It was 1975; I was 13 years old and in third form at St. Andrew High School for Girls, when I heard the news that Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 were coming to Kingston to perform. My mother, a strict Pentecostal Christian, forbade my sisters and I to play secular music or to dance. Yet, I could not help watching Michael Jackson while she was at church, which was several nights per week. And I could see pictures of him in the American teen magazines I would browse with my friends in York Pharmacy after school. I thought he was the cutest boy I had ever seen in my life. I loved his voice, clear as a bell reaching high notes in songs like “I’ll be there” or giving unconditional love in the beautiful song dedicated to his pet Ben. For all I knew, he was singing to me when he declared to Ben:
“If you ever look behind
And don’t like what you find
There’s something you should know
You’ve got a place to go”
As far I knew he was talking to me, heart to heart and I loved it. I was going to grow up and marry Michael Jackson, whatever it took to get rid of the millions of other girls in line. I was convinced it was my destiny.
St Andrew High was full of Jackson 5 adulation. I thought the most enthusiastic, if unregistered Jackson 5 fan club was filled with my classmates, a clique of six girls. They loved the Jacksons, talked about them incessantly and formed a dance group that started for the sole purpose of performing Jackson 5 hits. And they practiced hard, performing with gusto at school barbecues and other events. They spent hours planning and scheming how to host their own show at Carib Theater in Crossroads, imitating the Jackson 5.
Of course, they all went to the concert, while I had to spend another Saturday night watching “Little House on the Prairie, a morally sound television show approved by my mother. My friend Michelle had obtained tickets through her mother’s connections for seats right up front of the stage at the National Stadium.
Michelle and the entire group of girls lucky to attend the Saturday night concert arrived at school on Monday morning dazed and ecstatic. They had discovered that the Jackson 5 were staying at the Sheraton Hotel in New Kingston. We headed over the there right after school, walking in the sun from St. Andrew. If my mother only knew! Apparently, the other high school girls in Kingston had obtained the ‘Lets go see Michael’ memo. There were scores of girls scattered all over the hotel lobby and in the pool area, hoping for a glimpse of Michael or any of his handsome brothers. The Jacksons emerged in about half hour after we arrived, dressed for a basketball game against Kingston’s finest high school players. I remember first seeing Marlon’s head on the top of the stairs, then Jermaine, Jackie and finally Michael. The girls screamed as in mass frenzy, they rushed up the short flight of stairs. I saw the look of panic on Michael’s face before he ran back and we never saw him again. I wonder now how many of those frightening encounters set back his childhood development and created the recluse he became out of necessity.
I do not recall how long it took to quieten the crowd and bring order to the Sheraton lobby or how the Jacksons got out. Eventually we took a bus to the National Arena and spent the rest of the afternoon drooling at Marlon, Tito and Jackie Jackson playing against the Jamaican boys. I recognized only two boys from Kingston College and if they played like NBA stars, I could not tell you. I had eyes only for the Jacksons, mesmerized by their billowing Afros, their sparkling smiles, their powerful legs in those short shorts; it was my dream come true. I may have missed the concert but I had seen Michael, the boy of my dreams and his gorgeous brothers in the flesh, and now I have my friend Michelle to thank for the memories.
Special thanks to Michelle for the photos.