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.