I don't remember exactly how old I was when this happened, but I remember we were sitting around the living room, watching TV... we were watching a special on either The Jacksons or Michael himself; ah yes, it was a Michael Jackson documentary. Somebody was talking about his showman influences in terms of his flamboyant combination of singing and dancing, and they showed James Brown in a clip of a live performance of "I Break Out (In A Cold Sweat)"... it was easy to see how much of an effect James had on young Michael's style. The other one they mentioned was somebody that up until that time I'd never heard of; he reminded me of a combination of James Brown and Sam Cooke...
"He's your blood relative, you know," Mom said admiringly. What? "He's Bill's cousin. That makes him your second cousin. Look at his nose," she said, acknowledging my skepticism. Sure enough, he had the same familiar flare of the nostrils. Wow, I'm related to someone famous! And somebody even more famous admired him! Too bad I never heard of him. But the funny thing is, after you find out something like that, you keep running into it or something related to it. It was not long after that, in fact, that I did run into something related.
"Dad," I asked as he drove me to my baseball game that afternoon, "Are you related to Jackie Wilson?" "Yep," he replied nonchalantly, "he's my cousin." Well, two mutually exclusive answers and photographic evidence, and I was convinced.
Not that it was a big deal to him, nor did Mom ever mention it until he popped up in a documentary about someone else, so I let that information settle into the back of my mind, along with my musical interest and penchant for entertaining in one form or another. I always did think a little bit about it when I developed an interest in filmmaking, or performing on stage in a play, or building some instrumental grooves with my Casio bookshelf stereo system. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Mom was able to afford those sax lessons I signed up for in second grade. Sometimes I dream that I can play the piano, and I wake up humming the tune that I was playing in my dream. I used to write down the really interesting dreams and turn them into stories or scripts (or cartoons)... I still do, but it's harder than you think to create in a basement studio.
Nevertheless, I always have and will continue to make my own creative way in the universe. If anything, knowing now what Cousin Jackie, Mr Entertainment himself, had gone through in his own life (and tragic ending), there's a lot to be concerned about, but a lot to be proud of as well. And, perhaps, a lot more to learn... >;)