Life and Death and Michael Jackson

Is Michael Jackson really THAT important? More important than protestors in Iran? Famine? What about the millions of AIDs deaths in Africa? OK, music provides a soundtrack for our lives and Michael’s music has touched many millions of lives, and yes, death is sad for those of us still here, especially when death comes early in life. But really, can any one person be so important as to obliterate all other concerns?

At first I was sickened by the overabundance of Michael everywhere I turned, and admittedly, to some extent I still cringe, but reading Sarah Weinman’s June 25th post on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, I found her perspective to be more in keeping with my thoughts, and the comments from her readers gave me hope as well. Readers commented on his “troubled life” and hoped that in death he would be at peace. “The guy only seemed to come fully alive onstage,” wrote J.D. Rhoades. “In front of a crowd, he was damn near superhuman. But you can’t live life onstage 24/7, and he could ever seem to adjust to life on Earth.”

Weinmn saves her greatest appreciation for his dancing, writing that Jackson

“represented the ultimate American narrative, reared from an early age to work hard and produce, to support a family rife with internal tensions and jealousies and to appease the hangers-on, trapped by his penchant for excess and flaws tragic and monstrous….But when it comes right down to it, what brings me back to MJ’s classic songs, his groundbreaking videos and those breathtaking live performances is the way he moved, his total command over space, the upward slope of his arch and downturn onto the balls of his feet.”

For many years now, when I hear Michael’s name his music is the last thing to come to my mind. Media attention has focused on his private life more than his music, and the videos that capture his dancing prowess are somehow overshadowed in my memories by his crotch-grabbing. But last night, Johnny Pate called and mentioned a beautiful song by Michael that he heard at the end of Ann Curry’s NBC report. The song was Gone Too Soon from his Dangerous album. I don’t own any MJ recordings, but I do remember this beautiful song in the context of Michael dedicating it to Ryan White and shining a spotlight the importance of AIDs research. (It also garnered a lot of attention when Princess Diana died and was on a compilation CD titled Diana Princess of Wales Tribute.)

It’s sad that Michael lived such a tortured life, and it is sad that he died, but even sadder to me is the current state of our culture that feeds more on celebrity-gawking and not enough on arts appreciation.

Update: Interesting article in The New York Times – His Moves Expressed as Much as His Music

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