I have the Thriller album on cassette. It is song for song one of the greatest albums ever recorded. I never rebought it on CD because I refused to contribute to his pedophile defense fund. Somehow I found putting money in his pocket more reprehensible than contributing to the bank accounts of the other drug addicts and criminals and similar denizens of the music industry.
He had no childhood but grew up to be a man without responsibilities or knowledge of the consequences of his actions. He traded his youth for a world without accountability. His money bought him license not available to others.
I don't know where his demons came from but they were real and he left a wake of ruin in his path. Whether the happiness he brought millions is worth the pain he inflicted on himself and those he preyed on can never be quite calculated.
We as a society create and then sacrifice our pop culture heroes. As a college student in the 80s, my roommates and I would sit around and argue one of the most complicated issues of the past thirty years: Just What Is The Story On Michael Jackson?
At the time the rumor was that he beat the Billie Jean paternity case by copping to being gay. If only his life were that mundanely kinky. Always be careful what you wish for. We ended up knowing way too much about Michael and at the same time not nearly enough.
Pop often icons come in pairs. The darker side of the Beatles were the Rolling Stones. At one time Michael Jackson and Prince vied for the top of the charts with Jackson being the 'good' one. Prince was a dark purple libido unleashed while Michael Jackson could sing-song "The Girl Is Mine" with Paul McCartney. He was safe and cute and cuddly and non-threatening. And then things changed. Who knew Prince was the relatively normal one?
The rumors about his personal life got darker and more twisted. There were lawsuits and settlements and testimony too creepy to dismiss. Jackson's arrested adolescence turned into a fixation with adolescents that got him arrested. He played with his image, perhaps to distract us from his real life with magician-like redirection. The difference between reality and persona became too hard to separate. In the Rashomon cult of celebrity we will never know the truth. Not all of it.
There is just too much Michael Jackson to soak it all in at once. His celebrity eclipsed those of even his 80s rivals like Madonna. He is too woven into the threads of our culture. We have iconic moments that can never be forgotten:
- Moonwalking on the Motown 25 special.
- Multi-channel event debuts of his videos.
- Red jackets and single gloves.
- The Thriller zombie dance rivaling YMCA as the least likely kids party gimmick.
- The MTV kiss with Lisa Marie Presley.
- The ever more outlandish publicity stunts as record sales plummeted.
- A sad reclusive life where he became an object of ridicule and bewilderment.
- Jackson 5 Michael
- Thriller Michael
- Tabloid Michael
- Neverland Michael
- Wacko Jacko