Friday, June 26, 2009

The King is Dead


“I want someone to say it, Becky. I want the most influential person—someone with respect, clout, money and power—to say it: ‘The GREATEST pop singer the world has ever known has died, and we should mourn his tragic life.’”


My sister said this to me last night in reaction to all the crap that’s been written about Michael Jackson’s death, and it struck a chord. She’s right. His music has had a profound effect on my life. Michael Jackson’s “HIStory” album came out when I was in the 8th grade (1995), and I listened to it until my ears went numb. I worshipped and adored the words and unsurpassed quality and poetry, and I was compelled to discover Michael’s previous decade of work. He was beautiful.


Unfortunately, though his art was matchless, his life was a damn mess.


Roger Ebert said in his eulogy:


“We have all spent years in the morbid psychoanalysis of this strange man-child. Now that he has died we will hear it all repeated again: The great fame from an early age, the gold records, the world tours, the needy friendships, the painful childhood, Neverland, the eccentric behavior, plastic surgery, charges of child molestation, the fortunes won and lost, the generosity, the secrecy, the inexplicable marriage to Elvis's daughter, the disguises, the puzzling sexuality, the jokes, and on and on.


I have no idea whether Michael abused the children he "adopted." It is possible those relationships were without sex; he seemed frozen at a time before puberty. Whether he touched them criminally or not, it is easy to see what he sought: To create, with and for these Lost Boys, a Neverland where they could imagine together the childhood he never had.


His father Joseph was known even then as a hard-driving taskmaster, and was later described by family members as physically and mentally abusive, beating the child, once holding him by a leg and banging his head on the floor. Michael confided to Oprah that sometimes he would vomit at the sight of the man.


Mixed with that was perhaps a lifelong feeling of inadequacy, burned in by the cruelty of his father. That might help explain the compulsive plastic surgery, the relentless rehearsal, the exhausting tours, the purchase of expensive toys, the giving of gifts.”


I am now filled with a sense of loss, and even more, a sense of compassion. Michael was a mysterious, lonely, sad, and strange creature. I’m inclined to believe he spent his entire life attempting to regain and/or heal an utterly devastating and shattered childhood.


I refuse to demonize or reduce him to a “pot shot” joke. I also refuse to believe he was a sinister creature.


He was the GREATEST pop singer the world has ever known, and I mourn his tragic life.



Shara said...

I love that you wrote pretty much the exact opposite of me. :) I think it's funny you're sister heard so much of the bad things about him and most of the reactions I heard was the opposite (remember only the music and none of the bad and crazy). I'm thinking that moderation is the best thing - we need to remember the great talent and the crazy (actually thinking about how crazy he became really makes his music that much more impressive)

Alright, this is a super long comment - basically I wanted to say that I appreciated that you had the opposite experience as I did. :) Hopefully he is in a much better state of mind and has found a little peace that he never found in life.

Shara said...

P.S. I hate that I misspelled the word "your" :(

Becky said...

No worries Shara. I make typos all the time on these things, and it kills me. English major and all.

As for your comment. I appreciate your balanced approach in reaction to my post. I realize a lot of people feel disgusted by Michael--his looks, his eccentric behavior, and the outrageous publicity surrounding him. But I've also come to realize, the media loves it when the "Gods" fall from the heavens. And because it sold papers and advert time on T.V., they publicly massacred him.

Perhaps what disgusts me the most is the very same papers now proclaiming him as a legend, were writing about his “supposed” prosthetic noses and imported Swedish skin dyes not six months before this.

He was my childhood hero. I wanted a fair assessment of his life. This post was the best I could do.