Michael Jackson: Black or White

Friday, June 26, 2009

Throughout his career, Michael Jackson had a complex relationship with race. Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and author of The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop-And Why It Matters, reflects on Jackson's legacy, both musical and social.


Tricia Rose

Comments [88]

For a transcript featuring Tricia Rose's commentary with relevant links on topics touched upon in the discussion see:

Feb. 16 2011 03:05 PM
Patty from North Carolina

I normally wouldn't post anything because Ive always thought that people could be evil and looking at some of these comments it's still the same. I would like to say to the evil people that post these terrible comments I would like to ask you, If this was your brother ,father, uncle or son and the media had torn your life up in pieces would you be affected? No one on this earth is perfect and we all have flaws. None of you were in his home or lived his life so none of you should judge him or his life. You all just read what the media has displayed and they didn't know for sure either. I don't know for sure but what I do know was that he was an exceptional and talented person, who gave the world hope to love and enbraced people but instead of looking at those positive attributes you all focus on something you really didn't know about. He was here for a reason just as you are here for a reason and the good thing I can say he fulfilled his destiny did you? MJ don't owe you or the media anything. So remember that.STOP THE HATRED CAUSED WE ALL WILL LEAVE HERE AND WHEN YOU DO WHAT DID YOU DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD. I love you all and enjoy your day
Peace and Blessing

Jul. 12 2009 09:04 PM
angelle from CALIFORNIA

I DONT BELIEVE EVER TOUCHED ANY CHILD THE WRONG WAY , AND THE DAM MEDIA COVERS EVERYTHING , you cant prove he did those things ,just like i cant prove he didnt , but what i can prove is this , we are to forgive everyone of there wrong doings, it dosent matter who it is, i do truly beleve mr.jackson had a terrible time on this earth , and i do beleve god will take care of him now , and another thing the media is the one who put him down so many times in the past , ruined his image over and over again , and they are now the same ones who are uplifting him, and the reason i beleve he chaned so drastically is because of how the world treated him , he just wanted to be accepted by his enemeys,, and we all would done certain things in our lifes if we were living the life he was , its easy to say things you say when you dont understand or live the life of another ,, someday his children will see things that you have said about there dad , they love him , not only have you destroyed his life , you are tyring to ruin his childrens lifes also !!!!!!

Jul. 11 2009 04:22 PM
LizBeth from USA

To: hammagaadji

I don't understand your judgements. Seemingly you have chosen to believe these horrible things about Michael. You have to be understanding of his childhood being absent and relating to children who are in the same boat and innocently wanting to create a place where they felt loved and felt safe. Like he has said many times, he is Peter Pan, he wants to be that person that helps the children. He is childlike. He is loving and caring. What you refuse to take in to consideration is the scum of the earth people who are bottom feeders and are looking for $$$ in their pocket and will do anything regardless of who they hurt to "get theirs" I believe that is what happened to Michael. After the 2nd time being accused by people he trusted in is home. It pretty much killed his beautiful childlike spirit, which was very sad indeed. So please try not to be so cold hearted and closed minded and trust that there really are people like MJ out there who are trying to do good and want to take care of and who does love others.


Jul. 03 2009 03:13 PM
vivenne from NYC, NY

Micheal Jackson was a musical genius, but its obvious
he did not want to be BLACK. He not only under-went
surgery to change his negroid features, and bleached
his skin, but he also made sure his CHILDREN are
WHITE." VITILIGO "? we are not that dense.

Jun. 30 2009 11:01 AM

I thought your guest was interesting, but she kept talking about how the extreme fame from a young age caused Jackson to become the way he did, etc. What about the severe child abuse he endured? Fame can take you to strange places, but so can being totally traumatized and fearful for years.

