Friday, July 10, 2009
The death of the "King of Pop" has had a strong impact on many people; news coverage of memorials to Jackson have been ubiquitous. After avoiding mentioning it here during the all the hoopla, I finally am ready to post on the subject.
I have mixed feelings about the man himself and the amazing amount of grief expressed at his death. He changed pop music. And was an important figure in pop culture for decades. For years now, however, it was for the wrong reason; it was for his ability to generate news for the tabloids.
But, like millions of others, I still have warm memories of seeing the video for the song "Thriller" for the first time. The song replaced "Monster Mash" for the post-Boomer generations as THE anthem of Halloween, my favorite holiday.
I taught Arts and Crafts at an inner-city Boys Club (pre-head-severing, of course) at the time of the album's amazing success, and I remember how in love the kids were with it and videos spawned from it. Kids at the club liked showing me (and everyone else) the dance moves they learned from the videos.
As a child in the monster craze of the 1960s, I was glad to know that many post-Boomer kids were introduced to the talents of director John Landis, makeup artist Rick Baker, and actor Vincent Price for the first time through the "Thriller" video.
Much of Michael Jackson's life was tragic and unpleasant, both for himself and the public. Sadly, he reached a point in his obsession with plastic surgery that he looked less real than wax versions of himself.
A replica of Michael Jackson at Madame Tussaud's:
It's undeniable that Jackson's music was more meaningful to many people than the sordid news that swirled about him, and that the grief fans around the world have expressed was real, and deep.
A very moving tribute to Jackson's impact can be found at Cameron McCasland's blog The Red Headed Revolution. Another post I recommend on the subject can be found at Daydreaming in Darkness. My favorite line: "It was the fact that he was so abnormal, so outside of the norm, that he became unique, even if he looked like some kind of musical Bizarro Superman. And how refreshing that was in a media landscape progressively possessed by the vacuous reality-show sameness of everybody in it."
Still, comedy and satire can tell the truth about a subject in ways straight reporting and personal testimony can't, and has its place even in times of mourning. The Onion has certainly told a form of truth about Jackson in this faux news obit.
More pointedly, Jackson's deterioration was satirized in a caricature mask (that you can buy here):
I won't be buying it. But if YOU do, be careful who you wear it around. You might get hurt.
The grief of his fans has restored some measure of dignity to the subject of the talented-but-strange "King of Pop," although the news of his passing sparked some weirdness, such as the headline "CELEBS TWEET FINAL RESPECTS TO MICHAEL JACKSON", and his public memorial, attended by thousands, had some elements of the bizarre, according to this report at Salon.com:
Inside the biggest, weirdest funeral ever
An unconventional, passionately angry reaction to Jackson's memorials can be read at this novelist's blog.
I remember the death of Elvis Presley. I think the death of "the King of Pop", has caused an even bigger reaction than the death of "the King", although it will be many years before we know whose life had a bigger impact on music history.
Rest in peace in the true Neverland, Michael.