The Most Important Song in My Life
During the Last Letter Game this morning on the show, I got into a conversation with one of our callers, Yesenia, regarding our favorite Michael Jackson songs. Her request was for "Man in the Mirror" and I told her that, depending on the day, one of five Michael Jackson songs could be considered my favorite. If it's not "Man in the Mirror," it can be "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Dirty Diana," "Smooth Criminal," or "Black Or White." I casually mentioned that I consider "Black Or White" to be the most important song in my life. She asked why and I told her that, honestly, I probably wouldn't be here in Evansville or possibly even on the radio without the release of this song. She suggested I write a blog about why the song has had such a big impact on me, and now here I am doing just that.
In 1991 I was still a kid. 1991 is STILL my favorite year of music. Not only did Michael's Dangerous album release that year, but Nirvana's Nevermind, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Majik, Metallica's eponymous Black Album, and BOTH of Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusions albums all came out that year just to name a few! I was only 8 years old in November of that year when "Black Or White" released. My only real exposure to music at that point was really whatever my parents had on the radio in the car. While their taste in music could run the gamut of my dad's "golden oldies" to mom's "adult contemporary soft rock," their tastes weren't exactly "cutting edge" to say the least.
In the early 90s The Simpsons were all the rage. Kids today may know them as a cartoon their parents used to watch, but 25 years ago? They were insanely cool especially with kids my age or a little older. They would have been in probably their third season in November 1991 and, again, their popularity on FOX television was unspeakable. I didn't miss an episode at that age.
So eventually FOX began promoting that they were going to debut Michael Jackson's newest music video after an episode of The Simpsons. It sort of feels sacrilegious to say this now, but at eight years old, I knew not of "Michael Jackson" nor this "King of Pop" of which they spoke. I actually only really recognized him from an earlier episode of The Simpsons where he was portrayed as the coolest most popular musical artist on the planet... A portrayal that I went on to learn was actually spot-on.
I remember FOX did not normally play music videos or do stunts like this. I also remember that they produced a short special animated introduction and closing piece featuring Bart Simpson LOSING HIS FREAKING MIND watching Michael's latest video. (I have found those animated shorts and included them below.)
So since Bart Simpson told me to, I didn't turn away when The Simpsons ended on November 14th, 1991... And that was the moment that I fell in love with music.
If you play the above three videos in order from top to bottom, you'll see exactly what I saw on that November night that was the exact moment I become a fan of music. When the video was over... I wanted to watch it again. We had no YouTube, we had no iTunes, and at eight years old, I didn't even really know how I'd get to see "Black Or White" again. My mother observed how much I enjoyed Michael Jackson and his music, though.
I started listening to Philadelphia's pop radio stations, stations that my parents wouldn't listen to, on my own free will trying to catch them playing my favorite song. I discovered MTV and VH1 and just kept my fingers crossed that they'd decide to throw me a bone and play the stupid song. But of course what I didn't realize at the time was that I was simultaneously also being exposed to other great songs and artists of the time.
I guess my mom had a pretty solid in with the Easter Bunny, because a few months later, Michael Jackson's Dangerous album, a cassette tape, was sitting in my Easter basket drowning in jelly beans and chocolate bunnies that would eventually go on to give me Type II Diabetes. Previously, my tape player had only been used to play audio adventure stories usually featuring Disney characters. On Easter of 1992, my tape deck got its first taste of real music... Dangerous was the first album that was ever "mine."
While I loved "Black Or White," by osmosis I went on to love every song on that album. Not only did "Black Or White" have a tie-in with The Simpsons, "Will You Be There" was heavily featured in the movie Free Willy (remember I was eight). "Remember the Time" had Eddie Murphy in it. "Heal the World" was in the SUPER BOWL. "Give Into Me" featured freakin' SLASH... "Jam" had Michael Jordan slam-dunking all over it! It's making so much sense to me now why Dangerous was such a profound album of music in my life.
To bring this back to the original purpose of this article, without "Black Or White," I don't know that have the same level of interest in music that I have today. The growth of my love of music would have been stunted at the very least. Without that love of music, it's safe to say I wouldn't have fallen in love with radio the way I did. I can SAFELY say that without being on the radio, there is NO CHANCE I'd be living anywhere near Evansville, where I've been calling home for the last ten years plus.
It just seem so crazy now looking back 22 years later that this series of incredibly small decisions by both myself and other people shaped me in ways that were life-altering. Oh well, maybe I'm just feeling nostalgic because my birthday was yesterday and I'm getting older. Either way, thanks Michael Jackson; Thanks, Bart Simpson; Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Easter Bunny... And thank YOU for reading this nonsense.
Also, I'd love to know what song had the single biggest impact on your life and why in the comments section below!