Jun. 28 2009 11:51 AM

All that to say... Michael Jackson did not jump or fall. He was pushed. I don't know if Michael Jackson had to be any more black than O.J. Simpson or any other black person who, freed from the constraints of having to live among a too often ghettoized group of people sharing similar physical features, goes far away and never goes back. Still.. I don't even think it was just that Michael embraced his inner white woman. It's almost like.. as in Obama's case.. if he moves away from an embrace of blackness.. from being himself and finding communion with others who share "those characteristics" then the reaction among the larger body of whites is.. "look isn't that GREAT.. he's moving in the right direction" .. He isn't hide bound by identifying with this whole... brown skin... afro growing out of head stuff... and yet when it was clear as it was by 1987 that the plastic surgery and skin treatments were extreme.. that the entire Jackson family had gotten the same nose job... and Michael by that point glowed in the dark... it was still ok cause he was erring on the side of a whitish appearance.

Jun. 28 2009 02:50 AM

What happened to Michael Jackson was a disgrace. A bunch of vampiric fame vultures beset the man from the time he achieved megastardom during the corporate hype wave which resulted from his Thriller album becoming the first kernel of popcorn to fall into the hopper as the anschluss of MTV and the multi-billion dollar record industry came to fruition in 1983. Michael got huge... MTV/Corporate Records got huge and it all became a tough act to follow. All the while we were being assured by this megamedia that we loved and worshipped the genius of Michael Jackson. Most of those using the word genius at this time hadn't listened to a pop record in 30 years.. didn't know which side of the cassette tape to put the needle on and have never listened to a modern pop, rock or soul record in their lives. The rest were kiddies who ingested Michael Jackson in between their penny candies. This same media sold us Ronald Reagan as the great communicator and the Chevy Citation as a great small car. Sigh.. the 80s..

Jun. 28 2009 02:43 AM

There are many of us who do not wish to engage in the maudlin happy speak which would "pay tribute to the man's music and life and ignore all those pesky trifling trivia like the abuse of children, drugs, and degeneration of one's own body and health", because we watched Michael over his whole life and career. For one thing.. Jackson hadn't done any significant new work in nearly 20 years. For the overhyped product which emerged after Off the Wall, all I can say is there are two kinds of people in this world.. those who can see Corey Feldman in his hat and one white glove imitating Michael Jackson's Beat It moves and retain their stomach contents.. and those of us who saw that as the end of the road years before Michael was taken out in that ambulance on Thursday. And no... I DON'T believe that Michael was just hanging out shooting the **** with Marlon Brando, Liz Taylor, Yul Brynner, and 800 young white boys in a complete state of relaxed innocence.

Jun. 28 2009 02:34 AM

Re: "But seriously, black people and the so-called "black community" is not a hive-minded, monolithic, myopic positioning point."

Thanks darrylayo. It's pathetic that some people DON'T. GET. IT. *groan*

For a light-hearted look at the matter see:

Jun. 27 2009 02:44 PM
David from boston

Michael Jackson was an original genius, a once in a century super nova of extraordinary ability. In his own field of dance and music, he was like a Newton or an Einstein in their field of physics. And yet his domain was our culture (not our science), and so in a cultural way, that is, in ways that effect nearly everyone, he was ever so influential. And he is ours: an American original. His talent was a gift to the world, but we can feel a special loss, as he comes from us.

Beyond his talent, he was obviously a damaged, unhappy, and tortured soul. His life is tragic. But how anyone can fail to want to discuss his work and cultural contributions, is beyond me. I think it would have been reasonable to have devoted at least an hour to MJ. RIP.

Jun. 26 2009 11:13 PM

Linda...he made THRILLER.

But seriously, black people and the so-called "black community" is not a hive-minded, monolithic, myopic positioning point. There are a few "black mainstreams" of thought, but generally, it's not very helpful to think about any group of people in terms of groupthink.

Also, people always have "that one cousin" or "that friend," or some embarrassing associate that we cannot justify, but at the end of the day, embrace anyway.

At the end of the day, whenever people talked about Michael Jackson for the last twenty years, it's always a sentence that trails off into an "andddd....ummmm....yeah..."

Black people aren't as vindictive as we're stereotyped as being.

