Music and the 80’s Generation’s First Big Goodbye

That’s my crazy radio DJ face.

Very frightening. It’s a fun job, no money in it, but for a type like me that enjoys a wide swath of music it fits me.

When I first started in radio in 1986 there were at that moment no Michael Jackson hits getting played in tight rotation on the station I interned at. That would all change when he released the first single from his “Bad” album, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, a duet he did with Siedah Garrett. After that there were number one hits with “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, (the next single, “Another Part of Me”, from the Disneyland ride Captain Eo peaked in the top ten but not at number one) “Dirty Diana”, and “Smooth Criminal.”

After that I start to lose track of what went number one for him. I know he had a very intricate “live action mixed with animation” video that MTV used to play all the time called “Leave Me Alone” but that hardly got played on the radio. When his next huge hit “Black and White” came out I was working formats that didn’t play him much (or didn’t play his fast songs, just his ballads like “Will You Be There” and “Heal the World”). Meanwhile, his sister Janet was all over the radio and had pretty much been so since her 1985 album “Control”.

Today’s WHAT THE HECK? What the heck is wrong with us, with anyone, for slamming this man now at his shocking untimely death? We all know he lead a life that most of us question, but look at what will be his REAL legacy, his two amazing albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller”. Both those albums taught us how to let loose and have fun. Michael was not ashamed of his high falsetto. Eddie Murphy and others poked fun at it, but he knew he could rock like the best guitar gods in his own uncompromising way (he even enlisted a guitar god, Eddie VanHalen, to play the crazy solo on “Beat It”). Without him, I doubt we would have been so willing to open the doors for Justin Timberlake and others who sing high and dance like we wish we all could.

In the months and years to follow, we’ll get the whole story on why he died so young. We’ll maybe hear of even more controversies: What did he do while staying in the middle east? Why did he hit such economic hard times? What is the legacy of his children? How many plastic surgeries were ultimately involved in the expanse of his entire life and why was he so vane?

He is the first of the 80’s pop generation to leave us so soon. He had such a lasting impact: He is like an Elvis or a Sinatra though there will be those who call that blasphemy. Those people have their ears in the sand and have no idea what greatness we were listening to from Michael’s earliest years playing with his family to 1995 when he enjoyed his last number one hit (“You Are Not Alone” which broke records for making it to number one so quickly).

When you work in radio, especially a top 40 station, that plays the same songs over and over again, you get to know each and every note of certain songs. I am honored I got to hear every note of Michael’s.