The shocking news first reached me as a text message from a New York friend. “No! This can’t be!” I thought to myself. “This has to be a cruel joke.” I gasped, “Oh my God!” I said out laud, only to be shushed by the Asian librarian. Dying to get on my phone, I gather my papers and rush out of the library. The TV was on as I entered the apartment confirming that the King of Pop was no more.
Surprised at how much this actually affected me, I got on the phone with my friend Tanina. If any one understood why one could mourn over the death of a person he has never even met in person, it was her. True enough, we mourned together and comforted each other in the process. I felt a huge part of my childhood had died.
Perhaps it is redundant to blog about Michael Jackson. I am sure thousands of others have done the same. Yet as an artist I somehow felt it was my duty to give tribute to a phenomenal performer and artist who shaped my love for music and performing. Over the next week, I watched it all- the news, the memorial, the electrifying performance of “We are the World.”- all of it. I too touched the star with his name on Hollywood Boulevard. I secretly wished that my agent would not call me with an audition because I had not even the heart to perform.
I remembered the younger version of myself who watched the “Black & White” video over and over again, trying to perfect the choreography. I remembered the white socks I used to wear, and the long hair I grew out in my college years in an attempt a have an ounce of his star quality. I went through my collection of every single song he ever performed. I felt close to every fan I saw on the streets of Hollywood paying their respects to our childhood hero. All this for a man who led an unhappy and yet impacting existence…
What happens when our boyhood icon is no more? What happens when the music dies and all that remains are the recordings? Why does my generation react so strongly to this tragedy? Perhaps it is because we are suddenly hit with the fact that while we least expected, our youth slipped by. And while a gifted and passionate artist lived, he was misunderstood and ridiculed for his individuality. Is my generation guilty for playing a part in this ridicule? Why could the world not be as kind to him while he was alive, as they were while watching the memorial rendition of “We are the world” on TV?
The day the music died, I had an awakening of the soul. What would happen to my performance abilities if I was less afraid of my audience and critics and more focused on my art itself? What would happen if I was truly unafraid to be different?