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Man (Or Woman) In The Mirror: Make That Change

I just happened to be home Thursday when the news came across CNN that Michael Jackson died.

I was stunned. Still am. Can't find the words.

You see, he was so much a part of my childhood. The Jackson 5's music was music that kids and their parents could dance to. And I did, with my mom, of course. I think she liked the cautionary tale of "The Love You Save" as well as the fact that a 10 year-old boy could sing like a seasoned old pro when he asked the musical question, "Who's Lovin' You?" That song, I tell you, it's like jazz -- if you're a singer and you don't know what you're doing, don't mess with it. Michael nailed that song as a child, and few, if any, can sing it as well as he did, adult or child.

Little did I know when I was young how sad Michael's childhood was at the same time as his music was the soundtrack for my happy childhood. I look at videos showing him singing as a child and I look for signs of joy. I don't see them. It makes me all the more sad to know how much of his own childhood he lost and continued to chase fruitlessly into adulthood.

He was the only boy I ever fought over. Yes, indeed. With my sister, the Writing Diva. I think we came to blows over who was going to marry Michael. She insisted that I, the younger sister, stick to Jacksons closer to my age, to wit, Randy. Even as a 5 year-old, I had a thing for older men, still do. I insisted that I could marry whoever I wanted, and I wanted Michael, and she could have Randy.

I bumped and bopped to "Workin' Day and Night" -- I can't tell you how many high school cheerleading squads did routines to that song when I was in high school, including my high school's squad. I did the rock to "Rock With You." Whenever I need a push to embark on a difficult project, "Startin' Somethin'" is what I hear in my head. I thought Michael was at his most handsome on the album cover for "Off the Wall." Clearly he didn't. How sad.

However, I was always a bigger fan of the more emotionally wrought songs he sang, with or without his brothers. Songs like "I'll Be There," "Maybe Tomorrow," and "Never Can Say Goodbye," "She's Out of My Life," and "Remember the Time" get me because of the sheer emotion in them. He reportedly once said, "If I don't feel it, I don't sing it." Indeed.

And, of course, there's "Thriller." Who else but Michael Jackson could get John Landis to direct a music video and get horror movie divo Vincent Price, of all people, to rap for it? I was a foreign student in Spain from September of '84 to March of '85, and everything -- and I mean everything -- on or about the "Thriller" album was still popular, down to the red leather jackets with multitudes of zippers. Being one of the few black people in the college town where I lived, I was often asked if I knew Michael Jackson. I smiled at their ignorance, but it showed how much he had fans all around the world who hoped for some connection to him, no matter how far fetched.

On Friday, as I drove in to work, one of my favorite Jackson 5 songs, "I'll Be There," came on the radio, and I cried. Mind you, I don't consider myself a sappy sentimentalist who drops a tear whenever an ASPCA commercial comes on. I'm one of the first to tell someone, "Snap out of it." But there I was, driving to work, tears streaming down my face. I was sad not just for the loss, but for his kids and what his death means for them.

I imagined that if you are Michael Jackson's daughter, when you get married, your dad would sing "I'll Be There" at your wedding to let your intended know that, no matter what, your dad would be there to pick up the pieces if your intended let you down. "I'll be there to protect you, with an unselfish love that respects you . . . . " Paris Jackson won't have that experience.

I imagined that, if your father is Michael Jackson, he often sang to you part of the chorus from "Maybe Tomorrow" every morning to tell you:

You are the book that I read each day
You are the song that I sing
You are the four seasons of my life . . . .

I hope he was able to tell his children this, as I hope to tell the children I adopt the same.

I think of all the lifetime events that a proud, involved dad should be there for -- ballet recitals, Little League games, Sweet Sixteen parties, graduations, weddings -- and the fact that, because Michael gave so much of himself to the public, he won't be there for those events for his kids.

Even more sad, I understand that he was embarking on this last concert tour to get his financial affairs in order for his children and to show them what "dad does for a living."

So, you can imagine where this is heading. When I'm at a loss for words, I act. If you are a Michael Jackson fan, you can do for him what he can't do for his children: Put his financial affairs in order. One of the greatest gifts you can ever give a parent is to do for their children what he or she can't do for them.

I believe that if each of us Michael Jackson fans looks at the man (or woman) in the mirror, and decides that, to thank Michael for sharing his gift with the entire world, we will buy as much of his music as necessary to retire his debts and put his financial affairs in order, we can "make that change." If we shun free downloads of his music and buy only that which will benefit his estate, retire his debts, and puts his financial affairs in order for his children, we can achieve this.

So, go to your local record store or Amazon or whatever, and buy anything from the Michael Jackson catalog that shows him as a singer, songwriter, producer -- anything that will lead to a revenue stream to his estate.

And, in his words, "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough."



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