June 2009

Looking back over the nearly 40 years of my life, there have been few moments where I felt that I was truly a witness to history as it was happening.

But, one of the first was watching the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever special which — according to Wikipedia — was aired on NBC on May 16, 1983.

I was 13.

And I, and millions of others, were completely mesmerized by Michael Jackson’s performance of Billie Jean. Right from the opening bass line groove all the way through his brief first reveal of the moonwalk. It seemed like nothing short of magic.

Watching the video below, it’s kind of hard to understand what a cultural phenomenon was kicked off that night. But it was very real. And for the next four years of high school, Michael Jackson defined pop music for my generation. Whether you loved him, or rebelled against what he represented, you could not escape him.

Sure, he was easy to mock even in 1983. And increasingly so over the years. But, like many, I couldn’t help feeling deeply sad for an immensely talented little boy who clearly never fully grew up.