Michael Jackson died today, and I am completely bereft. I have spent the last several hours crying until my eyes are sore and raw, and I don’t care if anyone thinks it ridiculous or silly. He is one of my heroes, and it has not been easy watching him die slowly for the last 15 years. I expected him to die early, because that type of furious fire always burns itself out quickly… but 50? I thought he’d puff out at 60.
I don’t believe any of the slander. I never did. I know that he was a kind, fragile, and beautiful person who, despite what must have been incredible tenacity, was not strong enough to support the weight of his own talent, legend, fame, and wealth. I do believe that he survived (what in time will be revealed to be) incredible abuse at the hands of his father and early producers at Motown. I also believe that if there is any truth whatsoever to the slander against him, that it is a thorny seed planted in him as a child, which then grew into a terrible flower. But I don’t believe any of the slander.
Michael invented and developed the vocabulary of pop music culture for the entire world from the 1970’s until now, with everything in pop music, dance, and video being either an imitation or variation of his invention, or a total rejection of it (which is still a response to it). His presence, even in a two dimensional reduction of the man himself, was captivating. He took all the influences of his youth, mixed them up with his own vision, and put out some of the most strikingly brilliant material the world has ever seen.
Michael was a philanthropist. He was a visionary. He was an artist.
And even though I never met him or knew him, I feel that I have lost one of my best friends. His soul was too big for one body. His genius was too intense for one mind. In building bridges across race, gender, and class, he destroyed the connection between himself and the external world. Like any number of other creative whirlwinds (en français on les appèlle”les monstres sacrés”), he spun out of control trying to find the calm at his own center. Michael Jackson, as a dancer and entertainer (along with Janet), is the reason I became an artist and scholar.
There is no one to replace him. I can’t believe that body is now still forever. I love you Michael. Good bye.