I realize this post is about four months late, but I'm going to go ahead and write it anyway.
Jeremy outed me in the comments of a previous post as listening to Michael Jackson. It's true. I have been listening to Michael Jackson a lot lately, including "Stranger in Moscow." Because the man has some dang good music.
To anyone who didn't actually live through it all, it's difficult to explain the extent and voraciousness of Michael Jackson's cool factor back in the day, for example, the entire decade of the 1980s and a few years of the 1990s, too. I think I can say without exaggeration that he was the. coolest. person. on. the. planet.
In fact, one of my very earliest memories - I couldn't have been older than three or four years old - consists of my brothers and me sitting in the living room singing "Beat It," keeping our fingers crossed that Michael Jackson would come to our house. Obviously that was never going to happen, but our parents must have refrained from breaking the news to us so as to spare our fragile, childish view of the world.
Later on, there were the increasingly bizarre years of Michael Jackson - his song "Black or White" was über-hip because of the computer generated face morphs (video here, skip to 5:28 to see the part I mean), but even as a kid I didn't get how his own personal skin color change gelled with the message of that song. Then there was the popular and catchy but soulless Free Willy song, and from there it was basically a weird descent into kids named Blanket and child molestation allegations.
In a few short years, Michael Jackson went from being the coolest person on the planet to one of the most reviled. So what an interesting phenomenon it was to see how when he died, all of us suddenly remembered the positive things about his life. How he was an innovative performer who sang differently and danced more awesomely than pretty much anyone around. How he defined the formative years of a segment of a generation - my segment of my generation. And how he had what is possibly the best guest appearance on any television show ever - I refer of course to Episode 7F24 of The Simpsons, air date September 19, 1991, "Stark Raving Dad." Such was his influence.
And as it turned out, such was his legacy. Not the other weird stuff. And I'm glad.