Jun. 26 2009 06:53 PM

I don't understand the Black community's outpouring of love for Michael Jackson.
Michael did everything in his power to disassociate himself from his blackness. He made himself white and surrounded himself with white children (including those he calls "his").
His best friends were caucasian.
When I see the Black community so overwrought, it makes me wonder if they truly see the man he was.
Yes, he was a musical legend but he has serious problems with being Black.

Jun. 26 2009 06:10 PM

Et Tu Brian,

Michael Jackson is an unworthy subject for a program that aspires to be a platform for serious discussion of important public policy issues.

Jun. 26 2009 04:46 PM
Michael Miller from Prospect Heights Brooklyn

Jackson's death so close to the anniversary of the death of Judie Garland and to New York's Gay Pride really suggests some connections between the two icons. Although Jackson was not personally a gay icon, his music was ubiquitous in gay discos throughout the 80s.

Jun. 26 2009 02:21 PM
perri from Brooklyn

Good call, [4] frank from brooklyn!

When I saw the title of this episode I immediately thought of the movie Three Kings. The dialogue goes something like this:

Iraqi soldier: "What is the problem with Michael Jackson?" Your country make him chop up his face."

American soldier: "He did it to himself"

Iraqi soldier: Michael Jackson is pop king of sick fu**cking country."

Goodbye, MJ.

Jun. 26 2009 01:21 PM

I was in Chicago in the mid-1980's, and was amazed how a group of older black female office workers, watching an old video of a 12-year-old Michael Jackson through the window of a TV shop at lunchtime, had such a warm, proud and genuinely happy reaction to his performance. They had a connection to this performer that I couldn't really fathom.

I had never been a fan, but it made me look at him in a new light, and then I began to appreciate his talent - just in time, unfortunately, to be saddened by his eventual downfall. As a bi-racial person, I don't believe Michael's issues were about race, but about having had his childhood taken from him by the music industry, and = unconsciously - by the fame provided by the very people who admired him - his fans. He was just too young for all that fame and this was deeply exacerbated by terrible management/parenting.

Ta Nehisi-Coates, in the Atlantic had been writing about Jackson for the past several days before he died. Yesterday he wrote:

"Mike used to be beautiful. My sister Kelly just knew she was marrying him. And he danced so smooth and easy. I hate to think that what gave him that ability, was the same thing that ruined him. I remember watching this a few years back and thinking, "Goddamn, he's still got it. Amazing." Watch the end where he murders them b-boy style."

he has some video links after that.

Jun. 26 2009 12:44 PM
Nicole from Harlem

I really enjoyed hearing Tricia Rose on air this morning. I especially loved what she said about Michael Jackson's music having a very strong love ethic that younger musicians can learn from. No matter what we can say about his life and controversies, his music was fundamentally about loving humanity.

Jun. 26 2009 12:23 PM
Mary Ryan from Brooklyn, NY

About an hour ago, I was with a black woman aged 50+ who, in mourning Michael Jackson, simply said, "He wasn't trying to escape the color of his skin. He was trying to escape childhood abuse, to make himself a different person".
Her POV makes sense: Below the talent and fame, Jackson sought himself as an innocent child. Blind to his own abuses, he spoke as a wide-eyed kid and carved up his face to make it so. What desperation and torture.

Jun. 26 2009 11:50 AM
Office Worker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

So many people are completely unable to process complexity. People are either "good" or "bad."

Michael Jackson being a pedophile (urgh) has NOTHING to do with him being one of the greatest musical entertainers of our time. Bad man? Certainly. "Overhyped?" You're out of your mind.

Jun. 26 2009 11:19 AM
Ruby from Bklyn

Miriam puts it so well.

Another relevant part of the story is what that kind of celebrity does to a human being's psyche.

That he had his childhood stolen from him, only to allegedly wind up visiting this horror on other children is tragic. Any parents who allowed their children to be around him were both abusive and seeking monetary gain.

I tend to freeze him maybe even before "Off The Wall"--when he was an innocent, child star singing some of the most moving, hopeful songs around.

Jun. 26 2009 11:14 AM
Michael from Rockville Centre,Nassau county

My God,why are we wasting air time on a overhyped,self hating pedaphile.Is it a slow news day?

