Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

The death of Michael Jackson has swept virtually all other news stories aside, including the tragic loss of actress Farah Fawcett after her courageous battle against cancer, the ongoing “Utegate” scandal exploding in the face of the federal opposition, the state government singlehandedly suspending the democratic process by walking out of the Legislative Council, and everything else that might have otherwise captured our attention. There’s no denying that it is big news, and millions of fans around the world have been saddened. Others perhaps are not so deeply affected, remembering instead the controversies that surrounded him in his later years, including the accusations of child molestation.

Regardless of his eccentric behavior and any suspicions about his personal life, his prodigious musical talent is undeniable. He has been compared in stature to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles in terms of his influence on music and the entertainment industry, as well as his appeal to fans. Elvis was the “King of Rock and Roll”, and Michael was the “King of Pop”. There are also other parallels with Elvis in the way that both were increasingly isolated from any kind of normal life, loved by their fans, but haunted by the loneliness of their positions. The fact that Michael was at one time married to Lisa Marie Presley is no surprise as they would be likely to share an understanding of the dark side of fame in a way that few others could.

Some are suggesting that his life was a tragic one, and it is true that there is no shortage of sadness in his family and personal life. There are stories of mistreatment at the hands of his father, estrangements from some of his siblings at various times, and the pressures of being thrust into the limelight at such an early age. In fact, Michael joined his brothers in the Jackson Five when he was eleven, and was world famous before he was a teenager. At 21 his first solo album “Off The Wall” saw him surpass everything he had done with his brothers, and only a few years later “Thriller” made him a superstar. Through all that, it must have been impossible to have anything remotely like a normal childhood.

In later life it often seemed that Michael was trying to experience the childhood he never had. Whether it was the fantasy theme park he built for himself at the Neverland Ranch, his fixation with Peter Pan, his predilection for exotic animals for pets, or the highly controversial tendency to seek out the company of young boys, perhaps it was all simply because he had never been able to really grow up. Perhaps his sleepover parties really were innocent attempts to experience the joys of childhood, rather than something more sinister. Perhaps he simply wasn’t emotionally developed enough to understand why such a thing was viewed with so much suspicion. Many people would like to believe that, others will be much more skeptical. Either way, having been subjected to such a bizarre life of public adulation, private pain, and the power and wealth to do as he pleased, it could be said that Michael Jackson never really had a chance to be a normal person.

Despite the controversy, what can be said is that in his life he achieved things that others can only dream of, brought pleasure and joy to millions of fans, and lit up the lives of those who enjoy his music.

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