unless you’re living under a rock, at this point, everyone now knows that michael jackson died this afternoon at 4:36 p.m. from a reported cardiac arrest.
avoiding all over-reaction and excessive gushing, this is truly a sad day.
most people (who haven’t known me for a long time) probably don’t know that i’m a HUGE michael jackson fan. i’m not talking about just someone who casually enjoys his music like many people. i’m talking a my-most-cherished-childhood-toy-was-a-michael-jackson-doll kind of fan. (no, seriously…) 🙂 to take it a step further, while a lot of people who are children of the 80’s were big michael jackson fans, i’m still a fan now. i own literally every album and for quite some time, i’ve anticipated a comeback album (which he’s been working on for several years now). so, i’m not trying to overstate the point, but i’m simply setting the stage for my strong reaction to his death.
one of the sad things over the last 10-15 years (or more) was to see the perception of michael jackson shift from the greatest entertainer of all time to the biggest butt of jokes. in the midst of the scandals, his physical appearance and tabloid fodder, people forget that michael jackson has no historical comparison. none. the only names you can mention in the same category as michael jackson are the beatles and elvis presley. quite frankly, in my humble opinion, i ultimately put michael jackson at the very top of the list—above the beatles. while that’s heretical to some people, i say that because michael jackson transcended all categories—genres, racial boundaries, philanthropic expectations and the list could continue. you simply cannot call michael jackson a singer or a songwriter or a dancer or a musician. he transcended all those things and that’s what separates him from anyone else.
his talent was immense. his heart was huge. his legacy has inspired a generation. his music transcends the controversy. my hope is that his legacy continues to grow and his music lives on. there will never be another michael jackson. period.
i could say a lot more about michael jackson. i could talk about my favorite songs (who is it
or man in the mirror
) and albums (dangerous
). i could talk about his impact on music video history (this
goes without saying). i could talk about my memories during childhood involving michael jackson (my michael jackson record player, the aforementioned doll, buying my first ever vinyl record which was bad
). but, in the midst of writing this, i came across andrew sullivan’s beautiful words about michael in his post, thinking about michael
. i can’t say it any better than what he does. here’s what he says:
There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.
But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.
I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.
I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours’ and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.
I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.
rest in peace, michael jackson.