As a Libertyville child of rock and roll whose unofficial graduation party was a Dispatch concert, I never paid much attention to Michael Jackson. His music struck me in college for the first time as extremely popular. I heard his stuff at '80s nights, dance clubs and athletic events and in residence halls. I saw Franklin Street Thriller impersonations on Halloween and laughed because I had never seen the entire video. His death was a good example of not fully appreciating something until it is not there anymore.
Journalists force the question of his legacy; was he a good man or a bad man? The truth seems to be that we will not put him in any one box no matter how many times they ask. He was enigmatic at the end of his life and will continue to be until humans stop listening to music. But most people want to remember him for his enormous contributions to popular culture. He changed the way we think about music and dance. Every time you see one of your friends try to spin on his feet or snap his fingers, you have Michael Jackson to thank. This influence was easy to take for granted until this week.
His work might not have challenged him in our sense of the word, and he probably loved what he did. But there is no doubt that his contributions to our culture are positive and everlasting. He made us happy even when we did not know it was him who was doing it. Thank you, Michael, for making us want to dance.
Watch Michael do his thing 3:50 into this video.