Jun. 26 2009 11:08 AM
niina from Brooklyn, NY

Florida, 1995: watching MJ's HIStory at a friend's parents' green card party -- they had just won the green card lottery and were celebrating. There were green balloons and green drinks.

Jun. 26 2009 11:04 AM
Stan Zimny from Tuxedo Park NY

My memory of Michael Jackson is that he destroyed memories. I grew up in the 50's and the music when I hear of that era evokes memories of my friends, where I was when I first heard that song, my infatuations, my friends etc. But starting with the videos of Jackson's songs I lose all that - when I hear that music I remember the MTV video and nothing else.

Jun. 26 2009 10:59 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

For some reason my parents told us that Michael Jackson lived in the air conditioner so we wouldn't stick our fingers in the vents. We were terrified of him after seeing the Thriller video.

Jun. 26 2009 10:59 AM
Danny Horowitz from brooklyn

whos Michel Jackson!?!? hey just kidding but why is every one so supprised that he died. theonly song of his that I heard was thiler and Steve Marten did it.

Jun. 26 2009 10:59 AM
Eadweard from chicago, IL

Paraphrasing Lester Bangs, We will never agree on anything the way we agreed on Michael Jackson.

Jun. 26 2009 10:59 AM

It's important to give credit to Quincy Jones, he produced Michael's three biggest albums.

Jun. 26 2009 10:58 AM
Jay F. from manhattan

Micheal Jackson is alive and well and hiding out in Vegas with Presley (the father).

Guaranteed that there will be sightings.

This is the beginning of a conspiracy.

Jun. 26 2009 10:57 AM
the truth from bkny

News Flash!! He is MORE famous that Elvis Presley who only had a hand full of hits and two hand fulls of bad movies!!

Jun. 26 2009 10:57 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn, NY

When I was very young I had, for some reason, among my Barbie collection a Thriller-era Michael Jackson doll. I, to this day, have no idea how that was acquired...but I do remember performing the iconic Thriller dance with MJ and his Barbie & My Little Pony backup dancers.
When I "grew up" I continued my love for the Michael Jackson theatrics and dedicated several months of my life to learning the entirety of the Thriller dance with two other friends.
I can't imagine any other artist today that would leave such an impression on a young girl - one strong enough to follow her throughout life. Perhaps I should gather my Thrillerettes scattered across the coasts for a loving send-off.

Jun. 26 2009 10:55 AM
Marissa from Manhattan, NY

I think Michael Jackson is a great example of the complexity of the human condition. As imperfect as any American role model - he just expressed it more visibly than others do.

Jun. 26 2009 10:54 AM
Liz from NJ

I went to Japan to teach in July 1981. Not knowing much about Japan beforehand, I thought I wouldn't hear American music for a long time. I took Off the Wall w/ me, and my friends and I must have played that album at every party we had. I also saw many of the videos from Thriller on Japanese music television, which was their version of MTV. And, I still have the first four Jackson 5 albums and their Christmas albums.

Jun. 26 2009 10:54 AM
paige from jersey city, nj

Seeing Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller as a pre-adolescent on MTV, it was the first I experienced sexiness - those eyes! I am white, and my mother, sister and I screamed at the TV - despite living in a lily white atmosphere at the time - it was exhilerating and alluring - you just wanted more of him - even though I didn't know what those feelings really meant at the time. Even though I had little or no exposure to "black America" at the time. I'll never ever forget the feelings I had watching him dance and sing as a young girl.

Jun. 26 2009 10:54 AM
Lew from Manhattan

Body dysmorpic disorder is a psychiatric illness characterized by an obsession over a flaw, minor or even imaginary, in one's appearance. Sufferers frequently undergo multiple cosmetic surgeries in an attempt to correct their perceived deformity. This seems like a more likely explanation of Mr. Jackson's behavior than the cultural factors cited by the professor. After all, how many other iconic figures of any race, in any era, presumably subject to simular pressures and tensions as Mr. Jackson, so dramatically and persistently surgically altered their appearance?

