Michael, I Want You Back!
Michael Jackson’s energy, music, creativity and heart for people is what I’ll always remember about him. The J5 legacy and Michael’s music is the soundtrack of my youth. In 1969, when I was 10, the Jackson 5 exploded onto the music scene and into my life. Over the years, Michael Jackson made an indelible impact upon my life. His huge talent encouraged and uplifted me in countless ways and I wouldn’t be who I am today without his creative influence.
I am devastated by his tragic and untimely death and I’m deeply hurt knowing the amount of emotional and physical pain he’d experienced over the past several years. My heart and prayers go out to his children, family, close friends and other fans who love him as deeply as I do. For me, Michael Jackson is the Greatest Entertainer of All Time and one of the most compassionate and loving people ever!
Please indulge me as I share my childhood memories of how I discovered J5, a brief encounter with Michael Jackson and a later opportunity to reconnect with my idol.
One day my mother takes me to visit some family friends. As we step into the house their daughter pulls me into the living room squealing,”You’ve got to hear this.” With a wide-eyed-grin, she pops a 45 record on the stereo. The melody begins, the beat pulses and then it happens, Michael’s voice pierces my heart as the groove of “I Want You Back” rocks my soul! I’ve never heard anything like it and scream, “Who is this!” She gives me the scoop on the Jackson 5 and tells me to watch out for their debut album. We play the song over and over, dancing and singing until we fall back on the couch in exhaustion. At home in bed, I long to discover the Jackson 5 and wonder about Michael until I fall asleep. The next day, I beg my mother for the J5 record, so she contributes some cash to my cause.
Overcome with curiosity, I run several blocks to the Avenue of Fashion in search of Michael Jackson and his brothers. Bursting through the door of Lee’s Monroe Music, I’m overwhelmed and fascinated by the artistic J5 poster displays; and when I finally spot Michael Jackson it’s love at first sight. At that moment, I vow to one day meet this extremely talented, super cute and extra special boy.
I obsessively play the record and when their debut album drops the 45 is all scratchy and worn out. As the Jackson’s fame skyrockets, I jump at every opportunity to read about them, watch them on television or see them in concert.
Now, hopelessly in love with Michael Jackson, I search through every Right On and other teen magazines they appear in. I collect J5 and Michael Jackson posters, purchase every J5 and Michael Jackson album and attend every J5 concert I can. We attend J5 concerts in groups of about 4 to 6 girls, always seated on the main floor or in the lower bowl. When the opening act hits the stage, everyone screams and chants for J5 and our beloved Michael. When J5 takes the stage, we’re hoisted and held atop tall barricades for an optimal view. Throughout the performance, we passionately sing along and scream Michael’s name with tears flowing, loving every second of the raw emotion, excitement and fun.
I join my grade school homeroom J5 fan club. We love creating dance routines to their music. Enthusiastic dancers, we regularly perform for our home-room class. Our uniforms include white tops, purple micro-pleated mini skirts, stacked white knee socks and black high-top Converse sneakers. Having a strong allegiance to Michael, our skirts pay homage to the purple hat he wore on the Ed Sullivan show. On performance days we get loads of attention, holding court like popular girls.
During dance rehearsals, we debate over which Jackson brother is most talented, the best dancer and the cutest. Most of our rehearsals revolve around writing love letters to Michael and lamenting over our desire to meet him. I’d always make grand gestures of affection, while reading my letters of extra special love for Michael. It all boiled down to the fact that we were stir crazy for J5 and especially Michael.
Who knew, that just a few years later my hopes and dreams would manifest. My wonderful brother-in-law Marvin Marshall, a Motown musician and musical director invites me, my friend and my step siblings to a J5 Motown reception. Several days before the event me and my friend undergo several bouts of ecstatic frolicking, we literally exhaust ourselves in anticipation of meeting Michael Jackson. I couldn’t contain my exuberance over receiving what I’d hoped for and dreamed about for so long. Furthermore, I’m astonished when my mother allows me to choose a new outfit for the occasion.
Little do I know, this opportunity is my pre-teen coming of age moment. Before this point, my mother presents me with new outfits and has final authority over all my clothing choices. Desiring to be like LaToya Jackson, I’m set on wearing the latest fashion. I pick out a beige granny style elephant-leg-pant-suit in a blue and green lady bug print. I choose a pair of strappy beige patent leather, peep toe, wedge sandals to match, my very first fancy dress heels. On the big day I wear pink nail polish, pink lip gloss, blue mascara, small gold hoop earrings and my hair is in a high bun. This marks the first time I’m allowed to wear makeup. Going forward, I make all my own clothing choices and wear lip gloss and mascara whenever I want.
The Detroit Metro Airport Hotel banquet room is jammed with fans. As the small room fills to capacity, the atmosphere buzzes with anticipation. Adults pack the room, while children stand on chairs and tables to get a good view. After a brief welcome, J5 enters and the crowd goes wild. Everybody celebrates the brothers with applause, cheers and ecstatic jumping. A line quickly forms and I gleefully take my place. I finally reach the reception table and wave at the older brothers while rushing toward Marlon and Michael. I greet Marlon with a smile, hand shake and a shy, “hi.” I do the same with Michael, but things seem to happen in slow motion from then on. After greeting Michael, he and Marlon give me the once over. They glance at one another and nod, grin then look back at me. Then both give me a wink and a smile. So tickled, I grin with a giggle and begin back stepping with eyes locked on Michael whispering, “I love you Michael.” I walk away forever changed by this brief encounter with Michael Jackson.
