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Michael Jackson: Remembering the King of Pop 5 years after his death

Michael Jackson: Remembering the King of Pop 5 years after his death

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 25, 2014

Five years ago today, the music world lost a pop icon when Michael Jackson died suddenly from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.

At the time, the 50-year-old performer and father of three was mired in debt, struggling to shake off an image still tarnished by allegations of child molestation (though he was cleared) and risking everything for a highly ambitious and intensely physical comeback concert series.

His passing — as well as the details that emerged about his secretive life in the subsequent legal battles surrounding his death — kicked off a massive, international wave of nostalgia that has kept him in the headlines, inspired films and shows as well as sparked a musical resurgence (including award show "performances" and the release of several posthumous albums) in the years since.

On this anniversary, CBC Arts staffers and some audience members recount their memories of the King of Pop. Share your memories of Michael Jackson in the comments below or with @CBCArts on Twitter using #MJmemory.

Alice Hopton, producer: I was 10. It was the summer of 1971 in Toronto. It was all out war and there was no avoiding it: the Osmond Brothers or the Jackson 5. There was no middle ground, just one or the other. 

Armed with copies of Tiger Beat, we were serious experts in this raging controversy, including whether one loved Donny, the cutest Osmond, or Michael, the cutest Jackson. Friendships depended on it. 

While some girls swooned for Donny, how could I love him best? Yes, Go Away Little Girl was the single most profound expression of sadness the universe had ever known and we all cried over it, but ABC was just so fun, danceable and, most importantly, the very epitome of cool.  

Did I admit this to my friends? No way — I was outnumbered. Now, all these years later, I am setting the record straight. My heart really did belong to Michael.

Nicolette Mendoza, intern: During the father-daughter dance for my debut [a Filipino coming-of-age celebration], we started with a traditional dance, but arranged for the lights to suddenly shut off. My dad and I both screamed, the lights came up and we broke into the Thriller dance.

Cheryl Brown, writer: Memory #1: Back in ’83, my favourite daycare teacher played us cuts from Thriller on the class turntable. Sadly, she was fired for this.  

Memory #2: My mother took me to Michael Jackson's concert in Toronto in 1984. I don't actually remember it, probably because it was way after my bedtime. 

Eli Glasner, reporter: As a child of the ‘70s, I have many sporadic memories of Michael: checking TV Guide for the next airing of the Thrillermusic video or Jackson’s floppy sweet scarecrow from The Wiz. But the strongest memory is more recent and comes from watching the concert doc This Is It. I'd expected a mawkish celebration or eulogy, but this was revelation.

The film chronicled the rehearsals leading up to his never-to-be comeback concerts in London. I'd long ago stopped thinking of Michael Jackson as an artist — he was caricature, a Hollywood freakshow hiding behind fetishized military outfits and an increasingly unrecognizable face.  What This Is It did was remind me of the amazing musician who started it all. There, onstage, running through numbers with his band, he was a virtuoso: the dancer, the singer, the pianist, the percussionist. You could question his choices and the erratic behaviour, but his talent was (and still is) undeniable. 

Ilana Banks, producer: I have several early MJ memories, including my first dance recital — performed to Don't Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. I forgot all the steps, but I never forgot the song! Then there was The Wiz, a totally underrated movie (though I haven't seen it since I was a little kid, so nostalgia may be fogging my memory). The soundtrack played over and over on our record player.

Thriller was a major event: a long form music video that was also kind of a horror movie. Are you kidding me? It was an instant classic. And I went to a Michael Jackson concert, too! I drove to Buffalo with my parents and, though sitting an entire football field away, saw the Jackson brothers perform! My cousin and his then-girlfriend (now wife) came with us: we all squeezed into the backseat for the ride. We held bragging rights at the time, because the Toronto concert came after that.

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