Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We Had Him (and he was good)

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Thirteen Days Older

I was born on the same day as Madonna and thirteen days before Michael Jackson and I have always had an affinity with both of these pop stars. With MJ it was love at first viewing on the Ed Sullivan show when the Jackson Five performed their classic hit ABC. What was not to love? He sang and he danced unbelievably well and had all the best lines. I had always felt an affinity to MJ but I did not know about the closeness in our ages until later when she of the same birthday arrived on scene.

The Memorial
The memorial for Michael Jackson actually was one of the black cultural events in an era of such events, including his trial. Although he truly was a multicultural artist, this was a black moment of public solidarity and consolidation. Like the BET Awards on super-steroids. it was a decent celebration of a man and his achievements. In some ways the event was a sustained plea of innocence, as if the trial never ended and a jury could still return a surprise verdict of guilty.

Just Too Much...
This has always been about an excess of talent, lifestyle, addictions, and tragedies. In a way, credit the Great Spirit that MJ has left us. Obviously such a great spirit living in as an empty shell was simply unacceptable to the creator. As an entertainer MJ was unsurpassable and as a human he was surely paradoxical. As tender as a six-wek old faun, as sensitive as a verteran of the psychic fairs, as nimble as a jackrabbit, and as judged as in the story of Christ. This was a man who suffered too much, who revelled too much, who played too much, and finally jumped off the train.

Stories Not Told
There was so much about the man we did not know and over time we will be force fed more of the story but there are, thank goodness, countless stories that won’t be told. Stories about charity works in hospitals’ cancer wards or visiting with Heads of State make headlines alongside tales of his hyperbaric chambers and the pursuing the bones of Charlie Chaplin. What is the most interesting are the stories of MJ the human who was a son, brother, friend, father, and fool.

The Turning Point (for many)
The man was complex to say the least. It is impossible to discuss the subject without referring to the child abuse allegations. Al Sharpton and others protested his innocence during the memorial to an audience of faithful fans who never believed the allegations to begin with. Was he really a pedophile or was this all just a misunderstanding? The $22 Million Dollar settlement paid by Jackson to a 12 year-old boy was the public moment when the truth was revealed and from then on MJ began to go weirdly underground. Without the benefit of a trial this payment served as a guilty plea from a man who could, the world knew, afford to buy his own justice.

He Chose (not) To Believe
His skin colour and tone got lighter and whiter until it made no difference if he was black or white. Whether this was medical condition or a personal choice matters not. He had almost completely transformed himself from his Off The Wall-era look and feel. Now we begin to hear about the master manipulator who regaled his audience with tales of his goodness and kindness and who never wanted the warts to show. Perhaps, like George W. Bush, MJ had sociopathic or even psychopathic tendencies and was able to believe certain truths while ignoring other truths depending on his mental state.

History (begging a pardon but never convicted)
Paraphrasing Bill Clinton, “there is nothing wrong with Michael Jackson that could not be overshadowed by what was right about Michael Jackson.” Thus the final verdict has been turned in and now shall be read into the record. We the jury find MJ guilty of certain crimes that have extenuating circumstances that mitigate his sentence to time served on Earth (fifty years) and now he has been released. His story will be debated for generations by those interested in his lasting impact on western and global culture.

This Is Far From Over
We live in extremely interesting times and we must acknowledge those moments when certain global cultural icons (Elvis, John Lennon, Mao) leave the planet they leave a huge content gap they once filled. The ensuing vacuum is filled with recycled and repurposed materials and so begins the scramble to cash-in on the resurgence which, given the hype, should exceed the turnstyle returns on Elvis, a tidy $100 million dollars per year. Then comes the memorial CD of greatest hits, a Jackson Family Reumion Tour CD and DVD, and right about then it should be little Blanket’s turn to take over the spotlight. This is a story of paradox, illusion, and other forms of misdirection that will never be told completely to the satisfaction of his millions of followers and fans. As Maya Angelou put it succinctly, “we had him and we are the world.”

© 2009 Leigh R. Wolf

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