It was the dawn of MTV, the early 1980s: parachute pants, Flock of Seagulls style haircuts, and a lot of abject sartorial silliness. It was also the beginning of Michael Jackson’s adult career, a beginning marked by the video for Billie Jean and soon thereafter, the landmark mini-movie Thriller.
I was about 16 at the time and most of my musical interests lay in the realms of classic rock, punk, and classical music. I was only just becoming aware of the funk traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans, even though they would be out in the streets every Carnival. As a result, I did not quite know what to make of Billie Jean at first. I knew that I liked it, but I did not have any context for it. In a lot of ways, that was what propelled me into my love for Parliament, The Funky Meters, and Chocolate Milk, among others.
For people in my age range, Michael Jackson was part of the soundtrack of our lives. Whether you liked his music or not, you knew it. It came at you from radios everywhere — no streaming in the ’80s, kids. He was also, unquestionably, one of the great showmen of our age.
In the recent days since his passing, there have been many demonstrations of affection from his fans, and from the radio stations that brought his music to the fans. I’d like to share a few here.
- One Ohio alternative station, WWCD-FM 101, switched to an all Michel Jackson playlist for one night. [10Tv.com]
- Radio switchboards in Knoxville lit up like Christmas trees in response to the news. DJ Joey Tack reminisces. [WATE 6 News]
- Westwood One is offering up some of its extensive archive of content including performances and interviews in a one hour special hosted by WPLJ/New York’s Race Taylor. We’ll Miss You Michael is available free to any station on a non-exclusive basis starting at 7 p.m. ET Friday and continuing over the weekend. Contact Neal Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
- Clear Channel’s Rhythmic WKTU (103.5fm KTU) /New York spent the weekend playing Michael Jackson music and invited listeners to record their memories at an 800 number or post them at www.ktu.com.
- Back in my home town of New Orleans, there was a huge Second Line for Micheal Jackson and WWOZ 90.7FM has provided video footage of it on their website. [If you don’t know what a second line is, read this.]