Saying Goodbye to Michael Jackson

I’m hearing from all quarters today about the Michael Jackson Memorial that’s happening in L.A. today. As I wrote shortly after his death, Jackson was a talented guy with major problems. Twenty years ago he was one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, achieving levels of fame not seen since the days of Beatlemania. I get it, I really do.

The circus surrounding his memorial says more about the people in attendance than anything else, though. Since the early ’90s, Jackson’s fame has revolved entirely on his physical disintegration, his mental and emotional aberrations, and the accusations of pedophilia. From his sham marriages to his baby-dangling hijinx to hiding the faces of his childen with blankets and masks whenever they went out in public, Jackson’s continued level of fame is based on a combination of nostalgia for the days when Thriller blasted out of MTV every twenty minutes and the urge people have to look at accidents by the side of the road.

My guess is that most of the people in the Staples Center can’t name a Michael Jackson song after “Scream” or “You Are Not Alone” (if they can even remember those). For the record, “Scream” and “You Are Not Alone” came out in 1995, and “Alone” was his last number 1 hit on the Billboard charts. Jackson hasn’t even released an album in the past 8 years, what with those annoying interruptions from the police and all. Yes, Invincible briefly hit the Number 1 spot on Billboard in 2001, but that was just an initial surge of buying from the hardcore fans. You have to go back an additional 10 years to 1991 for the last real hit album he released.

Which, at long last, brings me to my point. Hey, it’s my site and I’ll take as long as I want to get to the point.

There certainly are legitimate mourners today: Jackson’s family, his friends, and his lawyers just to name a few hundred. But the Staples Center is filled with people who are mourning themselves. They are mourning the long-gone days of dancing to “Billie Jean” or eagerly anticipating the much-hyped premiere of the “Thriller” video. Jackson’s music was an integral part of their lives and in the midst of Jacksonmania in 1983 when the world was younger and so were we, Jackson seemed somehow more than mortal. Surely a man with this much talent (and who had not yet boarded the Crazy Train, though he was clearly waiting at the station with his bags packed) would live forever.

Michael Jackson was the Man in the Mirror for so many of those at the Staples Center. The weeping and gnashing of teeth, out of all proportion for a has-been pop star with a predilection for cuddling up to young boys, is a cry for a lost youth for most of those people who are lining the streets. I am sure there are some real fans who are legitimately upset. I was upset by the murder of John Lennon, and the stupid, stupid death of Kurt Cobain. I get that, too. But when Cobain killed himself, I never once thought along the lines of this truly disgusting open letter. What the writer of this letter fails to realize is that it is precisely this type of revolting sycophancy that hurt Jackson. What Jackson needed was not some knucklehead to tell him that he was “the Alpha.” He had plenty of those jackals surrounding him. Jackson needed someone to sit him down and say, “It’s time to grow the hell up, Mike.” It’s a good message for many of those spending today with tears in their eyes, too.

If you wish to honor the man’s music, put on Thriller and dance the night away, and reminisce about days gone by. Save the tears for someone who deserves them.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin reminds us who really deserves honors.


Michael Jackson, RIP

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.