Sad life, sad death–great music. So much people are saying, but the music says it best. YouTube has a site dedicated to his videos here, and it’s interesting that the most popular ones are of a later vintage. Many are superb. Here’s a link to the “Thriller” video–it’s long—at least in today’s attention span metrics–almost a movie short at 13:33 minutes. I remember so clearly when it came out, and you knew MJ had changed the industry again. And, I’d say, this was perhaps his most autobiographical song/video.
But the earlier Jackson Five stuff is really great, too. Andrew Sullivan links to this a capella version of “I’ll be There.”
Via the NYT story, Berry Gordy, the Motown founder who helped develop the Jackson 5, told CNN that as a boy Michael Jackson “always wanted to be the best, and he was willing to work as hard as it took to be that. And we could all see that he was a winner at that age.”
Or maybe he was just exploited. As Sullivan also writes:
There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.
But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.
I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.
I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours’ and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.
I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.
And the abused often abuse themselves, and end up badly.
RIP, Michael Jackson.