Michael Jackson’s Thriller was my introduction to pop music. I can still remember the first time I ever heard it…
I was six and we had just moved to a new neighborhood. It didn’t take long for me to make friends with the kid next door. He was a few years older than me, but we immediately hit it off because we had the same first name. His mom had just bought Thriller on cassette, and he could barely contain his excitement as he pulled it from the case and popped it in his boom box.
I had no idea who Michael Jackson was, or why my new friend was so excited. But the minute we heard those first three synth drum beats which kick of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” we started dancing. We had danced our way through the entire A-side when my mom called me inside. She was furious. Growing up in a Christian home in the early-80s, I wasn’t allowed to listen to “secular” music. I knew better, but I didn’t care. And I got a spanking for it.
Later on I found a way to get my hands on my own copy of the album. I must have listened to it a million times late at night with the volume turned down real low so I wouldn’t get caught. And I never did.
When I think about Michael Jackson, I tend not to think much about the bizarre behavior and dreadful allegations that marred his later years. I think about all the red faux-leather jackets with the zippers on them that my friends wore to school. I think about how much fun it was to wear a glove on one hand and try to Moonwalk. (I was never able to figure it out.) I think about moving to a new neighborhood and meeting new friends. I think about my childhood.