I first learnt about Michael Jackson when I was about ten. It was the Uganda of the early 1980’s and it was Obote II’s Uganda. Michael Jackson was my first major interaction with American pop culture. As I recall, it was the Thriller album days. The VCR was making an entrance in some select Ugandan living rooms. Those were the days of break dance and it was cool to do some break dance with the kids back at school.
I remember watching the full-length ‘Thriller’ music video and Rambo’s ‘First Blood’ at Namilyango Junior School when I was in form four of boarding school. . I recall the Ethiopian famine of 1985 and the anthem that ‘We are the world’ became at the time.
Michael Jackson was a very fascinating and unique act, even more so for a young Ugandan boy who didn’t have much alternative pop acts to compare him with. Of course I now know that MJ was ‘it’ and there will never be another MJ. In the words of the Motown founder who first signed the Jackson 5 ‘Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer that ever lived’.
I had a soft spot for MJ and he didn’t lose me as a fan even when it become clear that his private life was a totally different script from the Michael Jackson we saw on the screen belting out, Thriller, Bad, Earth song, Heal the world, you name it.
He was very much a part of my childhood and initiated me into American pop and that fascination with everything American. As I child, I longed to visit the land of MJ and that dream came to pass in 2001 at Dallas, Fort Worth.
When he was announced dead, I couldn’t help but feel that a part of my childhood had gone with him. As children we sang his hits, imitated his signature dance strokes. Wore his trademark white socks, hat and fantasized about his red jacket.
His Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad albums stand out for me and when I think of MJ, I remember his ground-breaking music videos especially the ‘BAD’ video which is forever burned in my brain. Who's bad?!
As a school kid I remember using oil paint to label my cap with the letters ‘BAD’.
Yes, there will never be another Michael Jackson. Even Usher and Justin Timberlake would agree.