Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Well, yesterday was a bad day for celebrity deaths: Farrah Fawcett died early in the day, and Michael Jackson died last night. Poor Farrah (and Ed McMahon); their passing will forever be overshadowed by the MJ media orgy. (Little-known-fact: C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame and Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World, died on the same day that JFK was shot and killed. Needless to say, the first two didn't get front-page coverage.)

First, a quick word on Farrah. I was just a bit young to have the famous poster. And I never much watched Charlie's Angels. I certainly didn't ever tune in to the various Lifetime network chick-flicks where she played various kinds of abused women. But I do remember the hair. Very, very nice hair.

As for Michael Jackson, I know it's easy to riff on what a weirdo he turned into. 1990s MJ was a freak-show, and nobody wants to admit to actually ever thinking he was cool. But if you are 40-ish, and you can remember rushing home from school to catch the MTV debut of the Thriller video, you have to admit that deep down, you liked Michael. I was never on the bandwagon, and actually felt like he was a little overrated--kinda like an NBA star who plays in a time when the league is weak. I was perturbed that the Thriller album won more Grammys than the Beatles, and also that it sucked up all the awards for 1983, beating out my favorite album of all time, Billy Joel's An Innocent Man. But even for a non-fan, it was obvious that his music was something special. I find it interesting that all the retrospective shows today are repeating the same four videos over and over: Thriller, Billy Jean, Beat It, and Bad. A few are showing brief clips of little Michael spinning around during the Jackson Five days, but otherwise it's 1984, all the time.

What happened after that--the cosmetic surgery, the Neverland Ranch and all the various pedophilia allegations, the baby-dangling, the marriage to Lisa-Marie Presley... those are footnotes. I don't doubt that over the coming weeks we'll learn that his heart attack was related to an overdose, whether intentional or accidental (much like Elvis, who only made it to 42). And then we'll have some obligatory homages at the various music awards shows, and then there will just be songs played on classic rock stations. The art, of course, will live on. But the artist will, except for a few die-hards who will update the wikipedia page, be forgotten.


bekster said...

His death is symbolic to me in that it shows the end of an age and the beginning of something new (just as the death of Elvis made way for the time of Michael.) However, I'm not sure what the new thing is going to be. It's a little scary.

I'm glad that people are inclined to remember the good and not so much the bad about Michael. If his music can outweigh his personal weirdness, can't Sanford's prior political integrity outweigh his affair? If we're deciding not the throw the baby out with the bathwater, shouldn't we apply the same principle all 'round? (Sanford is even repentant and remorseful about his one big-bad sin. I don't know that Michael got that far spiritually.)

Anyway, it's very sad to see him go.

Pete said...

A brief... er... rant on the "king" of Pop. How is it ever possible to be the "KING" of Popular. The problem w/ popular is that it is fleeting... liken it to sand or water, whatever poetic imagery you can fathom, popular is like a toupé - hair today, gone tomorrow.

Sure, MJ did indeed have some songs that will likely live within record books and will be played out for eons to come, but the King of pop is to Music what the King of the Prom is to High School... Every year, there's a new one!