I do know and am quite likely to remember how I learned of MJ’s death.
Just as I remember when JFK died – fifth grade, Miss Oberlik’s class, Daniel S. Dickinson School, Binghamton, NY. Just as I remember finding out about the Challenger disaster – working in the back room at FantaCo Enterprises, the late comic book store store on Central Avenue, Albany, NY, while listening to Q-104, when Mary Margaret Apple interrupted the music to give the news.
This is not to say – lest you start to fret – that I’m making a comparison about the import of these events. I am talking about how memory works.
I was at the Albany Public Library, main branch, computer room, shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. I needed to write about my daughter for a blog post the next day. Then I heard someone say to the woman at the desk that Michael Jackson had died. WHA? So I went to CNN and AP, both of whom indicated that Michael had been rushed to the hospital but neither of whom had announced his death. Most sources indicated that TMZ, the Matt Drudge of entertainment sites, WAS declaring Michael dead, but that they were seeking independent verification.
About 15 minutes later, CNN notes that “multiple sources” have noted Michael’s passing. In the moment, I was more peeved that TMZ had been right in breaking the story, that this was a greater sign of the deterioration of the mainstream media, than the death of an entertainer who I’d watched, sometimes with tremendous admiration and other times in disdain, over the past four decades. Someone who, and I ALWAYS hate this, was younger than I am.
The death of Michael Jackson is this fascinating cultural and technological phenomenon. It slowed Twitter to a crawl and taxed much of the rest of the Internet as well.
Here’s what always bothers me about these types of stories. There are folks who say endlessly, “Why do people care about THAT? If people spent more time caring about (pick one or more) world hunger/the health care crisis/the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/whatever, rather than some entertainer’s death, we’d be better off.” It’s often the same people disdain the use of television (they don’t have one or only watch PBS).
I’m willing to bet that if people spent as much time worrying about the health care industry as they did about Michael or Jon & Kate (who I must admit, I didn’t even know who they were until a month ago) or some other “frivolous” thing, it would have next to zero impact on the important issue. It is as though some individuals feel that passion for Off the Wall, Michael’s best album, could be somehow transferable to other, more “significant” things. (Speaking of which, apparently Michael’s soul has been saved, in case you were wondering.) Thank goodness ABC was planning repeats of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice last Thursday so they could preempt them for instant specials on Michael and Farrah Fawcett, who, not unexpectedly, had died earlier that day. (What, no special on Sky Saxon of the Seeds?)
So I will remember how I learned of Michael’s death, just as I remember John Lennon’s (heard it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football) or the shootings of Lee Harvey Oswald and Robert F. Kennedy (saw them on TV in real time). The intensity of the events will wane, but a piece of the recollection will likely remain.
Just discovered The Dead Rock Stars Club. Have only been in 2009, but it is quite detailed. Not does it have obvious choices such as MJ, Sky Saxon and Koko Taylor, but more obscure artists such as Viola Wills, and even folks you wouldn’t have thought of in this context: Gale Storm (I’m old enough to remember My Little Margie), Ed McMahon, and David Carradine, e.g.