June 25th, 2009
10:03 PM ET

Going back to Indiana

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/25/jackson/art.michael.jackson.gi.jpg caption="Michael Jackson, shown in 2008, was one of the biggest pop stars in history."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

I'm sitting in my office, the Capitol glowing in the twilight, listening to the Jackson Five.  And it's not just because Michael Jackson has died.  I've listened to these songs routinely since I was a child.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but they've always been on my playlist.

"S is for save me. T is for taking it slow. O is for Oh no. P is for please, please don't go."

Now and then people who are your own age, by dint of their success, their self-composure, and their sheer confidence seem as if they are light years ahead.from some parallel universe where the normal laws of physics, fame, and fantastic possibilities are simply beyond our comprehension, and certainly beyond our capabilities.

That was Michael Jackson for me.  He grew up in Indiana, while I was growing up in Illinois.  He was only one year older, but I was an adoring fan from the start.  His talent was beyond imagination.  For me, he stalked the stage like Elvis and the Beatles.  And my heavens.he was only twelve?  I was eleven and stumbling into adolescence like a dog wearing boots; while he was gliding beneath the spotlights, dancing, crooning, slaying audiences like a master.  Everything about him said cool.

"I've got what you need. Got what you need."

I learned the words, and sang them loudly as I worked the soybean fields and hay wagons.  I watched the TV show, saw the cartoon, and played the albums until they hissed, and popped like grease on a griddle.  I longed for a bright purple vest with fringe hanging past my waist.  I would have worn it everywhere.  Even to church.  But in the pancake flat fields of the Midwest, even though I knew Michael's house was somewhere out there just past the fence row and the bend of the earth, I didn't know where one would even find such a thing, let alone the style, the panache, the glamour to pull it off.

So I looked at the record jackets and longed.

"Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter."

I heard his songs on record players, then 8 tracks, then cassette decks, then CDs, and now my iPod.  I played them in my first job in radio.  High school.  All alone, running the transmitters, and spinning the turntables beneath a blinking tower over another empty field, while satellites soared through the endless stars of the Alabama night.

This is nothing but a personal remembrance, and it feels a little awkward, since quite by chance I wrote about seeing Elvis in concert and his subsequent death just a couple of weeks back.  But I guess things like this never come along when we want them to, because frankly we never do.

"Never can say goodbye."

I know things got weird later in life for Michael, and I know a lot of people can't put that aside.  Everyone's got their own feelings about that, I suppose; and I respect their feelings.  I've heard the jokes and the put downs, too.

But I just don't care right now.  Right now I'm just sitting here by myself, letting the evening burn into night, and remembering a talent that exploded through the universe of my life like a supernova.

And he was once just a kid from Indiana.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Jackson
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Shavonne Jackson

    I'm so deeply saddened this day. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 in the early 70's. As a 5yr old, Michael was my first crush. As an adolesant, I called every Michael Jackson listed in the white pages. When he sang "Dear Michael", I along with the millions of little girls around the world, thought he read my letter. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform 2x in my youth and will forever be his No. 1 fan. My hearts and prayers go out to his family. Michael may you finally be a peace. Love you

    June 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  2. Dirty Diana

    Anderson, the amount of compassion you speak with is beautiful and reminds me how much Michael worked for his fans. From the age of 5 and up to his last breath, Michael Jackson lived to entertain us and along the way we, the public and the media, tried to exploit him for what he gave us. Even though I was born at the tail end of 80's, his music and charitable soul has left an impression on me and for that, I will forever thank him.

    June 26, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  3. Elizabeth

    Michael did make a comeback, this was it. People can't stop talking about him. What more could a superstar want, than to be on everyones lips at this crucial time. He was talked about more than President Obama or George W. Bush. Even in death, he will still be the most talked and remembered person in history. I like to remember the good people do. We all have closets. Like one judge said, " Let's be nice to ourselves" we only live once with this body. In the next life who knows what we will do or become. Peace and Love to all! Long live the Queen!!!

    June 26, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  4. anna

    what a great loss! i never got the chance to see him perform but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest artists who ever lived. nasty things will be said about him but he will always be my american idol. he had a great talent and he shared it with us. go in peace, michael, i will always miss you and your music.may your children find happiness and love. god bless you.....

    June 26, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  5. Diane

    Michael and I share the same birthdate. 8-29-1958! I will think of him kindly on "our Birthday.. Like I always have before. He will be missed..

    June 26, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  6. shelia williamson

    micheal jackson was one of the greatest guys i have ever watch. micheal was all bout sharing the love and csring for others. he was andd will alaways be the king of pop

    June 26, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  7. sarah

    beautifully said. and what a sad shame that the little boy from indiana endured so much abuse and exploitation behind the scenes. his genius could not be contained but over time was unfortunately overshadowed as he spiraled further downward into madness. my heart has been breaking for him for years and how breaks yet again; i always hoped that some day he would get help and return to us. now what we have left is the memory of his genius....and the music.

    June 26, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  8. Michelle

    Mr. Foreman I have been watching CNN since I heard the
    news on Thursday. There are entertainers and there are
    entertainers. Some set the bar so high that they are original
    and legendary . The music will always be around and are
    so embedded in American culture. Michael Jackson was
    without a doubt a gifted and talented individual.

    June 26, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  9. Scrgetta Upshaw

    MIchael Jackson will be missed but never forgotten. I could not fight back the tears from flowing. I am still having chills as I post this comment. There will never be another Michael Jackson. His music will live on in my mind and in my heart for the rest of my life, but I can't help but wonder if Michael Jackson's death will ease up some of the violence that is taking place in Iran, if so, this is greatness the the world will experience together. Michael has had an impact on my life and the lives of others. I hope that it will continue on.
    I am fan of Michael's forever.

    June 26, 2009 at 8:58 am |
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