“Hold me like the River Jordan.” Remembering Michael Jackson on the twelfth anniversary of 25 June 2009

Abstract: In this article, Kerry Hennigan recounts her personal memories of the day Michael Jackson died and the impact it had on her and many others.  She considers the unique nature of the artist and the problems he had in trusting those who envied his fame and success.  In reflecting on what has happened in the twelve years since his passing, Kerry asks what his many devoted fans can do to repay the love and faith Jackson often expressed for them throughout his life.

Kerry Hennigan is a global Michael Jackson pilgrim who blogs on Michael Jackson, runs a group on Facebook named in honour of her favourite music video “Michael Jackson’s short film ‘Ghosts’” and produces a free monthly newsletter titled A Candle for Michael.  Kerry describes herself as a perpetual student, her favourite fields of academic study being Ancient and Medieval History, Archaeology and Anthropology.  Kerry is a co-editor of the Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies for which she has written the monthly MJ Studies Today column since September 2016.


Hennigan, Kerry.  “Hold me like the River Jordan.  Remembering Michael Jackson on the twelfth anniversary of 25 June 2009.”  The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies.  Issue 4 Vol 7.  Published electronically 25 June 2021.  https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/hold-me-like-the-river-jordan–remembering-michael-jackson-on-the-twelfth-anniversary-of-25-june-2009/

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“Hold me like the River Jordan.”  Remembering Michael Jackson on the twelfth anniversary of 25 June 2009.  By Kerry Hennigan

© Kerry Hennigan

Twelve years ago on 26 June 2009, I awoke to the news that Michael Jackson had died in Los Angeles.  It was early Friday morning in Adelaide, Australia, which is sixteen and a half hours ahead of California at this time of year.  I was watching the drama unfold via the TV breakfast shows which featured live crosses to the US West Coast where it was still June 25.  This all unfolded while I was trying to have breakfast and get ready for work.  Once at the office, everyone was talking about it.  Fans or not, it had cast a pall on the day.  People seemed to walk on tiptoe and speak quietly.  Looking back, it is quite inexplicable.  The world had been shaken – we  had been shaken, and reminded of the fragility of our popular icons, who, like the rest of us, are mere mortals, no matter the number of hit records, awards or honors they have earned.

For many of us who were not necessarily avid Michael Jackson fans prior to this tragic event, it was a rude wake-up call – a reminder that this man had provided much of the soundtrack of our lives, even if we had not been terribly conscious of the fact.  Well, we were certainly conscious now.  As radio stations and TV channels reprogrammed to cater to the sudden public demand for all things MJ, our minds were inundated with reminders of what a creative, innovative, and highly individual genius the man had been.

So much so, that his King of Pop moniker seemed somewhat corny and totally inadequate.  But it was his, not some award he had won, to be assumed by some new, rising star.  I prefer the full title as he was dubbed by his great friend Elizabeth Taylor – he was the King of Pop, Rock, and Soul.  He could sing in all those styles and much more.  Listen to “Little Susie” from his “HIStory” album and tell me where that fits in terms of pop, rock, or soul.

Like some of his music, the man himself defies categorization and definition.  He was uniquely different, original, and masterful in gathering talented personnel to help him realize his vision for a song or a short film.  That ability was part of his genius.  Not everything lived up to his own high expectations, yet for some of us Michael’s less-than-perfect work is some of his most appealing.  A couple of videos he reputedly did not like were “Who Is It” and “Blood on the Dance Floor.”  Yet I would happily argue with him that they show him as a multifaceted man who could express a range of emotions just in the turn of his head or (with respect to ‘Blood…’) a toss of his braid.

Being human, Michael Jackson made mistakes, and his judgement of others was often poor.  He believed in trusting others until they proved themselves unworthy of that trust.  Basically, he expected people to be truthful about themselves and their intentions, to deliver on their promises, and to keep confidentiality agreements.  As we all know, not everyone deserved such trust.  It is an inevitability that people of wealth and power in all walks of life attract those who want the same for themselves, but without having to work for it.

I am assuming those people do not believe in the law of cause and effect, i.e., what goes around comes around, or, as the Bible puts it (Galatians 6:9), we reap what we sow.  But what happens to the Martin Bashirs of the world should not matter to us, as life has a way of catching up with people who are less than honest in their words and actions.

So, what does this have to do with missing, and celebrating Michael Jackson on the anniversary of his passing, or any other day.  It is a reassurance that while we fight for complete vindication and exoneration of Michael’s integrity, as an artist and as a man who was a true humanitarian, we need not concern ourselves with the fate of those we perceive as his persecutors.  We should continue to uphold Michael’s reputation and if there are court battles, we want justice to be done.  But as for those responsible for the negativity, we do not need to lower ourselves to a place of wishing them ill.  Life takes care of its own, for better or worse, depending on what we have drawn to ourselves.

Considering all that he did, and all that he gave us, and the love he expressed for his fans, his family, humanity generally and the planet, what could we possibly do in his absence to return that love in worthy measure?  In 1991 he sang the following self-penned lyrics in a song on his “Dangerous” album:

Hold me
Like the River Jordan
And I will then say to thee
You are my friend
Carry me
Like you are my brother
Love me like a mother
Will you be there? [1]

As the many determined MJ vindicators and those who continue to promote positivity and the truth about Michael Jackson have proven, we are certainly here for him, and doubtless always will be.


[1]  Jackson, Michael.  “Will You Be There.”  © 1991 and 1997 Mijac Music USA.

Illustration: photo montage “Carry me boldly…” by Kerry Hennigan.  No photographic copyright infringement is intended in this not-for-profit educational exercise.