As we sat on the couch yesterday afternoon Helaine said, “I’m surprised you haven’t written about Michael Jackson. I checked a few times looking for it. Don’t you remember sitting on that ugly couch in Buffalo watching Thriller?”
I do. It was quite an event. The world gravitated to MTV on December 2, 1983 when the video was premiered. There was as much hype and hoopla as I can remember surrounding a cultural/musical happening. It didn’t disappoint.
This was Michael Jackson’s second pop career. His first was as the front man for the Jackson 5.
When the J5 was at its peak they were being marketed in a way that made them seem unhip to me. It’s only now I appreciate songs like “I Want You Back¹.”
When I speak to people who’ve only seen Michael as a grotesquely reconfigured weirdo, I point out that he was genuinely cute pre-surgery. It’s tough to believe.
I’m not a psychiatrist, but I still have my theories on what made Michael Jackson the truly strange person he grew up to be. I don’t doubt he enjoyed the time he spent performing. Unfortunately, that time is surrounded by more dedicated time. As a child his life was full of adult responsibility and discipline.
Look who he’s friendly and linked to–other grown child stars. They’re the only people who might have a true understanding of his childhood… or lack thereof.
On top of that, imagine a life where money is truly no object. Martin Mull tells a joke about the saddest thing in the world–high school with money. Michael Jackson was that on steroids!
It’s all really sad. I don’t feel especially bad for the family whose motives have always seemed a little sinister to me. I do feel bad for Michael who never had the ease of life that his level of fame is supposed to provide.
Last night I decided to look and listen to some of Michael’s stuff. That took me to youtube.com where loads of performances can be seen. Actually, there’s more! I have no idea where it came from, but within youtube are the original Motown tracks for some of the Jackson 5 songs minus the lead vocal. It looks like these were mastered to allow Michael to appear on TV or in person actually singing, but without the expense of the sending a full orchestra (actually the Funk Brothers) and the rest of the family. It’s amazing stuff to hear.
As we change from the vinyl to digital era and radio fades from its glory there may never be another artist capable of aggregating the outlandishly huge fan base Michael got. Mass media is become narrow media which doesn’t play into this kind of over-the-top fame.
Saturday afternoon word came the physician in Michael’s house when he died has ‘lawyered up.’ People will go to jail for this tragic death.
¹ – The piano glissando in “I Want You Back” has reached iconic status.