Jun. 26 2009 10:53 AM
Lois from Harlem

Bless you Tricia Rose for bringing your (always) brilliant and incisive mind to this discussion about Michael and his relationship to race and color. As a Black boomer who danced through college with Michael Jackson, I have to ask, what african american does not have a complicated, confused relationship with race and color in this country? If our confusions were public like his, we would all be considered freaks. In fact, I often think a lot of White America thinks so anyway.

Jun. 26 2009 10:53 AM
kp from nj

Michael Jackson is about LOVE and JUSTICE. I'm switching channels, Brian.

Jun. 26 2009 10:52 AM

Do you think that the Iranian leadership killed Jackson so that the press wouldn't notice when it really started cracking down on the opposition?

Jun. 26 2009 10:52 AM
Bliss from california

I think Michael Jackson was as famous Elvis Presley

Jun. 26 2009 10:52 AM
the truth from bkny

Love him or hate him, Michael was a MUSICAL GENIUS! Onward to the Kingdom Michael RIP!

Jun. 26 2009 10:52 AM
Krisztina from Hungary

Despite the controversies surrounding him, I am deeply saddened about his death. I am sad I never got to see him alive in concert and that my children who are still very young, will never have the same notion of him. Life does go on, but it's hard to picture America without Michael Jackson.

Jun. 26 2009 10:51 AM
the truth from bkny

LAUREN: me neither, that is b/c racism is a learned behaviour, we are not born that way.

Jun. 26 2009 10:51 AM
Office Worker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

#24, Michael: "stay on topic."

As you should know, Brian Lehrer's show has always mixed hard politics with socialogical concerns, entertainment and so on.

This is obviously a topic that other people care about and it's important for different reasons than why taxes are important.

A full life experience is why I like this show.

Jun. 26 2009 10:50 AM

You know what, I take that back, MJ was a philanthropist as well. I will still miss Paul Newman more.

Jun. 26 2009 10:50 AM
lauren from manhattan

Oddly,as a kid, i didnt really know the difference between black and white people. it was like how some people had blonde hair and some people had brown hair - some people were blue -eyed and some were brown eyed.

it wasn't really til i was a teenager that i realized that MJ wasn't the same color as me - not because he had light skin, but because i was lucky enough to not know race as a kid growing up in the 80's - thanks mom, for that.

Jun. 26 2009 10:48 AM
Teresa from new york

Yes, I remember singles on the backs of cereal boxes! What a blast from the past!

Jun. 26 2009 10:47 AM
Mike from Inwood

I am a year or two older than Michael Jackson. Except for a year or two in middle school when I liked bubblegum music and thought the Jackson 5, along with the Osmond Brothers, were OK, I never particularly cared for his music. Anyone's passing is a sad moment for those who knew him. I suppose the passing of a celebrity is also a sad moment for those who wanted to know him. My sincerest condolencses to those who grieve, but if NPR is going to become 'all Michael Jackson, all the time' for the next few days, my radio will be OFF.

Jun. 26 2009 10:47 AM
Judy from Mendham, NJ

Enough already! He was not a Pope or a President - he was just an entertainer. Leave all this coeverage to MTV & People magazine. I listen to this show for more important information than this nonsense.

Jun. 26 2009 10:46 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn

That creepy, over-rated, hyped child molester is gone. A thousand great bands could have been launched and supported using the millions to shove his "Pop" music down the throats of the public. The majority of his music was disposable junk with zero shelf life. The most fascinating thing about him was his dysfunction.

Jun. 26 2009 10:46 AM
Yuko from Brooklyn

I was an elementary school kid in Japan during the height of Thriller. I recall being confused by the absolute hysteria overtaking his female fans when he came for his world tour. His videos are the first American music videos I have memories of watching -- my mother and I thought the dancing in Beat It and Thriller were the most perfect things we had ever seen, and I listened to the album over and over again. Did we have an awareness of his being black? No, not at all. I guess his "racial transformation" was already underway by then, but that escaped us in a country where blackness wasn't something that was regularly on people's minds.
A conflicted life he did have, but I remain in deep respect of the incomparable gift he has left us. RIP.

