Tony Harris on Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson asks the question, in one of his biggest hits, "Do you Remember the Time?"
Yeah! I "remember the time" I fell in love with The Jackson Five, J5, as we called the group for a long time. I was standing in the living room\den of our cramped two-bedroom top unit of a two-family home on Boarman Ave. in Baltimore. I had a clothes pin in my hand as my microphone and I was trying to nail Michael Jackson's opening lick to "Who's Lovin' You," That run is a demarcation line for me. Perform it effortlessly and flawlessly and you don't just sing, you can sang! I destroyed the grooves on that 45 trying to sing that lick.
Yeah. I "remember the time" when we'd go to the record store, yes, the record store and buy Jackson 5 45's and LP's!
I "remember the time" when, as a skinny, awkward high schooler, with a big afro, I was mistaken for Michael. The brothers were playing a charity softball game at my school, Franklin Senior High in Reisterstown and everyone was waiting for Michael. I walked in from centerfield to get my seat when someone yelled out, there he is! A small group of people jumped out of the stands and headed in my direction. When they realized I wasn't Michael, let's just say, there was a lot of bad language hurled my way!
I "remember the time" the Victory tour rolled into Cleveland. I was a reporter for WJW at the time and I was able to get a great seat for the show. At that time, Michael was going through "the change". That's how my friends and I referred to Michael's dramatic change in appearance. I never judged him and, yes, I was one of the people who took it personally when anyone attacked Michael. While I don't think we ever really know what people are capable of, I never believed the abuse charges brought against Michael. I'll admit that belief might be based more on heart than head. What I am absolutely certain of is this: a lot of people made a lot of money riding Michael Jackson's back. I wish they had also found a way to take better care of him.
I won't watch much of the coverage of Michael's passing. There will be too much attention paid to "Michael, the Bizarre" for my taste. I hope Berry Gordy, Suzanne DePasse, Stevie, Gladys, Diana and Smokey provide balance and context to Michael's life and talk in length about his extraordinary gifts.
I will "remember the time." This time and that time where I defended Michael– first against those who argued Donny Osmond and the Silvers were better. I'll admit I had a tougher time with my own arguments when Prince came on the scene, but Michael's longevity always carried the day with me.
Defending Michael often was hard, there's no question. But I was happy to do it because my love of Michael Jackson was rock-rooted in the music, that voice, those songs, those chord progessions in those songs. There was the great change in "We Are the World," when Michael sings, "...when you're down and out. And there seems no hope at all". Then there is the wonderful A flat to E flat move Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, Willie Hutch and Bob West wrote for the brothers in "I'll Be There."
My friends and I never thought Michael would live to be an old man. The candle burned too hot.
My message to Michael...I do "remember the time."