Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodnight, Sweet Freak

I'm not sure if anyone can pinpoint the moment when it started to go south for Michael Jackson. He was a prolific artist, a cultural phenomenon, and the scion of a musical dynasty whose very name became a punchline, synonymous with outlandish behavior, questionable sexuality, and arcane publicity stunts. He was weeks away from launching a comeback with a month of sold-out shows in London. He died today, after suffering a heart attack at age 50.

I was 13 when Thriller came out and, for kids of my generation and thereafter, it represented a cultural touchstone in music. I was a metalhead, but irrespective of your musical tastes, there was no one who didn't fall under the thrall of the guy. His music was suggestive without being overt, the grooves were undeniable, and if you liked girls- you made sure you were listening to Michael Jackson. He was a genuinely gifted artist borne of the Motown tradition who was the inspiration for subsequent generations of pop artists. In stark contrast to the packaged, computer-generated faux pop of today, he was the real deal. As he was seemingly unable to transition successfully from boy to man, his legacy became less about artistic accomplishments and more about the sideshow- sham weddings, hidden children, living in Neverland, "Jesus juice", a face that seemed like a game of human Jenga. Whatever his motivations and desires later in life, he still occupies a very important place in music history. Ironically, his comeback shows could have put him on the road to financial salvation. Now, we'll never know what the third act of Jacko's life might have been.

1 comment:

rozzanna said...

"a face that seemed like a game of human Jenga"
This may be the best obit for MJ that I've read. In fact, I'd like to see Ann Curry read this word for word on that morning show of hers.
Well done.