Jun. 26 2009 10:46 AM
yours truly from ohio

thank you once again dr. tricia rose for your insights about this complex african american artist.
you are always clarifying and persuasive and i would like to hear you and brian more often.

Jun. 26 2009 10:46 AM

He was a brilliant entertainer, made great music and all, but we're talking about him like he was Jesus or something. C'mon Paul Newman RIP and his charity did more to alleviate human suffering than Michael Jackson, and don't forget all his NPR money raising challenges.

I think MJ is awesome too, but in the grand scheme of things he was just a pop musician with a lot of issues.

Jun. 26 2009 10:45 AM
kp from nj

His self-loathing was a manifestation of his sad, abusive childhood. He spent his whole life searching for the childhood he felt deprived of (with tragic consequences). I never felt he didn't want to be a black man so much as he just didn't want to be who he was.

Jun. 26 2009 10:44 AM
Gary from USW

"Nothing unusual about Michael Jackson"? How about dangling your infant child over a balcony railing? How about sleeping with little boys? How about using plastic surgery to self-mutilate oneself?

Brian, why do you bring on this shill from Brown University to discuss race issues?

Jun. 26 2009 10:44 AM

Michael from Long Island,

The Heritage Foundation is a bunch of think tank nuts that spew out false information in the name of right wing ideology, but really in the service of the big businesses that pay its bills.

Jun. 26 2009 10:44 AM
the truth from bkny

white man - Black "Guy"??? caller said a lot for white mentality in America

Jun. 26 2009 10:44 AM
Carol Plytas from New York New York

In the early 90's we witnessed soldiers from the mighty Soviet Army were doing the moon walk in Moscow.
He was that Big.

Jun. 26 2009 10:44 AM
Miriam Raccah from NYC

Maybe the way I deal with Michael Jackson's bizarre features and sense of self hatred and the horror of the allegations of child molestation is to freeze him in my mind the way he was in the ""Off the Wall" album.

The rest was just so deeply troubling as a black woman, mother, humanist.

Such a sad life.

Jun. 26 2009 10:43 AM
John from Park Slope

My very first exposure to Jackson was through his guest spot on The Simpsons in which he played an overweight white man who thought he was Michael Jackson. When the town reacted to his race, I had no idea what was going on (I was approaching 5 or 6 at the time). It took years until I could figure out the meaning behind Springfield's reaction.

Jun. 26 2009 10:42 AM
John-Paul G from Elizabeth, NJ

Bad was my first non children's record growing up and I listened to it until it was scratchy. Unfortunately when I matured and my tastes ceased to include pop and more so metal, my pale hispanic appearance in leather jacket and all black clothing was frequently likened to Michael Jackson. This was called out as an insult usually and I've noticed those most likely to make this comment were black themselves.

Jun. 26 2009 10:42 AM
Katherine from Brooklyn

I agree that Jackson's identity is very much defined and influenced by race. What are Rose's opinions surrounding the ways that his unconventional sexuality may have had an equally powerful role in defining Jackson's identity?

Jun. 26 2009 10:42 AM

I lost my virginity to Ebony and Ivory.

Jun. 26 2009 10:41 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

As the bi-product of an interracial marriage, I am so over race. Michael Jackson was a spectacular albeit tortured member of the human race and he will be missed.

@ hammagaadji - I can assure you that you are worse off because of it.

Jun. 26 2009 10:40 AM
Jay F. from manhattan

I was hoping that WNYC would be the one place I could get some news... Granted Micheal Jackson was talented and a freak show but his passing is an old news - everyone is, and has covered it...
Can we move on?
Iran, North Korea, healthcare, the NY senate, Obama latest plans...

Jun. 26 2009 10:40 AM
Michael from Long Island

Brian why aren't you covering H.R. 2454 The Cap and Trade Tax that speaker pelosi is forcing a vote on this evening?

