Obviously if you are reading this, unless you have been under a rock, you have no doubt heard of the sudden death of Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed King of Pop. Clearly June 25 was quite a day for pop culture with the expected death of Farrah Faucett and the unexpected death of Michael Jackson.
Michael…what can I say. I was born in the early 1970’s…I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and the ole Black Michael. Mine was a family where we were always listening to music like many working class Black families…I was in either 4th or 5th grade when Michael made it really big with the release of Thriller. Damn, I still remember how cool that cat was when he burst on the scene with that famous moonwalk, as another piece I read last night stated this was before the era of you-tube, when it was a huge deal to see something like what that cat was doing. I remember when every kid wanted a red leather jacket and a glove. Everyone wanted to be like Mike.
But somewhere along with the way, Mike went from being a superstar to a super oddity. First it was a nose job, then a little more nipping and tucking….eventually Mike went from being a Black boy to being a strange looking cat. Then there were the allegations of sexual abuse of little boys which for many Americans turned us away from MJ. I admit between the allegations and strange behavior, I can’t say I have been an active fan for years. But I still have enjoyed his early music.
In many ways Michael changed the music and dance game, even though there are younger generations like my son, that only remember MJ as a circus act, there is nothing that can take away from the reality that he changed music and broke records…his music broke musical barriers, hell he put Black folks on MTV. He was a game changer.
All that said, he was incredibly tragic figure, I was surprised to hear he was only 50. Considering he got in the music game at 5, that was 45 years of actively being in music. It also meant that he never had a life and later years I suspect alot of his eccentricities were the result of a childhood deferred. It’s also been well covered that MJ’s father, Joe was a unrelenting taskmaster who worked his children hard to escape the grind of life in Gary Indiana which truthfully who wouldn’t want to get the fuck out of Gary? Gary Indiana is the arm pit of the Midwest, less than an hour away from Chicago, for as long as I can recall its always been a shitty place.
Yet the level of fame that MJ found came with a price, perhaps he should have called himself the King of Pain since clearly his journey in life despite the riches and fame seemed rather painful at least to me.
Which brings me to another point, in the hours since his passing, I have noticed at least in my online circles, that while many will acknowledge he was a game-changer when it came to music at least here in America, many were so disgusted with the charges of sexual abuse that his professional accomplishments were overshadowed by his tragic personal life. Yet at least within the American Black community, there is a sense that while we recognize he was tragic at the end, we are still able to celebrate the greatness he was before the madness took over his life. Among whites that I know and that includes the Spousal Unit, there is less of a willingness to see that greatness but more of an acceptance for the circus freak he had become in his later years.
I am reminded though how many great whites in entertainment though still stand the test of time despite the rumors and allegations that personally they were unsavory characters on a personal level. Elvis, anyone? Elvis is still seen as great despite the fact that getting involved with a 14 year old girl when you are 24 is pretty much a no-no and as a parent equally as offensive as allegations of sexually abusing young boys. In both cases its abuse of a child but America has a funny memory when it comes to race and what we remember.
Anyway may the King of Pop perhaps find peace in the next life.