I was going to post more Elvis this week, but is seems pointless to ignore the death of another musical giant, whose life was even more bizarre and success greater than the king himself, Michael Jackson. Elvis will have to wait.
Now, I’m not a M.J fan, his music just isn’t for me, I liked the thriller video, but only for the zombies, yet even I’m not stupid enough to try to deny his artistry and the effect he had on millions of people around the world. His fans, which have included some personal friends and colleagues, level headed people I trust, are devoted to him despite the allegations of child abuse, bonkers behaviour and extreme plastic surgery. Though it does make me laugh how people use his Vitiligo skin condition as an excuse for Michael bleaching his skin. The logic being that, as a black man, he dyed his whole skin white to match the patches rather than use makeup to blend them into his natural skin colour. Well, whatever, I suppose it was up to him what colour he wanted to be or even what shape he wanted his face and sneering seems a bit pointless now.
I know it’s the art not the artist were supposed to revere, but in this case I find it personally impossible to separate the two. When the music went off the boil his life seemed to become some kind of pop art performance piece, Disneyland on drugs. Bad craziness. The more disturbing allegations about his lifestyle sullied him and his music irreversibly for me, despite being found innocent, yet he still sold out 50 dates at the 17,551 seat O2 Arena in a matter of hours – amazing. Can you think of another performer, with a questionable personal history, who could have achieved that? It boggles my mind and makes me feel sorry for his fans. It hurts when a hero dies, despite what other people may think of them, and it’s the end of a one sided, yet deeply personal, relationship. I’m sure they’re grieving in the type of unhinged fashion that Michael would have approved of.
My wife had a brush with Whacko Jacko that I think illustrates the disorder of his life, though only a tiny fraction of the chaos he seemed to be surrounded with. She worked in an office that had the Guinness Book Of World Records above it and one day noticed, in her words, “odd” people gathering at the entrance outside, grown men dressed as Peter Pan etc. Somebody went outside to ask them what was happening and they were told that Michael Jackson was coming to the World Records office to pick up some awards. When the people in her office saw him arrive they ran into the corridor and pressed the call button on the lift so that it stopped at their floor.
People from the office waited, holding up their mobile phones, and took pictures when the lift doors opened to reveal a confused Jackson and his bodyguards finding themselves on the wrong floor. The door closed again and he disappeared. That’s the photo above. Can you imagine living a life where even a journey in a lift is out of your control because strangers want their piece of you, their Michael moment? His success obviously had tremendous benefits, rewards for that sort of chaos and intrusion, and maybe that was enough for him. Maybe the adulation was all the payback he needed, but I wouldn’t want a life like that for all the fans, money, awards and private fairgrounds you could throw at me.
Drew McWeeny over at hitfix.com wrote a great article this morning about his experiences working in a L.A laserdisc store in the early eighties that Michael Jackson often visited, just after closing time, to shop. You can find it here and I highly recommend you give it a read.
He writes far more succinctly and eloquently than me and echoes my thoughts on this pop passing with the following paragraph.
“I think his legacy is definitely tainted forever by the accusations against him of sexual abuse, and frankly, as a parent, I am baffled by anyone who would allow their children to spend time with him, even before the accusations went public. Even if he didn’t sexually molest anyone, I think he was deeply damaged by the pressures put on him in childhood by his father and his family. He may have had an enormous, amazing gift as a performer, but he traded fame for childhood, and I’m pretty sure he got screwed by the deal.”
Watching celebs line up to eulogise Jackson today, and many claiming that the allegations of child abuse will be forgotten, but the music will become legendary, I became increasingly angry. There are three, barely mentioned children who are also at the centre of this, Jackson’s children. Born amidst rumours of cash for conception and now fatherless at an early age, due to what seems to be drug abuse, they are the victims here. His children will bear the emotional scars of their unconventional childhood, the same as Michael did, for the rest of their lives, a living legacy that I truly hope has a better ending than this.
I searched my hard drive for any Michael Jackson music and found this. The Jackson Five Vs The Who (Protesta Bootleg) and now you know as much about this mp3 mash-up as I do, except that, having heard it, they almost pulled it off.
Download: right click here and ‘Save Target as…’
Got an mp3 you need to get off your chest? Email me: