I’m totally unprepared for the onslaught of 24-hour coverage recalling every epic, minute, noteworthy and trivial aspect of Michael Jackson’s walk among us that catapults deeply into every crevice of our universe even as I type. Jackson of course, was prodigious; a child star shaped by a vindictive, autocratic father that MJ left behind as he blossomed, bolstered by the best writers, producers, coaches, choreographers, stylists, designers and management money could buy.
Undoubtedly a considerable talent, his mark on the entertainment world and the music business is historic. So much so, that we often forget the Michael Jackson as a product… a composite created by a cadre of professionals who buffed his natural gifts into a glossy facade that an insatiable public devoured and that even Michael eventually “bought”.
Michael became so adept at business that he once managed to wrestle Northern Songs, the legal home of many of the Beatle’s biggest hits, away from a comparatively penny-pinching Paul McCartney. For some time, whenever one of the surviving Beatles wanted to perform one of them, they had to get Michael Jackson’s permission. Jackson had become a force of nature.
We deified him. That he was so tragically flawed is an ironic footnote to his amazing success, which ultimately claimed him.
So he’s gone. I can’t believe I outlived him. I shouldn’t have. I feel bad for his loved ones, the ones death hurts most. But death is the final curtain. And why die when it’s expected? No drama in that. Unfulfilled dreams are always regrettable but when so many dreams are fulfilled, does it balance things out? Perhaps not for those left behind. But what do I know?
Micheal’s music will ring out incessantly in coming weeks. There will be countless tributes, mind-numbing testimonials, fan-built shrines. His larger-than-life persona will loom even larger in death, at least for the foreseeable future, because that’s what we do. Driven by the media, we will measure every aspect of his life and death, then remeasure it, process, analyze, tell and retell it. The media will “Anna Nicole Smith” us with Michael, which considering that one had no talent and the other many, is in and of itself amazing. Someone may market commemorative shit on TV, `cuz that’s also what we do. Some will sell and others buy. The vault certainly holds some alternate takes and tunes Jackson himself would never have released but “over his dead body,” posthumous offerings will fall like manna from the heavens.
In the meantime, real news will drop like misplaced anchors mired in mud, missed and forgotten. If there’s any crazy shit conniving politicians have up there sleeves, they’d be foolish to overlook this opportunity.
I don’t mean to disrespect the dead. Death is hard on families, friends and all who miss someone suddenly taken from them. We dwell on the loss, we project all manner of platitudes on the deceased, whether deserved or not. We hang onto the past. The media encourages us to hang on until they’ve drained the last, stale drop of fluid from the barren IV. It’s all about ratings and few things drive them higher than dead celebrities.
I liked the Jackson 5, even though they were an invention. People are calling it tragic but I think, for the wrong reasons. It’s tragic that from tyranny, talent can bloom. That stolen childhoods can reap monstrous fortunes for parents willing to exploit their children is tragic–even if the kids wind up rich as well. But neither is as tragic as a 4 year-old Iranian kid who takes a bullet in his eye while simply trying to cross a street or a “civilian” claimed in crossfire during gang warfare.
I liked many of Michael Jackson’s solo hits, even though I thought his manufactured image was tough to swallow. Quincy Jones worked wonders with Michael but I bailed long before the high water pants, white socks and glove.
Eventually, I grew tired of Jackson’s shtick and slick, overproduced, formulaic hits. Some of his catalog will have a long shelf life. But will he sound as evergreen as Sam Cook or Marvin Gaye 20 years from now? I doubt it. In my opinion, the difference is in the real v. the manufactured.
To respect the dead, I give Michael his due and send my deepest condolences to all of those his absence will sadden. May his music bring them comfort. May their grief and recoveries be short-lived.
Even so, down deep, I truly dread the next few months.
Thank God for on-demand cable.