|Each generation gets its chance for a revolution. Michael Jackson was a very special little boy. His music was unprecedented, the style gleaming with authentic hypnosis while his personality lurched into eloquent eccentricity. Personal circumstances, a crisis of finance and lurid scandals, dripped like bleeding wounds to tarnish the ultimate legacy. Death before the final curtain ended renaissance and triggered remembrance. And now, the moonwalk has passed away. This was a prince who became a king – the pop revolutionary, a hurricane in human form. His albums entered spaces thought impossible by someone who wasn’t Elvis Presley or a member of The Beatles. The internet has swallowed record-breaking sales – Thriller is the world’s best-selling album of all time – and music videos were transformed in his ecstatic era, revolutionised from a promotional tool to an alternate genre in their own right. Michael Jackson is a shining testament to fortunate talent and audacious potential. And this is what everyone should remember MJ for.
Yet it was that talent that came to be undermined by nascent antics of personal enigma. He was the man in a child’s body. A lost soul whose innocence was whipped by an abusive father. Neverland served as the theatre of his own dreams. It gave him the childhood his father had denied him. Black people felt inspired and, regardless of skin colour or ethnicity, there was a buzzing pizzazz which hitherto has not been replicated by any music sensation. The crushing contradiction for so many fans was the legend – who can be credited with forcing black music into the mainstream – limped to hide his true appearance. Perhaps that is endemic of social disease as much as personal insecurities. Nose jobs and thinned lips destroyed his dexterous elegance, and propelled the beginning of chronic peculiarity. Vitiligo played its part, although something far more sinister revealed the true tragedy – a deep psychological battering ram that ran a mysterious thread throughout the singer’s warped personality.
Fame destroyed Michael Jackson. His complex lifestyle slowly deteriorated his opulent status as the greatest entertainer of that age. The infant child who couldn’t cross the bridge into manhood was unable to take control of life – Jackson was forever vulnerable, harassed by epic fantasies, and imprisoned by his own talents. His death was sudden, but not altogether unexpected. The addiction to drug medication was no secret – its revealing cause for his death was expected. Michael Jackson was also very frail. Initial pictures, which showed rehearsals for his explosive final tour, illustrated a weightless singer, devoid of colour, and shockingly thin. His mental faculties had already decayed. Yet his death seemed like a peculiar triumph. The King of Pop had refused to grow up and, equally, he had thwarted age from bearing its toll. His voice stayed with its childish trembles – and then he floated away. Michael Jackson was saved.
He climbed acclivity in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. His prominent rise made him the first black superstar in a country where race had just experienced a revolutionary liberation. Jackson was born four years before segregation was ostracised, and his big break, signing for Motown in 1968, came in the same year as the assassination of the impulsive black ambassador. But Michael Jackson was no Martin Luther King. Dr King taught us to love each other – his powerful words handcuffed racial divides, egalitarian measures flowed from this pioneering legacy, and death prescribed him an iconic symbol locked within the lightning emblem of civil rights. Michael Jackson did none of these things – but his music is still good enough.
Martin Luther King made Michael Jackson possible. Jackson stormed the scene as an artist braving the boundaries of a divided nation failing to integrate. The singer was never connected to the political uprisings – or social upheavals – of this age, but his mainstream success generated that symmetry among his faithful – and this success allowed him the prestige of being the heroic victor in a continuing battle of cultural wars. Michael Jackson smashed barriers because he was unique – a little black boy, a voice that couldn’t be eclipsed, dance manoeuvres that were instantly mesmerising, and an afro. Jackson became that unprecedented phenomenon – and his cultural zeal helped orchestrate acceptance through actions, and not skin colour. It was future actions that scarred him terminally.
The degradation in later life was no surgical mischief. This little black guy became a freakish little white guy – a monstrosity who destroyed his previously immortal affinity to black stardom incarnate. He abandoned loyal fans, fathered white children, continued his physical downfall, yet then accused record companies of inherent racism. His life buckled when natural black skin fragmented into a pale white cessation. Michael Jackson has been dead for ages.
Michael Jackson was a victim of child abuse who became an extremely disturbed and distressed person. Sexual abuse charges became rife, but MJ dusted them off either through acquittal or reparations. The impression it made could never be paid off though. Suddenly, Wacko Jacko was chucked into a burning press pot whereby oversimplified conceptions became normal. It was a strange fantasy, believed by too many: reducing his child deficiencies by stealing the universal innocence of so many in infancy. It was a sad scapegoat. Though, it was one that wasn’t a complete falsehood.
Success has its dark side. Michael Jackson failed to handle fame. His child persona in an adult body couldn’t manage that success the singer had worked so hard to fulfil. His legal fees were exorbitant; the lifestyle was lavish and wrapped in spendaholic tenacity. The ranch had to go and the singer left life with astronomical indebtedness. MJ withdrew himself from society, reducing public appearances by hiding his face behind a mask – concealment that only fostered greater attention, and worry.
The Michael Jackson Story is tragic and inspiring, audacious and neurotic, tense and tantalising. It portrays the extreme dysfunction of glamorous victory without a purpose, reminding us that the finickity of showbiz does not allure personal comforts of felicity. Befuddled star power, superabundant comebacks, hearsay about prescription drugs – aren’t these the suicidal hallmarks that plague all music houses? Pop stardom, and its long continuity or advancing longevity, is always at risk from the star themselves. Stability can be crushed with celebutard public relations and eclectic misfortune can bring the millions of fans to tears – that is what can turn pole position into bubble position. No longer are music icons delineated by their songs hitting the top charts, or stadiums being sold out in mesmerising seconds. That is sad, yet it’s something that died long before Michael Jackson.
The man may be dead, but his music isn’t – and his soul continues to flourish with each passing generation. I believe it is called immortality. Oxygen tents, a kiddie fiddler theme park, and old wounds surgery became the characteristics of life. In death, the world should choose some different characteristics – grateful remembrance instead of misguided innuendo. And be thankful for the experience. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. A song and dance man – just remember him for that.
Robert King is a Contributing Editor to WDC.