Friday, June 26, 2009

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':


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was petty bourgeois.

4:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was also a kiddy fiddler who made crap records circa-1988.

5:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, but what about before that?

6:45 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Jackson was great musician (of his genre) - Map's summation here is right - he hated that he was black and tried to "whiten" himself - and he hated that he had "lost" his childhood - well before he died he had become bizarre. He was dying.

No one sells millions of records without having talent - I wasn't a fan per se (my son was), as I am not generally so interested in what one might call "pop" music, and I wasn't even in my teens, but I recall liking his music (one cant avoid living through the pop era even if that isn't one's main interest in music); or at least the energy and joy in his songs and his dancing. He clearly had 'greatness'. But again - like so many others - he was destroyed by his own success.

My son loved his 80s music.

Seriously, he started as a talented singer, whose family were basically working class.

9:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this blog post is just a cynical attempt to pump up the ratings of this malignant site by jumping on the 'wow, my god, michael jackson is dead' bandwagon, so upping the amount of hits you receive and feeding your voracious ego, it's all too obvious..

11:00 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Both his success and his sickness were symptoms of the society he lived in.
The music was a panacea, but not enough for him, or anyone really.
After the music its still rotten capitalism.
I look forward to some new revolutionary songs coming out of Iran of the Antilles, or even Los Angeles, yeah man. Get dem old bones shakin!

1:58 pm  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

The comment that I have heard that makes the most sense to me is that he was famous at five and never had a childhood. It's hard to imagine what that must be like, but if we want evidence of how destructive it is to a personality - well... His life was surreal and very sad. I always liked Billie Jean.

5:22 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

Marty Mars - & Maps -
from all I've read & heard, he never really was a kid(didnt have the chance to be), never really was an adult(didnt have the chance to be.) Fluctuated between those states, and his possible adolescense brought some beaudy songs & totally amazing dance routines. That latter was his genius (let us remember others wrote & produced the songs - he was not a musician, he was a consumate performer.)
He was waaay past his best. I dont find his death sad.
Let us not forget the thoroughly malign part that religion played in his life (from Jehovah's Witnesses to Islamicism.)

7:34 pm  
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