Jeneé Osterheldt

From the archives: We’re still dancing to Michael Jackson

Jeneé Osterheldt



Michael Jackson died six years ago. After his death, Jenee Osterheldt reflected on what his music meant to her. From 2009:

I hid behind the couch with my hands over my eyes, trying to peer through the cracks between my fingers.

While my mama watched one of her favorite singers turn into a werewolf, I slowly went from being scared to feeling amazed. I was just a toddler when Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" video aired for the first time. It didn’t take long for me to mimic the zombie dances.

I became a fan. And fast.

My parents had all of his albums. "Billie Jean," "Rock With You" and "Smooth Criminal" got lots of spin in our home. My dad introduced me to the old Jackson 5 songs. Yes, I tried to hit the high notes of "Who’s Lovin’ You" and shook my thang to "Dancing Machine." I loved him in "The Wiz."

Like any fan, I wanted the glove and the socks. I even had a doll. But my moonwalk never was MJ-awesome.

From elementary school all the way through college, this man released music and had jaw-dropping performances. The last song he made that I loved: "Butterflies."

His music spans my entire life and influences some of today’s top artists: Justin Timberlake, Usher and the long line of dancing boys with microphones.

So around 4 o’clock on Thursday, it felt like the world hung in limbo, waiting to know his fate after reports of Jackson’s cardiac arrest hit the Net. Soon after flowed the reports of his death.

On Twitter, the great debate began. People argued over the accuracy of reports on his condition. Nobody wanted to believe the king of pop had passed away. Music is so personal and universal that when an artist dies, it hurts.

I refused to believe any Web reports until official confirmation. I mean, it was just a month ago that I was singing "Beat It," trying to get a high score on "Guitar Hero." Unfortunately, nobody delivers the message like Mike.

When we got the final word at the office, I went to my computer and started playing an old song.

Where did you come from lady?

And ooh won’t you take me there.

When I was 21, Jackson’s "P.Y.T." was my alarm clock for four months. I was an intern, living in the rainy Bay area of California, and when my alarm clock went off each morning, I woke up dancing to the old hit. Even on the gloomiest day, my eyes opened and I smiled.

I figured in a sad time like this, it would do the trick. It worked. My co-worker Lisa and I sang along, keeping him alive through his music.

Forget about the freak show that followed Michael Jackson throughout his life. He was the king of pop. And there are more people in the world who can say they loved his music than those who can’t.

He rocked our world. You know he did.

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs in FYI on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or e-mail