Since I’m still in America for a couple more days, I’ve succumbed to the mass mourning ritual over Michael Jackson somewhat, and am enjoying watching MTV play all of his old music videos back-to-back, while I digitize some CDs and do other computer work.
For my own attitude about Michael’s influence, and his immense psycho/spiritual baggage, see my entry from this past winter in which I explored some of his historical and creative importance on the worldwide scene. [If you click, the Michael stuff is mostly in the second half of the post.] You can also do a search at right, as I’ve cited Michael’s music or personal life a handful of other times here as well. He was nothing if not a fascinating, somewhat iconic or symbolic figure.
Anyone remember the Jackson Five cartoon series on television, probably early 70s? Anyone remember the name of his brother Jermaine’s one and only solo hit?
And does anyone think Paul McCartney’s public statement today, calling Michael a “Boy Man”, sounds more like a mild insult instead of sincere praise? (Michael did, after all, buy the rights to all of Paul’s Beatle songs… which Mac saw as a betrayal.)
On the Mount Rushmore of the 20th century, maybe Jackson even belongs there… maybe moreso than Sir Paul, even. Came up during the civil rights movement, at the center of big changes in entertainment and business, complicated religious/personal identity issues (he was Jehovah’s Witness early on, but morphed into something more mysterious later), weird medical issues, legal and financial messes, married a Presley, caught fire working for Pepsico, hid out in Dubai, tabloid gold, and of course there’s that whole triple threat thing as an entertainer (singer/dancer/actor… though the acting thing is debatable). He had a hand in some of the finest creative projects of the past fifty years. And I’m not just talking about his solo stuff. The Jackson Five hold a special place in my heart, too.
And yet I will not worship Michael, because among other things he often didn’t write the top songs or play instruments on his recordings. Quincy Jones, a musical genius from a prior generation, was one of the main people who allowed Michael to reach the heights he reached. And when they stopped collaborating, Michael’s slow decline (in sales at least, maybe also in musical quality or influence) set in pretty soon after. Still good… just no longer a phenomenon.
As for his personal life, that speaks for itself. Or even if it doesn’t, I can’t compete with the thousands of other news and entertainment reporters weighing in this week. Besides, why drag down a guy who had already been chewed up and spit out by our crass, ungrateful culture hundreds of times in his career?
So I didn’t want the day to pass without sending out my thanks to one of the two great MJ’s who made my teen years a whole lot of fun. (Chicago folks can gues the other…)
So long, Mike. I can’t pretend to have known or understood you. Or even to have loved you the way all these people coming out of the woodwork claim. But I sure enjoyed your tunes and your moves. Even one of the greatest triple threats ever, Fred Astaire, had the good sense to recognize your immense talent.
Every generation needs a king. You ruled the world for a few years there, and you brought us together like few other public figures can.
This is one of the few times I can say “rest in peace”, and actually it means something. So enjoy the rest. “Don’t stop till you get enough.”