Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The King is dead.

No, not Elvis; he shuffled off this mortal coil long ago. I mean the king of pop, Michael Jackson.

Michael had been omnipresent for the past 4 decades, in a very tough business, and endured the insidious scrutiny that came with the age of the internet. He was a triple threat; singer, songwriter, dancer. He broke color barriers, became the first African American to gain heavy rotation on MTV. He was a humanitarian. He was the butt of tasteless jokes. He was a lot of things. And now he’s gone.

But this overwhelming sadness is not just about his death; I’m jarred by the sudden realization that everything ends eventually, and this previous feeling of permanence is fading. Whether Michael was on the charts at his peak or living through his last, and toughest, years, he was still there. You had the feeling that he was always just around the corner, waiting to come back into our lives.

As though he would always be there for us, when ever we were ready to listen again.

I’m guilty of the jokes too, I confess, but I never wished death on him; I always respected the talent and the heart of the man, he was a true artist. And, I admit, I abandoned him for other artists as I got older. I still remember, as a kid, staying up till midnight to watch the first broadcast of Thriller that long ago Halloween.

That was one of the best nights of my childhood.

None of us like to be reminded that we are mortal. It’s inconvenient. And none of us feel too comfortable knowing that someone as young, so full of life, so there, as Michael was, could ever die. It throws a monkey wrench into our little insulated worlds; a kind of forced perspective, to misappropriate a theater term. I’m being forced to think about death, and life.

Michael is gone, and I feel emptier today. Like the old adage, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”, I’m feeling like I should have appreciated Michael a little more when he was alive, listened to his music more when he was alive, and thought about him more when he was alive. In my mind though, he had grown old and anachronistic, a relic of the past; not so. He was as relevant as ever, musically and artistically, but the headlines turned us against him anyway. He gave us a whole life of entertainment. He gave us his nervous system, gave up his privacy and his dignity, and watched it get trampled on. And then we stopped listening.

We turned our backs on him.

But he still loved his fans, and that says more about the man then anything I can ever say.

The King is dead, gone too soon.

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