Dancing inside the prison


Dear Michael,

I can’t remember a time before you.  Your voice has always been in my head.

Back when it was a hit (was it really a hit?), I learned the words to “Ben” from hearing my big brother sing it over & over. The whole time I knew Ben was a rat and that just made the song seem all the more special.  I wanted you to be the star in the movie, not that bad-acting little white boy. And of course the Jackson 5ive cartoon show was my choice, unless Scooby was on.

The year Thriller came out, I had a sweet baby sitting gig with an adorable 5 year old.  He LOVED you. And even though I thought I was too cool for pop, I couldn’t deny the way you moved was magic.

I’m sorry for all of your suffering. You didn’t deserve it. Maybe we should have done more, sooner, to help you. I’d like to think people tried. I’d like to think you had friends. I hope you did.

I agree with the critics who say that Westerners have the attention span of gnats, that the death of 3 entertainers in one week is enough to push the Iranian protests out of our consciousness. How long have the people of Darfur been in peril, anyway? We Americans can’t even pay attention to our own two wars.

But this is exactly why your work was important, Michael. Great art like yours–expressions of our biggest joys and love–give voice to what is best about living, to why the struggles matter.

Last night, hearing your music again, with all of its uniquely Michaelness about it, I couldn’t help but smile and dance and celebrate. I’m not even a fan. Your sound is just in my life, and it’s such a very good sound. A real gift. Thank you.

Everlasting peace to you, Mr. Jackson.

Respectfully and fondly,


One thought on “Dancing inside the prison

  1. I have always been a fan. I can sooooo clearly remember my first “boom box” because it came with removable speakers. One of the few “tapes” that I had was the MJ Thriller tape. Today’s greatest joy has been listening to MJ all day long – in the car on the way to work… in line at the lunch cafe… and more. I loved his music. Great perspective!

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