Friday, June 26, 2009
RIP Michael Jackson
Yes, Thriller was his greatest video, but Black or White is probably my favourite video by pop icon Michael Jackson, minus the strange solo dance sequence at the end of the musical number, which freaked many of us out when we first saw it in 1991. For me, that end dance sequence was probably the first major sign that Jackson was more than a little kooky. It was a harbinger for what was to come. Now that Jackson is gone, like most, I choose to focus more on the positive and celebrate his life.
Michael Jackson was just becoming huge just as I started paying attention to pop music at age 11. Thriller, the top-selling album of all time, was my introduction to the music industry. Since then, nobody has come close to that level of success. Today, I actually feel privileged to be 37 as I was just old enough to experience and appreciate Jackson's Thriller phenomenon as it was happening. I had only started paying attention to the Chum Radio Top 30 countdown, that weekly video show on Citytv on Saturdays at 5 pm (if I'm recalling correctly, I'm sure there are many others like me in the GTA who clearly recall that great video show.) Much Music was not yet on the scene and MTV wasn't available, at least not on my family's cable.
Jackson's follow-ups, of course, never hit the heights of Thriller, although they still had huge impact. I downloaded a whack of Jackson tunes last night from Limewire after I realized I had nothing by him on my iPod. I'm sure many are doing the same right now.
Yes, Jackson was an enormously troubled individual. I'll let others chronicle his sad history being abused as a child, being denied a real childhood in most respects, plus his mega-fame and megalomania. There is so much about this complicated boy man to dissect, it's hard to know where to start. Andrew Sullivan does a great job here.
For me, the one major aspect that sticks out in my memory was that Michael Jackson was, in the 1980s, often criticized by the macho, straight boys in my life as "girly" and "gay" or "gay-looking." Just a closeted teenager myself, I and others would often defend Jackson, claiming he can't be gay, just listen to the lyrics to "Billie Jean." It was interesting in retrospect how all those heterosexuals out there who made Jackson a superstar were able to accept Jackson despite the fact that he was a slightly femme, genteel, and delicate man, very unmanly and unmacho. Of course, there were other far more androgynous men on the music scene who also had huge followings, but none had been as big as Michael, who became a black icon and a pop icon to millions, crossing all cultural barriers. He was the epitome of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream: through sheer talent and drive, Jackson catapulted himself into the stratosphere, into the hearts of people everywhere.
Was Michael Jackson gay? Was Michael Jackson a pedophile? On both counts, I hope not. On the first count, I highly suspect he was heterosexual. Perhaps his feminine attributes gave reassurance to other men out there, both straight and gay, black and white, that you could be extremely cool and still be thin and girlie. Was it homophobic for many to insist so often that Jackson was straight? Sure it was. Had Michael Jackson come out as gay, would he have been the success he was? No way.
But maybe I'm over-analyzing. Today, I've been watching numerous straight guys on T.V. talk about how much Michael Jackson changed their lives and entertained them. Jackson's immense genius overpowered other elements to his personality we found unsavory. And there were many, particularly late in his life when he retreated into a bizarre fantasy land.
There are many child stars who felt robbed of their childhoods. Not all continue along the path that Jackson chose in his "adulthood." Jackson's legacy is very much his own making. We ought not to feel sorry for him.
Today, I want to focus on the great things he brought to this world: his music, his dancing, his love, his innocence. While much of it was a little weird, much of it remains strangely sympathetic.
We love you, Michael! Rest in Peace!