Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The King Must Die

Michael Jackson, King of Pop, joins Elvis Presley, King of Rock (or just "The King") in kingly afterlife. They are joined together in like fate: regal death through prescription drug abuse abetted by physicians.

MJ is an object lesson in the harmful effect of excessive fame at too young an age. In terms of talent, I'd rank him higher than Presley, actually, and describe him more like a latter-day Sammy Davis, Jr., a superior song-and-dance man. As a pop songwriter/stylist, though, I'd rate him below Stevie Wonder. Also worth noting is his prominent position--near the top--in the creative use of the new medium--now almost defunct in a creative sense--of the music video.

I rate highest his early solo album, "Off the Wall", and his hits of the early '80's ("Wanna Be Starting Something", "Billie Jean"). By the time of his "Thriller"--the highest-selling album of all time, I hear (maybe never to be topped), something I'd call The Dark Side was emerging. The most visible example of it was his repeated self-mutilation through plastic surgery and skin treatments. I didn't care much for the latter-day habitual crotch-grabbing (his own, in this case) and trying to convince everyone that he was "bad", but those were part of his public appeal, I guess.

I personally don't place too much credence in the allegations of criminal behavior approximating pedophilia, for which he was never convicted, except in the realm of public opinion. Unfortunately, neither the laws nor public moral standards made much allowance for 40-year-olds with the emotional development of 12-year-olds. My children, who didn't experience his extraordinary juvenile talent or his youthful hits, knew only of Wacko Jacko, maker of overhyped bombs and weird behavior.

To the end, he seemed a serious professional in his field known for his attention to detail, but clearly his ambition to perform 50 live concerts in London and tour for years was more than a step too far for him.

There are many victims of his demise, and I sympathize with all of them. They include those who would have profited from promotions off the deaths of the likes of Farrah Fawcett and David Carradine, whose own cases got totally wiped off the news by Jackson's.

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