember where I was. My husband called me at the Malt Shop where I was doing a substitute gig. I did some soft MJ piano renditions that night and some more powerful versions this past Sunday. In neither case did I care about tips. I was just doing it more for myself.
Saturday my friend Chuck Brady did a special replaying some highlights of the Memorial Service and lots of MJ music. I’m not sure where I’ve been, but a friend listening with me happen to mention that MJ’s 16-year-old daughter Paris attempted suicide a couple weeks ago. From reading her tweets, she was under a lot of normal teen pressure but also seemed to be maligned in the media regarding a trial of the family suing a company for Michael’s death. I was sad to hear of her suicide attempt, because her father was a role model for the teen-aged me — keeping on keeping on despite how he was ridiculed and considered odd. My late teens were turbulent and lonely, and there were many times I felt misunderstood and was suicidal. The closest I ever got was lining some pill bottles along the bathroom countertop. Many automatically thinks it’s the blindness which was isolating, but it’s probably more accurate say that I was different from your average white rural Iowa kid. I liked all kinds of music — including the beloved classic rock — , but black singers were and still are probably my favorite. They were called the n word by older and younger generations, and civil rights and cultural differences were something we barely touched on in school.
Sunday afternoon I had a vivid dream about a group of kids who also liked MJ and soul music in general. I was a teen as well in the dream but wasn’t shy about trying to play their favorites (because they were mine too.) I have a few contacts with Michael Jackson fans, but this dream makes me think I probably should solidify an MJ fan community in my life.
When I first got on the net in the 90’s through the early 2000’s, I had a community of MJ fans as friends both locally and internationally. Some of these people were less rational than I would have liked preferring to believe Michael didn’t make mistakes and that it was perfectly normal to stand outside his hotels and run off tremendous credit card bills following him on tour. These are probably some of the same people who kept yelling and cheering at (in my opinion) inappropriate times during the memorial service. I was a fan of the music and the messages and never believed he was a sexual predator. However, as an adult, I acknowledge that like everyone else, he had a dark side and made bad judgment calls.
June 25th, 2013 was the release date of the latest India Arie album Songversations. I first heard her voice on a Stevie Wonder song and saw her in concert on Stevie Wonders birthday May 13, 2008. I vilified Stevie growing up, because I didn’t want to be associated with loving a stereotypical blind musician. I also think it takes a more mature ear to understand his music and appreciate where he’s coming from in some cases. His lyrics didn’t get through to the Politically conservative kid (one of the ways I *was like many rural Iowa teens), but it was only after discovering I was liberal did the messages resonate. Stevie is probably my favorite living singer, but India is not far behind! She credits Stevie wonder for being one of her biggest inspirations, and his influence in her music is palpable. Like Stevie (and sometimes Michael), she has a wide voice range, completes impressive agile vocal runs and presents precise overdubbing harmonies. her albums are filled with rich lyrics,. Lyrics on her latest range from introspective to inspirational .. from searingly sensitive to socially conscious … addressing everything from relationships to religion to patriotic gratitude. India is to the guitar was Stevie is to a keyboard or harmonica. Like her mentor, she brings in other styles of music including some smooth jazz and romping regae.
June 25 will probably be an ouchy day just like November 18 (the anniversary of the day I had to put my first Seeing Eye Dog down), but I am glad this India Arie album will shine light on it.