I Can’t Help It

I want to cry, but I won’t. I want to absorb all that’s being said about Michael Joseph Jackson, scour the internet for every bit of information possible. But I’m not. Hell, I want to pour out a little Pepsi on the sidewalk [(c) Questlove] and add my voice to the millions across the globe who are giving their testimonials as to why MJ was the Greatest that Ever Lived.

Except, each time I try … I start to sing instead. I can’t help it.

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Seriously, I could probably stay holed up in my apartment for the next few months and never run out of Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 songs to play. From “Never Can Say Goodbye” to “Got to Be There,” from “Remember the Time” to “They Don’t Care About Us,” a jam session celebrating the life of the one and only King of Pop could go on indefinitely. His catalog was ridiculously diverse. Everything to everybody. Anyone you speak to has their favorite song, or moment, or ad lib, or dance move. They have their own small piece of an icon.

Last night, in Harlem, a spontaneous sing-along of MJ’s “Rock With You” exploded in front of the Apollo Theater. And it was beautiful. And instead of crying at the spectacle, I sang along instead.

Please, don’t get me wrong. The crying will come. In the coming days, as I read and listen to all of the tributes, when I hear a middle-aged woman tell stories about the songs she’ll pass on to her children, when I see grown men breaking down unashamedly when they remember the time they came thisclose to the man himself. When I think about his mother, who lost her baby way too soon, and his brothers and sisters, whose complex relationship with their brother never stopped their love and support–when I really take a moment to reflect on all of that, I probably won’t be able to stop the tears from flowing.

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But as for right now, as I recall one of my favorite people rocking out to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” at a wedding a few years back while nursing a fever of 102 degrees; and as I reminisce on my dad’s singing–loudly–along with “You Got Me Working (Day and Night)” as I sat by his feet reading the Off The Wall album liner notes like it was the Bible; as I think back on a recent trip to New Orleans where a club full of half-drunk, multi-cultured tourists all did the “Thriller” dance in unison, I’ll press play on my iPod one more time, make sure I “Blame It On The Boogie,” get “Butterflies” to Mijac’s otherworldly ad libs and care less about “Whatever Happens” afterwards…I’ll just sing. And then sing some more.

And celebrate the life of a man whose achievements, and meaning, and depth, and impact is increasingly hard to put into words. I’ll have to do all of that.

I can’t help it.

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