It's still hard to believe. I was actually planning on posting something else today, but after hearing the news today, almost everything else had been put aside for the moment. I was at work, listening to the news on the radio, when I'd heard someone mention how for many of this generation, this is like Elvis or John Lennon dying. One of those moments where people, years from now, will remember where they were, what they were doing and what they did when they heard the news.. In the last several hours, seeing the sudden, massive outpouring of emotion, easily beyond anything that I've ever witnessed, has been surreal, to say the least. Hearing and seeing everyone who is anyone releasing statements, calling into Larry King Live with their tributes; I suppose the closest comparison I have in my lifetime was perhaps the passing of Princess Diana, but with the speed and scale of media coverage today, even that is no comparison. Given how almost everything he's ever done seems to have been on such a massive scale, it seems fitting that the public outpouring upon his passing would match.
I remember being 7/8 years old, just before sliding into what ended up becoming over a decade of damage to his reputation, watching him on television, seeing videos like "Bad," with the infamous crotch grab, "Smooth Criminal," "Remember The Time," with him spinning into a cloud of dust, the morphing faces in "Black Or White," there was nothing like seeing a Michael Jackson video at the time. As a kid, like many others, I was transfixed. I had never seen anyone who could dance and sing or create a production quite like he had done. Looking back, I have to admit that as I got older, I'd end up seeing some of those same moments in a less positive light; overdone and self-indulgent as opposed to truly inspiring, the same way one would half-cringe at the things which once entertained oneself as a child. Undenably too, the backlash that ended up surrounding him for the better part of the last decade certainly played it's part as well.. That being said, while one could still call a lot of those moments over-the-top, self-indulgent; at the same time, there's absolutely no denying the sheer awe that they had inspired at the time, and still do, and the level of excellence that he continuously reached for and more often than not actually achieved in his work.
In the coming years, I'd become fascinated by the spectacle as much as the music, if not more so. The surrounding circus; a massive, bizarre, fascinating phenomenon in its own right, not to mention the side show of his family: the camp (and troubled in its own way) spectacle of LaToya, the admirable success of Janet, Jermaine's once notorious jealousy, the shared spuses, their Father's abusive tendencies and extramarital child among other things. Scouring libraries and used book stores and indulging in every scrap of every trashy Jackson tell-all that I could find was practically a pasttime at one point. I guess it all stemmed from a fascination, a curiosity about how the Jackson family and Michael himself dealt with an immense success that for all the millions sold, hearts touched, seemed as much a badge of glory as it was an albatross around his neck, not to mention an impossible shadow for his family. For someone who seemed to be constantly trying to top himself, even until the end, it was starting to look like an excercise in destruction and sheer futility. It was the key to his greatness, perhaps, yet his tragic flaw, at the same time. With that kind of pressure from within, perhaps moreso than from without; at some point one had to realize how unsustainable it all was. The statement from his former publicist seems to reveal as much.
If there's one thing about the ongoing tributes lately, they seem to show how ultimately durable his legacy is. Rich at Four Four, as always, nails it on this point. Not too long ago, I remember hearing writer Steve Knopper on the radio talking about how Michael Jackson, in the early 80's, had practically saved a music industry still reeling from the disco backlash. It's easy to forget, especially before today, in a time when people waited and expected his next spectacular unraveling, the same way they once waited for his next record or video. I think it's safe to say, even though his final concerts will now no longer be possible, that the comeback that was supposed to follow has gone off, perhaps not as planned, but even beyond what probably could have been.
I suspect that like many celebrity deaths, the tinted tributes will eventually give way to all manner of potentially myth shattering, personally damaging revelations, even though I can't think of anyone whose had more myths shattered, and shattered again in life than Michael Jackson, in his last years. For the time being however, it has actually been nice to not just remember but live again, even in a slightly twisted, confused cloud of mixed emotions, a time when Michael Jackson was the penultimate, untouchable entertainer he once was, when calling him the 'King of Pop' was once again done in tribute, instead of in parody. Though it may have been a largely self-proclaimed title, no one could say that it wasn't entirely fitting as well. RIP.
Some videos from YouTube, capturing Michael in the disco era. In ways that I'm sure many would prefer to remember him:
On Friday (while at work), I had caught As It Happens on CBC Radio One where they talked to Deepak Chopra, dancer/choreographer & musician Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar, who taught Michael the Moonwalk, as well as Motown songwriter/producer Deke Richards a member of "The Corporation," the team which wrote and produced the Jackson Five's earliest hits. Listen below:
...and the saga continues (or is just beginning). The Nanny speaks.
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #54: WILLIE HUTCH - MIDNIGHT DANCER (1979, WHITFIELD/WARNER BROS.) (FRIDAY APRIL 11, 2008)
STARLIGHT DISCO (THURSDAY MARCH 13, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #33: JAMES BROWN - THE ORIGINAL DISCO MAN (1979, POLYDOR) (SATURDAY JANUARY 27, 2007)
UPCOMING REISSUES & RELEASES (APRIL 25 - MAY 30) (FRIDAY APRIL 21, 2006)
TIMES OF LONDON: WHAT NANNY WHO WORKED FOR MICHAEL JACKSON SAW (BY DAPHNE BARAK) (JUNE 28, 2009)
NEW YORK TIMES: AFTER MICHAEL JACKSON, FAME MAY NEVER BE THE SAME (BY DAVID SEGAL) (JUNE 27, 2009)
CBC NEWS: JACKSON FANS MOURN AROUND THE WORLD (FRIDAY JUNE 26, 2009)
LA TIMES OBITUARY: MICHAEL JACKSON'S LIFE INFUSED WITH FANTASY AND TRAGEDY (BY GEOFF BOUCHER & ELAINE WOO) (JUNE 26, 2009)
MYSPACE: LISA MARIE PRESLEY (BLOG) - HE KNEW (FRIDAY JUNE 26, 2009)
HUFFINGTON POST: MICHAEL JACKSON (INDEX)
TMZ: MICHAEL JACKSON (CATEGORY INDEX)
THE GUARDIAN: MICHAEL JACKSON (INDEX)
CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM..