Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Michael Jackson

What did Michael Jackson and his passing mean to me? For starters, many of his old songs when he was young and a member of the Jackson Five evoke a lot of childhood memories. We were contemporaries by age, but ages apart as far as talent and impact (obviously). "I'll be There" and "ABC" will always bring back memories of my family's permanent settlement in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, at the age of 9. There are other songs by other artists that bring me back to those times, but I think Jackson's, ironically and portentously, have a ring of innocence and stray from most of the anti-establishment music from that era. The irony and the portent can be found in Jackson's later claims and defense to be an innocent child-like waif, and his attempts to live a child-like existence in Neverland. Songs like "Thriller", "Billy Jean", and "Wanna be Startin' Somethin'", will remain personal favorites.

The problem with Jackson for me was that there was a big chasm between who he was on stage and who he was personally. This wasn't about being reclusive and inaccessible, but more about being an enigma that was hard to understand, hard to label or categorize beyond being weird and unusual. In those occaional polls where people are asked to pick one person in the world they would like to spend an hour with in conversation, I doubt that Jackson's name would ever come up. What would one have said to him or asked him?

His plastic surgeries didn't help, nor did the controversy over his skin condition, if there was a skin condition. These factors made Jackson enough of a mystery, but the allegations of sexual molestation and his bizzare behavior during the trials only made matters worse. I wanted Jackson to be innocent, but it was hard to believe he was just based on his weirdness. His claims that there was nothing wrong with grown men sharing beds with young children did not help his case either.

Did we know anything else about Jackson other than his weirdness? Anything about his outside interests, if he had any? No. The world knew him simply as a child star who went to become a superstar in his own right, and whose behavior and appearance became stranger as he got older. What else was there for us to consume about Jackson? Pehaps that was only available to his inner circle and handlers, but not to his fans and the rest of the public. May he rest in peace.

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