I remember being in second grade, on my linoleum kitchen floor, trying to ape MJ on "Thriller". My parents, to their ultimate credit, wouldn't get cable, so I never had a prayer. I think I was the norm, not the exception. I remember in college, occasionally at parties there would be dance-offs between some of the people in my class, and it was always Michael they were aping, not whoever was on the charts that week. Sometimes my mom talks about the effect of Elvis on her, and her peers, and their parents. I think Michael was that for my generation. Like the other two icons of that time, Prince and Madonna, he messed with just about everyone's ideas of gender and propriety and sex. (One could argue his was more necessary and less calculated than the other two, and a whole lot messier, which changed how we experienced it, but that's for someone else to blog about...)
When I was in college, some of my peers and I had some, in hindsight silly, conversations about our five "desert island" pieces. Mine were one of the movements of Bartok's 2nd string quartet, Coltrane's live recording of "I Just Want to Talk about You", Bird's strung-out version of "Lover Man", I don't remember #4, and "Baby I Want You Back." People looked at me funny, but in hindsight I have an easier time standing behind the Jackson 5 than I do Bartok. It's that perfect. I don't think that about all, or even much of MJ's catalog, but isn't that enough?
Here's my favorite of MJ's solo songs (won't allow the embed). And the version where he, even at pretty freakish, schools Britney Spears. Not that that's hard, but I remember seeing him live and remembering exactly how good he was. Check out how the first 90 seconds swing, yup, swing: