Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lionize or Demonize?

"Hey pretty baby with the high-heels on..."

Kind of a weird day yesterday, don't you think? I bet you first heard the news and you said to yourself, "No way, he died!?"

The next thought was, well, how am I allowed to feel about it?

"Is it cool if I feel bad for him? I can definitely feel bad for his kids, they lost their dad, but what about him? Am I allowed to say I was a fan?"

The news broke middle of the day, out of nowhere, suddenly there were banners splashed across news and entertainment websites with "Michael Jackson dead at 50" and every news channel running a helicopter and on-the-ground anchors outside the LA hospital he passed away in. Hell, ESPN did a segment on SportsCenter. SPORTSCENTER.

You expect icons to pass like a storm. A massive, swelling sense of impending entertainment darkness on the horizon, your body senses something big is about to happen. But that wasn't what yesterday felt like. It just sort of happened, he was just gone, his heart gave up.

Michael Jackson was the icon of icons. He was bigger than Elvis, the Beatles or Sinatra at their respective prime. (Go ahead and try to prove me wrong here, I dare you.) He was one of the first African-American artists to be heavily featured on a fledgling MTV, criticized early on for their caucasian, rock orientation. His mere presence brought droves to tears around the globe, an appearance was news even if it wasn't a performance, and, most importantly, his music knew no bounds. It didn't matter what color you were, gender, sexual orientation, age, or musical preference - you respected and at some point danced (no matter how poorly) to the pure art the man created. For example, Thriller sold 50 million copies and had 7, yes 7, Top 10 singles on the Billboard Charts. That never happened before and it will never happen again.

But, all too soon, there was a shadow cast over his larger-than-life figure. He become the fodder for numerous stand-up comics, television shows, and movie skits. He was a man who seemed to be two people at once; the innocent, benevolent humanitarian and the alleged predator of the worst degree. I say alleged, because that is the case. But, that allegation was enough to send him into what became a free-fall of eccentricity. Or, possibly, it was enough for public opinion to stop overlooking his strangness. The vitiligo he suffered from, forced him to bleach his skin to keep up with his manic obsession over his appearance. Then there was the complete restructuring of his face, which in the end, drove him to wear a surgical mask in public.

Part of me felt happy he was finally free of the burden that became his life. Media was as vicious as possible, trying to find that grand-slam story that would finally prove the monster so many felt he was.

Many reports say his overly-essentric behavior was seeded by an abused childhood, primarily from his dominating father, Joe. He was never able to be a kid. From 9 years of age on, he was in the public light and forced to perform even though he was tormented by his acne and features. He was destined to break from an early age, it was just when and how. The 90's came and MJ's last #1 album was bumped to #2, quite symbolically by Nirvana's, "Nevermind." Interest in pop/R&B waned and alternative became the new mainstream.

The rest of the story you know all to well already. A fall from grace, and a comback planned for 2010. The chance for King Michael to regain his rightful throne. Whether you know it or not, you hear Michael Jackson's influence daily in music, on any station your FM radio picks up. His influence spanned genre into the realms of immortality. 100 years from now, MJ records will still be spinning in bars and clubs and people will instantly latch on to the beat and forget about life for a while, which is what the intention was all along.

So, the question comes back, do you lionize or demonize the man? Do you split the music from the man and the man from his music? Do you choose to believe the court of public opinion or do you believe he was a innocent, albeit a very strange man?

I know my mind the answer is clear, but divided. I know I love his music, and always will. I also know he was wrong to have children stay with him in his ranch called Neverland, regardless of any activities that may or may not have happened. As an adult, you just don't do that.

But, I do feel, for the moment it is okay to mourn the loss of such genius. His talent and genius will be remembered the way Mozart's is today. Yes, he was that gifted. The rest will work its way out the way history has the ability to do. We'll just have to keep listening and see what happens. At least there will be good music while we wait.

"It's a thriller night..."

13 Grammy Awards
13 Billboard #1 records
Over 750 million albums sold
Two Rock & Roll HOF inductions
Guinness World Record for "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time."


  1. Fantastic post, Daniel. Now I don't have to fire you.

  2. That was pretty initial though was that if you sing a lot, and a lot of people like your music, people will joke around about your accused pedophile ways while you're alive, then forget about all that "hanging a baby out a window" and just lament your death when you die. It is hard to decide how one feels about this situation. Michael Jackson death has now become a topic like politics or religion.


  3. His life: a tragedy. His death: a final statement. Remember him for his music, but lament his insanity. He could have been so much more.