According to the Heritage Foundation this bill will:

1. Reduce aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) by $9.6 trillion
2. Destroy an average of 1-3 million jobs, every year
3. Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation
4. Raise inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 74 percent
5. Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent
6. Raise an average family's annual energy bill by $1,500 annually
7. Increase the federal debt by 26 percent, which is $29,150 per person

This is a very important issue that we should be discussing.

Jun. 26 2009 10:40 AM
Laura from Montclair, NJ

I was in college at Suny Stony Brook when Thriller came out. I taught a jazz dance class for a student group on Tuesday nights. Michael Jackson's music made us crazy - the kinetic enery blew the room away...I still feel it in my body when I hear that music.
He was incredible...Dancing Machine...

Jun. 26 2009 10:39 AM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

This woman is delusional. She can't even agree with herself.

Jun. 26 2009 10:39 AM
Cathy from Morristown

I was at a party when Michael Jackson was on trial and the DJ was struggling to get people up on the dance floor. I went up to him and said just put on Billie Jean and they'll all get on the floor... 2 seconds later everyone was up and dancing!

Jun. 26 2009 10:39 AM

I was 7 when Thriller came out. I remember playing the LP endlessly, begging my mother to purchase me a sparkly white a black girl growing up in a majority white neighborhood, Michael acted as a bridge between the divide--his talent transcended race and color and creed.

Jun. 26 2009 10:39 AM
Pat from nyc

I thought Michael Jackson had vitiligo, as a result of all of his operations.

Skin pigmentation gradually dissapears with this condition. He didn't do it on purpose.

Jun. 26 2009 10:38 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I moved to NY in 1979. The ubiquitous backdrop was "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough."

I think some of the commenters above are onlyold enough to remember him when he began to go downhill. He was a brilliant singer as a little kid and an even more brilliant dancer and entertainer as a young adult.

Jun. 26 2009 10:38 AM
Robert from NYC

So what? So what if he was "odd"? I never believed and still don't believe that he abused children. I just don't believe it.

Jun. 26 2009 10:38 AM
Krisztina from Hungary

Despite the controversies surrounding Michael Jackson, I am deeply saddened. I am sad I never got to see him in live concert, and that my kids will only know him through his music or not at all. It's hard to picture America without him.

Jun. 26 2009 10:37 AM
Valeen from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

I remember dancing a choreographed dance routine to a Michael Jackson song at my kindergarten graduation from a Montesori school in the mid 80's. I can't remember the exact song for some reason, but I do remember thinking we were the absolute coolest kids around!

Jun. 26 2009 10:37 AM
the truth from bkny

Why would you invoke race into this conversation about an artist who saw no color?

His dissatisfaction was not solely focused his on skin tone, he was mostly dissatisfied with his physical features, more specifically his nose.

The skin became an issue when the vitiligo spread across his skin making him two tone and then attempting to even that out to one tone .

Jun. 26 2009 10:37 AM
Guy from Manhattan

I was born in 1984, and my mother listened to so much Michael Jackson when she was pregnant with me, I'm told for the first 6 months of my life, I would snap to attention at the first note of any MJ song to come on the radio... I wonder how Michael stacks up to Mozart?

Jun. 26 2009 10:36 AM
Jennifer from NYC

He was a great entertainer and I feel for the upbringing that may have made him the way he was - but I will not miss him - He was deranged, sad and sick and we do not need any more of that in this world.

Jun. 26 2009 10:36 AM

Who cares? Obviously a lot of people, or this nonsense wouldn't be all over the air waves.

But as a news junkie, I sort of like this drooling celebrity-death love-affair (Farah and MJ), because now I get to just turn off the news and listen to some nice music for a change.

Jun. 26 2009 10:36 AM
Robert from NYC

The media destroyed him life and the continue that in death. They say it sells, well, I don't buy it. I'm not watching any news today because it's all on him and it's crap.

