Michael Jackson, age 50, died suddenly yesterday from apparent cardiac complications.
News media is going apesh*t over the story, and last night’s TV schedule saw much of its regular programming preempted for hastily put-together retrospectives. I wasn’t arsed to watch any of them though, as there was a repeat of Survivorman and Law & Order UK to be had.
Now, I wasn’t ever what you’d call a Michael Jackson fan. My appreciation for him started with Weird Al Parodies and didn’t quite move on beyond that for most of my juvenile years. I was just old enough to witness the rise of Thriller but Bad was “my” Michael Jackson and he’d already started his descent into lunacy by that point. His hair had been burnt off on a Pepsi shoot, he built a playground called “Neverland Ranch” (a surprisingly self-aware allusion to his own Peter Pan complex) on his property, he bought a monkey and John Merrick’s remains, and he was experimenting with plastic surgery with the fixation a crack addict has for his vice.
By the time he turned 30 the spectacle of Michael Jackson: Freakshow had already started taking over the spectacle of Michael Jackson: King of Pop and his music was overshadowed by his not-so-private life. That his music was becoming less and less innovative and therefore less and less relative didn’t help any. If you look at it, the man contributed something incredible to music for about twenty years of his life, and something even more incredible to popular culture for another twenty.
Michael Jackson is a legend, of that there’s no doubt. And of that legend, there are two sides… all the incredible ground he broke musically and culturally, and then the utterly fascinating character study of a egotistical man-child who refused to grow up.
Oh yeah, and Farrah Fawcett died yesterday too.