A Memory of Appreciation

Grammy-nominated Producer/Singer-songwriter Austin Brown pens an essay on his late uncle’s profound lessons on purpose, dedication, and legacy.

To be chosen is an interesting complexity. There is a knowing that has to be applied to a person. A seed of an idea and constant watering in circumstances that allows the seed to grow into what it’s meant to be. In the process, the more delicate, the more deeply rooted the plant has to be to survive the natural realities that could affect its trajectory.

Uncle Michael was chosen to be what he became.

From very early on, his love for history, art, and pushing the boundaries showed a dedication that can only be fueled by knowing a purpose beyond his existence. Fourteen years after his passing, we still study, dissect, and learn from what he left behind through all aspects of his artistic expression.

When my Grandfather Joe was nearing the end of his journey, we had many conversations about life, drive, and alignment. My grandfather was an extremely complex man who, by his circumstances, saw both sides of the spectrum that very few get to experience, from true poverty to lifting himself and his family to beyond success and human riches. He said to me one day, “You know what’s good about your view, Austin? You got to watch the entire thing.”

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So simple, yet so powerful when I think about having to navigate a juggernaut in real-time with no blueprint or example before you and you being the one to set the example moving forward that millions will look towards and try to follow. If you were to think about a reality without the music and entertainment of the Jackson 5 through Michael’s solo albums, there would be a significant difference in how we listen, see, and analyze entertainment.

So how does someone leave a mark that goes beyond their existence? Dedication and love. Uncle Michael, once during our many late-night conversations around the kitchen counter, expressed to me the power of the mind and what you can create. I didn’t understand as much then, but he expressed to me the importance of following your purpose and how anything, truly anything, is possible.

From very early on, pressure was applied to my uncle, which watered his brewing genius. Looking back on his life, he appreciated that pressure because it helped him grow into the greatest of all time. Michael understood the universal language differently and was tapped into a source beyond explanation. He understood legacy and always expressed leaving behind a legacy beyond his existence. “Auggie ( my family nickname given by my grandmother), your grandfather was a genius. None of this would’ve happened without him pushing us,” he once told me.

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I didn’t know then, but on this rare occasion, he was expressing his appreciation for the process, which helped him become a modern-day musical monarch. I asked him one day if he could change anything, would he? His quick and firm reply was, “No, I love who I was created and chosen to be. Always be proud, Auggie, of who you are and where we came from.”

So, on a day where I wish we could say happy 65th, I reflect and think about the love in the art Michael left behind for us to study, dissect, and keep creating from and the seed he planted from the first time we witnessed his magic.

Many of us have a story about the first time we heard, saw, practiced, or danced to Michael's music. Many of us have a memory that is an appreciation, but what makes it even more meaningful is that it all started with an idea, which reminds us how following your purpose, no matter to what degree, can lead to inspiring others to follow their own.

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