King of Pain….King of Pop

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.

13 thoughts on “King of Pain….King of Pop”

  1. Selective memory indeed. Jerry Lee Lewis leaps to mind too, in terms of musical pedophiles that are still considered major movers and shakers of the past by whites, who don’t condemn his (or Elvis’) art for that…though they are quick to write off Michael Jackson because of it.

  2. * Ahem *

    You slander me, my love. 😉

    As to not being as moved by his greatness, remember that I was a white kid whose mother liked Country & Western and whose dad was a fan of VERY light rock and instrumental/vocal stuff…and I didn’t even buy my first cassette music tape until I was halfway through high school (and that was Sheena Easton, followed up by Heart). I didn’t have any exposure to the Jackson Five to speak of, and never grew up with “Black Michael” as part of my everyday experience. I only knew “Mostly Black Michael” of the Thriller era, “Still Kinda Black Michael” of the Bad era, and then lost interest in him musically as he moved from “Biege Michael” to “Almost White Michael” to “What the Hell is that Space Alien Doing on TV Michael”

    So, yes, admittedly, I saw him more as a freak show than a person I could identify with, because I already thought the Jheri curl and glitter glove thing was pretty weird, and that was normal compared to what was to come later. As to the child abuse allegations, I think it is equally likely he simply wanted to still BE a boy and thus hung out with those kids…which was inappropriate and creepy but far from criminal.

    I actually do acknowledge that he had a lot of talent and influence on music. Monumental, in fact. Legacy kind of shit. But you should know by now I’m hardly enamored of Pop most of the time, even really good Pop music, so his genius touches on an area that doesn’t really touch my interests directly. My acceptance of his greatness is an abstract thing, much like I abstractly accept that Shakespeare or Hemingway were great artists but can’t stand their stuff most of the time.

    It’s a crying shame that his childhood was ripped from him, though, and that Joe Jackson turned the whole lot of his children into folks who could almost single-handedly support the psychiatric industry with their collective emotional and mental baggage. So, in a certain sense, I actually see him as a gigantic tragic figure more than a freak show I suppose.

  3. Just to be clear I am not in the MJ is innocent camp nor would I ever wear the t-shirt. MJ had to carry the burden that resulted from his actions. I stand by the not guilty verdict. MJ had boundary issues.

    On another note regarding the Elvis and Priscilla affair that was FOUL, inappropriate, and criminal according to what Priscilla wrote in her memoir. But I guess teenaged girls being molested by a cultural icon was cool back in the day. I guess teen boys are off limits. I’m being sarcastic of course because it seems that America has a selective memory. Pediophilia is evil.

  4. michael jackson makes me sad…i was just thinking about him the other day–about the abuse he endured as a child. the abuse that caused him to try to turn himself into something else. the abuse that made him seek approval and made him who he was.
    poor michael. i wish he could have been happy with who he was. i wish he hadn’t of felt it was necessary to destroy himself.
    & “thriller” will ALWAYS be one of the best albums EVER!!

  5. There is a fine line that separates genius and madness. Anyone in the mental health field knows that MJ had emotional / psychological issues that manifested as eccentric behavior.

    As beloved as he was the world over, it is how or if he loved himself that mattered. One’s family and home environment are crucial in a child’s identity formation. What was painfully obvious to me was that MJ was a person in pain. A man who desparately tried to capture (not re-capture) childhood, something he had never known.

    As far as the allegations of child abuse, I believe that those two boys’ parents exploited them for monetary purposes. I am not one who disbelieves children who make allegations of child abuse, I believe the child then try to make sense of what is fact (and truth) and what is not. I have done this type of work for 15 years. I am not a celebrity chaser nor willing to give a celebrity special treatment just because they are rich and/or famous.

    MJ was a grown a– man doing childish things, which made his interactions with some of those kids inappropriate not necessarily abusive. If I had children they would not be on sleepovers with an adult; that’s inappropriate even if that person is famous and even if that person never does anything abusive. It is inappropriate. Period. MJ thinking that he could do things like that and believe that people would see this as innocent always saddened me and I knew it would be his downfall.

    What all that said, I’m grateful for his music, his dance, and his talent. I was truly entertained. He was BAD!!!

    Thanks BGIM for a great post. Sorry I rambled on.

    • The thought crossed my mind today that if those people were liars, I would be relieved and enraged. Talk about evil.

      I don’t question your expertise or experience, Hagar’s Daughter. I wasn’t easily swayed at the time, far from it, but what I read did convince me of the likelihood of him crossing the line into the territory that gives a parent nightmares. If I were the kind of parent that would even dream of allowing my child to spend the night with a grown man.

  6. For me, there’s Before and After as far as how I feel about him. Before is decades of incredible music and after is after. And it’s honestly not the eccentricities that got me, those just were just funnier things to laugh at instead of the child raping. Alleged.

    For me, his fall from grace was harder on me due to how high he stood. I can’t recall any unkind or tacky quotes, his oddness was just gentle looniness and he did so much good for so many people and causes.

    Add to that the fact that there is no other artist, ever, that made so much music that made so many, many people purely happy to hear it, dance to it, sing to it. My kids cut their teeth on his music and know most of his songs by heart so when it came time to explain that he was one probably one of “those” guys I took it hard.

    Wow. In spite of all my snarkiness it’s quite plain that I’m mourning him. Again.

  7. And what I find funny is during an interview (can’t remember which one since I was trying to watch them all last night) with a white female newsperson interviewing a black male well-known in the music industry….the black male said that MJ was more iconic than Elvis and the white woman said, “really?!” as if someone told her pigs had just started flying an hour ago. Elvis? Great in his own right but nothing compared to MJ who did his own music, actually had creativity, and did his own moves.

    I admit I thought MJ had gone freakish on us these last few years but, and maybe I am being merciful towards one of my own, he did spend 45 years in this industry as you mentioned earlier. Anyone who has spent half that time in the industry suffer a great deal so what can you expect. He was wacko Jacko due to his unique situation and upbringing….he missed out on his childhood but he was blessed with an amazing gift.

    I remember being kicked out the room when his Thriller video first aired on TV. Trying to do the moonwalk and damaging my little toes trying to do that ballet stance as he did onstage. That’s it…

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