The news is everywhere and spreading fast that the self-proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is dead at the age of 50. I can’t claim with any kind of a straight face to be a fan of the man or his music. For so long he has been a living cartoon, the Face That Launched A Thousand Punch Lines. The child molestation charges against him, coupled with his bizarre child-like manner, and his admitted fondness for cuddling up in bed with small boys, put a sinister edge on the man’s increasingly freakish visage. He may have been a cartoon, but he was far from child-friendly.
But then there is the music. I’m not a fan, and never was, but there are shining exceptions. “Beat It” was a great song, punctuated with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo, “Black Or White” (ably assisted by Slash ripping off the Rolling Stones’s “Soul Survivor”) also rocked well. “Thriller” was a great dance track, and “Billie Jean” is one of the greatest of all funk songs and the one towering masterpiece in his solo career. His early work with the Jackson Five was, at times, transcendent. “I Want You Back,” “I Don’t Know Why,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” are all about as close to perfect as pop music gets. His early solo hits of “Rockin’ Robin” and “Ben” were also great tunes. No, I was not a fan of his music or his image, but there was no denying that the man had an enormous amount of talent. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but he was exceptionally good at what he did.
It is one of the great mysteries of life that such explosive talent could be contained in a man so troubled. I don’t know whether he was guilty of child molestation or not. I have my suspicions, but that’s all they are. Really, really strong suspicions. But the truth has gone with him, whatever it may be. A sad death, to be sure, but a sadder life. RIP.
Michelle Malkin remembers him well.
UPDATE: Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg brings some needed perspective.