Michael Jackson, 12 years following your voice #4
I was walking along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice the other night. In the middle of some street entertainment, I suddenly heard Michael's voice emerge, before I saw anything. Guided by the sound wave, I found myself in the middle of an audience watching an old man, a little pathetic, dance. His hair a little curled in the wind, his skin darkened by a cheap self-tanner, dressed in black pants, a white V-neck T-shirt, black loafers and white socks, he was copying Michael's dance steps as best he could while teaching two children to imitate him. On the floor, other costumes of questionable quality reminded, by far, the Jacksonian stage wardrobe.
Certainly, there would have been something to say about his choices of appearance or the slowness of his approximate movements. But who cares about the quality of the show, which many would have rightly laughed at or discussed. There was a great sincerity and respect.
What caught my attention more than anything else was seeing the smiling faces of the people and their heads swaying to the music. These were not mocking or cynical smiles, no: a real pleasure could be read, a sharing even. And what a pleasure it was for me to hear Michael's music and voice flooding the Promenade des Anglais, not far from where I had been closest to him and where his presence had haunted me all the following summers. It was like a wink.
I couldn't help but think that through this old man's clumsy steps, Michael was still unifying. He was in that amateur presence, in his attempt to transmit to the audience, in those children who imitated him, in those waves that floated in the sea air. He continued, beyond all attempts at polemics and destruction, to unite, to make people smile, to give pleasure.
The next evening, the old man was still there. Michael's music was already playing, but he had not yet started to dance. He had just finished a more "classical" dance number and was getting ready and changing. But Michael was singing. Live up-tempo version of "Wanna be startin' somethin'". And people, although there was nothing to see, were stopping as they went along, just by the sound of the music. And everyone was waiting with a smile on their face.
I wondered what individual, intimate experience, what memories these people were reliving that made their faces light up in a collective smile. Whatever the case, the result was there. The essence of Michael, without a doubt.
All these people, of different origins, different ages, sometimes very young, sometimes posh, had in common one or more slices of life whose soundtrack was Michael's voice and music. Perhaps it was even more than that... But what came out of it was pleasure and joy. 12 years later. Despite the turbulence, the tunnels, the storms. Michael was always there, in the biggest as well as in the simplest and most modest things in life.
And that's probably all you needed to see and understand...