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Farewell to Michael Jackson, The King of Pop

June 26, 2009

By now you know that Michael Jackson is dead.  A lot of people will have a lot of different opinions, ranging from “he was a great guy and the savior of pop music”, to “he was a washed up entertainer/child molester who’s better off gone”.  Maybe he was all of those things, but he seems to me to be a guy with a good heart who never reconciled himself with a world that adored then reviled him.

It’s been said a hundred times but bears repeating:  Michael Jackson was a supremely talented musician and entertainer at a young age, but was never allowed to be a kid.  Is it any wonder he became a screwed-up adult and felt more at home around children?  For all the mystery and speculation surrounding Neverland Ranch—and we will never know what really went on there—it was named after Peter Pan’s world of eternal youth for a reason.  With its zoo and theme park, perhaps Jackson saw it as a refuge, where he could live out his childhood as he wanted (not re-live it, since he never really did the first time).  Or maybe he wanted a place where kids could just enjoy being kids, the way he never did.  Of course, when you show such intense interest in children, you invite scrutiny.  And he did.  Accusations, lawsuits, ostracization, vitriol—Michael Jackson saw it all, fought it all, and every time it cost him money and probably more than a little sanity.

The strangeness of his later years makes us forget, though, how much our culture owes him.  In the 80s, he defined cool.  In grade school we did the almost-crotch-grab and leg waggle.  We did, or tried, the Moonwalk.  We wore leather jackets with 15 zippers.  We attempted the high-pitched “ee-hee!” and “shamone!”  People still dance like he did—where do you think Usher and Justin Timberlake got their moves?  But as he got older and odder and we wanted more and more from him, people (myself included) made jokes about his changing facial features and peculiar behavior.  Sounds innocent enough, but when millions of people say those things, how can it not affect you?  Think of C. M. Tomlin’s post earlier this week:  “If You Love Something, Burn It To The Ground And Destroy It.

And so his story ends: the kid with the unstoppable voice dies a tortured adult; the guy who had all the money in the world racks up piles of debt; the One the world adored never got comfortable in his own skin, no matter how he changed it.  The best we can hope for is that Michael Jackson becomes a cautionary—and in some parts inspirational—tale, because this isn’t the last time it’ll happen.

Michael Jackson, R.I.P.

  1. Scott Tomlin permalink
    June 26, 2009 12:24 pm

    Well said, Matt…

  2. Caleb permalink
    June 26, 2009 12:24 pm

    Great post, Matt. Well said.

  3. Shamom permalink
    June 26, 2009 6:10 pm



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