Author’s Note: I don’t do a lot of personal bloggings on this site, but every once in a while, something huge happens and I’m overwhelmed with the feeling to do so. I started this piece the morning after Michael Jackson’s passing away, but we’ve had a busy past few days and there’s so much to say and hyperlink to, it just took me a while to get it all together and up on this site. I wish it was more immediate, but whatever. Deal with it.
(6/26/09) So this all started last night, when I went to see Third Eye Blind at the Palladium in Hollywood.
Yeah, hold your laughter until the end of the piece…
Anyway, it was a few hours after Michael Jackson died and all the reports of his death started dominating everything everywhere. At the show, the band and their crew wore black fedoras to honor the King of Pop’s passing. Stephan Jenkins, the band’s lead singer, took a few minutes to share some of his thoughts about Jackson, how he remembered the precise moment that he first discovered Jackson’s music at a young age, and how that instantly inspired him to become a musician. Then he busted out in a fantastic rendition of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The crowd then shared a moment of silence, punctuated by a few stupid jeers from drunk idiots.
And that got me thinking.
It’s difficult for me to even start this…whatever it is (essay? eulogy? brain diarrhea?) because Michael Jackson had such a large presence that encompassed and influenced so many aspects of modern life. There’s simply too much to say about him, even though everyone’s been doing it for decades and will continue to do so forever. And I kind of feel corny even publishing this on our site, but it’s an important blip in the history of our culture, and just like everyone else, I feel the need to capture the moment in some way.
So if you think this is corny, you can stop reading now.
Before this piece gets into the sentimental stuff, keep in mind that Michael Jackson was no doubt a weird dude to me, The Weirdest of Dudes, perhaps the weirdest we’ll ever see in our lifetime. From the race-switching, to the child-dangling, to the chimpanzee-rearing, to the nose-jobbing, to the Macaulay Culkin-befriending, to the Elephant Man bones-collecting, to the Lisa Marie Presley-marrying, to the child molestation-defending, to the alleged devil-worshipping, to the drug-abusing, and beyond, this guy gave us some of the strangest news in the world and he did it on a consistent basis. I mean, just look at this picture:
So now that he’s gone, who’s going to be The Weirdest of Dudes?
But aside from all the goofy stuff, I guarantee that no matter what kind of emotional or cynical or terrible person you are, you have to admit that you have at least one fond memory of Michael Jackson, whether it was a commercial he did, an image you saw that was stolen from his bizarre lifestyle, one of his many genre-defining and amazing songs, some ridiculously true or false tabloid story, a groundbreaking music video, a live dance performance that overshadowed some stupid awards show, a red jacket with extraneous zippers that you wore and felt cool about for a few months as a kid, a silly cartoon or short film he produced, a video game that let you embody Michael and grab your crotch as much as you wanted, and on and on.
And even if it’s not a direct memory about him, at the very least you’ve enjoyed the work of countless artists who were inspired by him to follow their own creative sparks.
Because in his prime, Michael Jackson emitted more than just a few measly creative sparks, he unleashed an inescapable megaton bomb of creativity that covered the earth in its fallout and mutated everyone in both major and tiny, invisible ways.
Aside from his artistry, the details of his personal life provided endless amounts of easy, safe material for millions of lame comedians to fall back upon. He was the biggest, safest target in the world. In the history of this website, I’m happy to say that we’ve never had to rely on material about him to get a laugh. There are too many other good things to joke around about.
Personally, I feel like I’ve been a marginal fan of Michael Jackson. I grew up in a very sheltered Christian
household where we weren’t allowed to listen to any “secular” music and since Michael Jackson ruled the radio airwaves and TV stations of the 1980’s, well, he was pretty much considered the devil in my house. But once I was able to think and discover the world on my own, sometime in my teen years, I found Michael Jackson’s work, and after I got over my initial fears of getting possessed by demons by listening to it, I felt somewhat cheated that I had already missed out on so much fun stuff from him earlier in my life.
What’s strange about being a Michael Jackson fan (now, and even back then) is that I don’t really know whether I want to admit that I am one, either to people I know or to myself. All of the oddness swirling around him has repeatedly caused me to revisit my feelings about him, whether or not I’m cool with people knowing I have his music on my iPod, whether or not I’d go to one of his shows if I could afford to, whether or not I want to believe the rumors and allegations and judge his music based on that, etc. There’s a weird sense of shame and doubt associated with him. No other artist has stirred that up within me.
Except maybe for this dude. But he’s not really an artist, just a jackass.
But at a time when I’m witnessing the death of many aspects of my childhood, Michael’s death is just a lot to bear, honestly. Right now, Hollywood is stuck in a trend of “reinventing” all the cartoons and toys and franchises and characters from the 80’s. In most cases, the studios are just poopooing all over our nostalgia and raking in billions. Of course, Hollywood had nothing to do with Michael’s literal death, but I guess what I’m saying is that this just came at a time when I’ve been looking back on things from my childhood and enjoying them for what they were back then, not the sad reinventions that they’ve become now.
And I think that totally applies to Michael Jackson, the biggest international superstar up to this moment in history.
And I know this, too – that today, Michael Jackson’s music echoes throughout the entire world. People living in countries you’ve never heard of, speaking languages you’ll never hear in your lifetime, are weeping over the news of this man’s unexpected death. Driving in Los Angeles this morning, his songs and news stories are playing on every radio station. Everybody’s driving slow, lost in thought, weirded out, questioning how they feel, saying their goodbyes, and being just shaken and unsettled on so many levels.
I’ve seen people from all walks of life crying in their cars. It’s all very affecting. Consider it one more weird event to associate with that dude’s life.
The funny thing is that even now, who knows what we’re in for in the coming months. What kind of weird shit will the news vultures pull out of this? And why won’t I be able to stop listening to it when they do? What kind of circus will the funeral turn into? He was too huge to have just one. He’ll need to have services in every country. It’s going to be nuts.
And what if he’s not really dead? Would you honestly be surprised if it was all a publicity stunt (albeit a mean and poorly-conceived one) for his upcoming half-billion dollar tour in which he “arises” in a month as Zombie Michael, ready to devastate our eyeballs with his new, never-before-seen oft-rumored dance move to replace the Moonwalk? I wouldn’t be.
But I know that’s not happening.
So whoever you are – a dedicated longtime fan, a talking head in a newsroom, a confused kid who just heard your first Michael Jackson song yesterday, a friend or family member who actually knew Michael and got to experience his craziness firsthand, or just some hack comedian still trying to capitalize on Michael Jackson’s genius, just shut up for a minute and remember.
Remember that Michael Jackson was a phenomenal artist who overcame a terrible childhood and tremendous hurdles and chose to give to us, a world that made him rich and slapped him in the face. This lonely, overgrown child of a man, gave to us. Our lives are enriched in many big and small ways because of him, and we have witnessed the passing of a giant.
That’s it. Thanks and later to it.