What remains is a visceral memory of a gentle touch and an endearing gesture that held so much meaning for a young girl. That moment will forever be ingrained in my heart and mind, as it stirred a deep love from the depths of my soul revealing a powerful lesson. I learned that what you focus on expands and that acting on your hopes and dreams brings forth opportunity, life changes and growth.
Afterwards, I beg my brother-in-law to take us up to Michael’s hotel room, he explains that girls aren’t allowed and then promptly takes my little-step-brother instead. Highly upset we pout most of the way home, but not before interrogating my brother about each and every little thing he saw and heard while hanging out with the Jackson brothers. Later that evening, we attend the J5 concert at COBO Arena.
The jam packed arena reverberates with fans chanting J5, J5. The constant hum of excitement and anticipation explodes into screaming, cheers and whistles when the stadium goes dark. Suddenly, the stage pops with a full spectrum of colorful lights and the band starts up with a funky finger poppin’, rump shakin’ groove. Fans rush the stage as the Jackson’s set-it-off with might and power. Watching from the wings, I marvel at their high octane performance and expert showmanship. Each brother tears up the stage with masterful precision and finesse. Being so close to the action gives me a soul shaking jolt of creative energy and I’m prompted to get up and do my thing. Instead, I restrict my exuberance to a seated chair dance with a little neck snappin’, shoulder bobbin’ and finger poppin’. When it’s all over, I’m floating on air with visions of J5 dancing and singing in my head. At bedtime, I’m wide eyed and restless sorting through everything that had just happened to me.
Living out my biggest desire and reaching a fundamental milestone completely overwhelms me. For about a year, I’m on a lofty high brought on by my newly acquired teen status, the loosening of parental reins; and especially from imbibing the ethereal mist emanating from an electrified atmosphere surrounding Michael Jackson. My unceasing intoxication exacerbated every time I recount my J5/Michael Jackson experience.
I was a pretty experienced young lady. I’d jetted to Los Angeles a couple times, all by myself. We’d been to Canada, Philly, The Big Apple, The Windy City, ATL and Birmingham, Alabama. I was front row center at the last Motown Review in Detroit and was backstage up-close and personal with some of my favorite artists. I’d also met a few other famous singers and a Broadway actor, but nothing compared to looking into the eyes of, shaking hands with and getting a sexy wink and smile from Michael Jackson. This was by far the biggest and best thing that had ever happened to me. What an awesome gift for a 13 year old girl!
My ex-husband Shawn L. Jenkins gets tickets for The “Bad Tour” concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills, promising we’ll get backstage. We’re seated stage right, mid stadium at the top of the lower bowl. Before the concert starts, Shawn goes backstage to speak with a college buddy who’s principle background singer, on that tour. He promptly comes back with “After the Show” backstage passes. I gasp with excitement, but feel an uneasiness, as a creeping fear washes over me.
The concert is off-the-hook and I’m awestruck by the stage production and Michael’s performance. His dance moves cut up the stage, as he sings his heart out giving his all. I’m starstruck, screaming like that crazed 11-year-old at Olympia Stadium. At the end, my heart’s bursting with so much admiration, I begin to cry.
The time comes to meet Michael, suddenly frozen with fear I say, “I can’t do it, he’s not the same person and I don’t want to spoil my special memory of him.” My ex-husband counters, “You’re crazy!, girl come on….reconnect with your idol….COME ON!!!!!” I say, “I’ll wait till you get back.”
At the time, I had no regrets and was happy just being backstage. The next night, Shawn asks if I’d like another chance to meet Michael. I told him that he should take his best friend instead, but asked him to get my program autographed. On that occasion, he actually got to go into Michael’s private dressing room.
He made it clear to me that I had missed a very special opportunity and described Michael as being very friendly, talkative and even playful while making jokes and drawing cartoons on a chalk board.
I immediately feel horrible about my decisions and especially disgusted with myself for having judged Michael’s changed appearance. In hind-sight, I was afraid of seeing Michael face to face and wasn’t sure of what my reaction would be. The next day, I tearfully write Michael a final fan letter expressing my lifelong love, strong appreciation for his music and my gratitude for his positive influence over my lifetime.
What I learned is that fear is as pervasive as anger. Fear’s negative influence has a long lasting effect causing loss and failure. Fear attracts trouble, blocks opportunity and personal development. Fear ultimately keeps you from living your best life. Because I succumbed to fear, I missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect with the, “King of Pop,” my first love and someone who’d made a uplifting impact upon my life.
Now that Michael’s gone, I’ll never get the chance to see him live in concert, marvel over his new dance moves or get another opportunity to encounter him face to face. I’ll never get over the fact that I allowed fear and judgement to hold me back from telling my idol how he blessed my life, giving me some of the best memories of my life. Even now, it’s hard for me to fathom that I made such a stupid mistake.