I once owned parachute pants. I had a black jacket covered in zippers. I did the Moonwalk-- whenever I had a chance. (I had them more than you might think.) When Michael Jackson was on the cover of Time magazine (1984?)--I harassed my mother until she went out and got it for me. Then, I read the article about him over and over and over.
When I got to college, I found out he'd done an album before Thriller. Every few weeks or so, during my senior year, some friends of mine would clear out their living room of furniture, hang up a disco ball, and play Off The Wall over and over and over. Disco Dance Party Nights, we called it. When I started dating my wife, we used to paint together at my apartment; there were only two albums we ever listened to while we worked--There's A Riot Going On, and Off The Wall. When I got married, I insisted that "Billie Jean" be one of the first songs our DJ played--not for the crowd, but for me.
What he had was joy. Skill and musicality and moves--sure. But it was more than that. Michael Jackson made ME want to dance--a gangly, suburban white dude. More than that: he made me think I could.
He probably went crazy in the end. But on the way, he made some f***** incredible music.
The world today is a little less funky.