“This is It,” the documentary of Michael Jackson’s last tour rehearsals, opens today in major cities nationwide. I’m not gonna lie–I’m an unabashed devotee of Jackson and his music. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, his music impacted me despite racial, economic, and cultural differences. The CNN/AP footage above excerpts part of Jackson’s rehearsals for the tour.
When Jackson died this past summer, I was surprised by the reactions of my undergraduates. Where I mourned the passing of a great artist, my students–a generation younger than me–only saw a freak show. My students focused on Jackson’s baby-dangling, his extensive plastic surgery, and the scandals tied up in his Neverland ranch and inappropriate behavior with children.
My young undergrads never experienced Michael Jackson when he first appeared on the pop music scene. Jackson, of course, was instrumental to teenagers in the 80’s because of his raw lyrics, his mainstream accessibility of African Americans, and his artistry (the man invented the Moonwalk, for heaven’s sake–who else can claim this kind of global trend?). I remember sitting in front of the television in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the stroke of midnight for the world premiere of “Thriller” on MTV (back when MTV was a video music channel, not a reality TV vehicle). In my living room, after my bedtime, I was drawn into Jackson’s early pop-and-lock choreography and the grotesque, fascinating vision of Jackson’s zombie crew.
Pre-YouTube and pre-copycat-artists, the original “Thriller” video was a sight to see.