Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Good god, what a morning to work in a newsroom. There was a lot of last-minute shuffling, rearranging and shock as there is only when the biggest news stories happen. There is no charge like it and despite my occasional grumblings about the state of journalism in 2009, it's a hell of a place to be when big things drop. Michael Jackson is one of those stories, and while we'll all get well and truly sick of the endless tributes, analyses and blathering over the coming days, his sudden death is an event, capital "E."

PhotobucketI'm still processing the fact of Jacko's sudden death -- but my first instinct is to call it a tragedy in the big old broad Shakespearean sense. He may have been a freaky creep, and I can't say I was a gigantic fan, but he was a creature warped and created by many others, by greed and by abuse and in the end I can't help but feel a little sorry for the guy, who hadn't really had the chance of a normal life since his bullying dad heard him sing for the first time. Like Elvis, who he will be compared to a lot, he was chewed up, and weak, and was no innocent, but his story is still a sad and all-too-common one. He mutated long ago into a carnival freak, and while the actual death is a shock, can anyone say they really expected this eternal boy to make it to his 60s and 70s?

Like pretty much any pre-teen in 1982, I listened to "Thriller" a heck of a lot, and have to admit that even now when I hear the familiar thump-thump of "Billie Jean" or the unfaltering drive of "Beat It," it gets my pulse up a bit. Jackson's early chipmunk-voiced boy rock didn't do much for me, and around the time of "Bad" he fell victim to believing he was some kind of twisted messiah, but "Thriller" -- well, despite all that's happened since there is a reason it sold a bazillion copies. For someone with such a big, universal voice and sound once upon a time, it's sad to see him ending so very small.

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