Jun. 26 2009 10:36 AM
scnex from harlem

this is the countenance that you deserve brian... i believed that your notions lean toward a racial divide, as such you bring out these types, you proved you are with this story, as well as your one seemingly believing in a view that has little fact or reason for that matter; is it possible to be human...

it is clear all you care about is your image of controversial content. the notion of race is social not founded in any real science, and the idea that you can judge this topic makes it clear that you will be judged...

it is a very touching time and all you can talk about is race. you and your kind are the evils that MJ was talking about and all these statements have no love in them... your elitist nature only shows how loveless you are...

Jun. 26 2009 10:22 AM
Steve from Astoria

Michael Jackson was an artist, and his body of work knew no color. To hear Al Sharpton talk of Jackson as a hero of race and the man before Obama is an insult to both Michael Jackson and President Obama--not to mention every black artists from Louis Armstrong to Marvin Gaye. Michael Jackson had complicated feelings about his color, and we should acknowledge his pain and confusion, but moreso, we should celebrate all the colorings of his music, his shadings bright and subtle, and the color with which he enriched our lives. In the end, "it doesn't matter if its black or white."

Jun. 26 2009 10:17 AM
Robert from NYC

you know I always say Michael Jackson transformed himself from an attractive sexy black man to a really ugly white woman. That is sad but MJ was a real and unique talent and no one NO ONE can take that away from him.

Jun. 26 2009 10:16 AM
Isabel Heine from Harlem

Being biracial, I could always relate to what appeared to be Michael Jackson's confusion about his own race. Certainly his confusion manifested itself in a very extreme way but we shouldn't have expected anything else from this man. Everything about his life was extreme and we woulnd't be discussing his legacy and his genius and mourning his passing in such an intense manner if he hadn't been a figure so beyond our comprehension.

Jun. 26 2009 10:13 AM
Michael Broder from Brooklyn, NY

Does anyone remember when Jackson 5ive singles were on the back of cereal boxes? I believe my big brother and I had I Want You Back and ABC in that actual 45 rpm single that you poked out of the back of you Cap'N Crunch!

A few years later I listed to I'll Be There over and over again on my old "phonograph" player (it looked kind of like a hat box and I got it for my fifth birthday in 1966), singing along and trying to match MJ note for note, which was very difficult and gave me a very sore throat!

Jun. 26 2009 10:12 AM
frank from brooklyn

In the movie "Three Kings" Mark Walberg is captured by the Iraqi army & the Iraqi captain jams motor oil down Marky Mark’s throat while repeating the line "why is Michael Jackson so f'd up". I think for too long Mr Jackson has been an convenient metaphor(or target) for race in this country: supposedly embodying, in body & spirit, the worst of our country. This is irresponsible at best and cruel at worst. I think it is obvious to all that he was a lost soul, perhaps someone incapable of bearing the brunt of so much talent and vision.

Jun. 26 2009 10:09 AM
Brianne from Montana

While most young kids think their parents are big dorks, I knew from a young age my mom was totally cool. She'd pick me up from school with MJ blasting and dancing in the driver's seat. I can't remember a road trip without my mom singing his songs. I am grateful to MJ for all those fun memories of my hip mom!!

Jun. 26 2009 10:07 AM
a. hammagaadji

There are people in this world who never bought a Michael Jackson cd, who do not have a Michael jackson song on their iPod and who never went to a Michael Jackson concert. I am one of them. I can not understand people attracted to his bleached skin and disfiguring plastic surgeries. On the contrary, I found this self-hate revolting and a disgrace to his parents and his ancestors. What galls even more is the fact that If Michael Jackson was a working class bloke, he would have been under the gaol serving a long sentence for pedophilia. So many allegations and none sticking precisely because he had the money to get the best lawyers who put the accusers on trial. Somewhere along the way there must have been victims who never got justice. Just because one has talent, their criminality or immorality should not be overlooked.

Jun. 26 2009 09:30 AM
Tom from Upper West Side

While Jackson's devoted fans are grieving, I can assure them - having survived the deaths of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Leonard Bernstein, to mention only three musical/cultural icons - that Life does go on....and rather well, if one works at it.

Jun. 26 2009 09:22 AM

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