Michael Jackson Took the World to a New Musical Plateau
by Ruth G. Zavitsanos
Known as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson took the world to a new musical plateau. His new album, released just weeks ago, reminds us that his music, both new and old, is here to stay. It’s timeless.
I’d been vacationing on the Greek Island of Corfu when I’d first learned of his death. On our return from Glyfada Beach on this day, June 25th, we’d all decided on gyros for a late afternoon snack. Pulling off the highway and down the side street in Gouvia, the appetizing aroma of the seasoned lamb basting over a vertical spit wafted through our open windows and tantalized our taste buds. A small gyro luncheonette with no more than three tables crammed inside made the best Gyros ever at the best price ever. Ted pulled curbside (or rather taking on the trait of his Greek counterparts, he parked mostly on the curb) while I jumped out and ran inside.
A Michael Jackson tune played in the background while I ordered the Gyros. This was followed by another melody of the Prince of Rock and Roll coming from the small television hanging in the far corner. I looked up and surmised that the Greek news reporter had said something about the Pop Icon. I asked the counter man what happened as I paid. He said something in Greek and somberly open palmed his hand across the air.
“Michael Jackson died?” I asked, stunned by the news. Could he be more than 50? I looked up at the TV and read the dates. No, his lifeline revealed he’d died at 50. Finishing off the commentary, his song “Man in the Mirror” played leaving me paralyzed until the haunting tune ended. My heart fell and I realized hearing the news in Corfu added something to his passing. Certainly, I’d never forget where or when I had heard this mega performer had died.
I thought back to the first date I’d had with my husband, Ted. My brother had obtained a pair of tickets for the 1984 Michael Jackson and Jackson Five BAD reunion Tour and had offered them to me since he’d be out of town on business. I had met Ted days earlier and sought my older sister’s advice. “Should I invite my friend Terri to the Jackson 5 reunion concert or this cute guy I just met?” She said, “Ask Ted.” And, so I did.
He met me at Grand Central Station and we walked to Madison Square Garden on that balmy August night. We sat next to a few guys our age and one offered me his binoculars. Ted took hold of my hand and never let it go. Later, he told me the guy with the binoculars had been hitting on me. I still don’t see it. I think he was being nice. And, seeing Michael Jackson up close through his binoculars didn’t warrant anything more from me than a Thank You.
We had a blast. Michael Jackson and his brothers did all of the old hits that we’d grown up with bringing me back to my junior high school days of Tiger Beat and posters of teen idols. My locker sported an 8×10 glossy of dreamy eyed David Cassidy, wearing a blue collared shirt, a puka shell necklace and his famous shag hairstyle. To my left, my classmate had a picture of Donny Osmond and his big white toothy smile. To my right, another classmate had a picture of Michael Jackson with his afro, ebony eyes and sweet smile. We’d joke about who had a crush on the better-looking teen idol. And, we’d all agreed, Michael had the best moves and was the most fun to watch.
With gyros in hand, I jumped in the car and shared the news about Michael Jackson with my family. Ted immediately said, “That was our first date. The Michael Jackson reunion tour with his brothers.” I smiled and the girls bit into their gyros dripping with tzatziki. They were far more engrossed with their snack than the news I’d shared, despite my reminder that he’d attained international celebrity status.
That evening, I stopped in to borrow some olive oil from my cousin, and the news focused on everything on Michael Jackson with his songs playing in the background and his face plastered in the corner of the screen. My cousin explained the newscaster’s remarks to me. His passing had been the headline story all over the world.
A few evenings later we walked down that branched off street in Gouvia that had lengthened to the highway, offering a few more parking spots. It had sprouted gift shops, restaurants, a few hotels and Wi-Fi lounges. I stopped at the bar that advertised “Elvis, here tonight.” I peeked in and spotted, wearing one of the jumpsuits he’d made famous in the 70s, a Greek Elvis impersonator with mike in hand, his voice shaking more than his hips. He sang “Only Fools Rush In,” his words strained through a thick Greek accent. I snapped a picture, thoroughly flabbergasted by the Elvis sighting on Corfu.
Continuing down the street Greek Elvis’ voice followed and I must admit the upbeat renditions had me singing along, “Just wanna be yourrrr teddy bear.” Of course, my teenage daughters thought I’d stepped off planet Mars. “Mom, you’re so weird.” Nope, Mom’s just a fan of Elvis, the King of Rock n Roll!”
And so, I’d left Corfu after that visit feeling the loss of two musical icons. One, who had just perished with great debate, and the other who continued to live on through idol makers refusing to let go. Both will always have a playlist reserved on my iPod and I’m thrilled to have known their music and enjoyed their performances. I wish I could say I saw Elvis live in concert. Hubba, hubba. Does it count that when I was eleven he’d performed live from Hawaii, telecast straight into our den?(Yes, in January of 1973 these television rooms off the beaten path were known as dens.)
Both Elvis and Michael Jackson had so much talent, style and passion that, all over the world, their music will be forever cherished. Of course, in doing so, we’ll inspire a motley crew of impersonators.
June 24, 2014
Michael Jackson Took the World to a New Musical Plateau