I heard the news today, oh boy. Michael Jackson the King of Pop is dead of a heart attack at 50. He was the man-child wunderkind that never had a chance to be a boy, burning bright at a young age, and burning out too soon. His quirkiness was an easy target, yet his music was beyond critique. He set a new standard during MTV's heyday, flying so high that it was inevitable that his fall would be that much harder.
Despite being "of a certain age", I remember Michael Jackson from childhood. I used to sing "ABC... as easy as 1-2-3". I used to watch the animated "The Jackson 5" TV show. Driven by his father, he achieved success as an entertainer at an age when I was still playing with LEGOs.
He was 10 when he did this. 10. Years. Old.
Most of us have had the "privilege" of growing up "normal". We've all had those moments in our formative years that scarred us for the rest of our lives. How would our emotional development have progressed had we grown up in the spotlight? The saga of the "child star" is well-known: success at a young age, followed by growing pains, obscurity, drug abuse, a "come to Jesus moment", and then a comeback. Except - Michael Jackson never had that moment of obscurity. He kept going higher and higher, with no chance to rest and reflect.
He and MTV were a match made in heaven. His music and videos continually broke new ground and set new standards. Everybody tried to learn how to moonwalk. The "Thriller" video created a paradigm shift that bridged the gap between music video and cinema.
And with every video he seemed to keep getting... whiter. There's no other way to put it. First it seemed like he was trying to look like Diana Ross. His skin kept getting lighter, he had more plastic surgery. You have to wonder if anyone tried to intervene, to ask him "what the hell are you doing?". Add to that the stories of strange behavior and strange purchases (some true, some false, some concocted by Jackson himself and leaked to the press), and you have a picture of a man in the midst of an emotional crises.
Perhaps once he was out from under the oppressive hand of his father he just let loose. It was all fodder for the people that feed on the pain and troubles of the famous, and - as seems to happen too often - became a vicious cycle, a swirling abyss that swallowed him up. You have to wonder why the plastic surgeons didn't just say "no"...
I don't know if this was a cry for help, or just him lashing out at the media, but I remember this song/video distinctly and thinking "way to go!":
His downfall, though, was a combination of his apparent repressed sexuality and repressed childhood, which manifested itself with his desire to have kids around all the time, particularly boys. It seemed he was trying to recapture the childhood he was never allowed to have, while trying to come to grips with an attraction to males that he didn't know what to do with. That doesn't excuse his inexplicable and occasionally inappropriate behavior with children, but perhaps it can give us a better understanding of how people like him wind up like that.
Despite these emotional troubles, he continually put out incredible music that ran the gamut of soul, pop, and rock. He collaborated with everybody, and it seemed he always allowed them to shine, rather than overshadow them. He donated millions upon millions to charities and set up several charitable foundations that will continue to help people now that he's gone. Did he ever put out a bad music video? I don't know of any. I don't even remember seeing this one, but it packs a punch:
I just hope that history treats him fairly - something he rarely got from a bloodthirsty press. Rest in peace Michael - the press can't hound you anymore. Your music will be your most fitting epitaph.78 comments (Latest Comment: 06/27/2009 01:23:16 by Raine