Blame it on the Boogie
Sometimes when we mourn the death of a loved one who has suffered a long illness or physical decline we are also able to feel a compensatory relief that their suffering is over. We feel relieved for ourselves, as well as for the person we have lost: instead of having to confront them at their most diminished, we are suddenly able to remember them at their best.
It's hard not to feel a certain relief at the death of Michael Jackson this morning. Although Jackson's death has been described as sudden, he had been dying for a quarter of a century, as the world looked on with a mixture of fascination and disgust. There was a sadomasochistic quality to Jackson's long decline: he had been robbed of his childhood and his privacy by the same talents that delighted his fans, and he seemed determined to punish those admirers as well as himself by becoming the very opposite of the irresistable young man who had made such astonishing music.
In place of the confidence, innocence and joy that are such features of tracks like 'ABC' and albums like Off the Wall , the older Jackson offered us paranoia, corruption, and self-loathing. The world's media made sure we were forced to endure the self-mutilation of his plastic surgery, his creepy relationships with kids, and the ostentatious reclusiveness that saw him fleeing from his own press conferences and peering between curtains of hotel windows to ogle flashing cameras.
Now that Jackson's protracted agony is over, we can at least remember the young man who made music like this:
It was impossible to grow up in South Auckland in the '80s without knowing every second of this song. You heard it at school, when the teachers went off for lunch and the big kids turned on the bopblaster they had hidden in the sports shed; you heard it on the pearl-shaped AM radio that blasted away behind the counter of the fish and chips shop where you'd play spacies after school; and you heard it three or four times, at least, during the booze-free blue light discos that the Papakura cops used to run in an unsuccessful attempt to keep local teens away from harmful influences.
And, in case Muzzlehatch and some of the other highbrow musos around here are guffawing at a post dedicated to Jackson, here's the lead singer of the coolest British band since the Beatles doing 'Thriller':