Michael Jackson is dead, and if there was ever any doubt, we know now that the 80s are over.
There will be a generation of music lovers who will never know what it was to see an artist at the top of his game battling for spots in the Top 40 with other incredible talents, also at their peak. I think of how he, Rick James and Prince tore up the 80s, hitting the radio with instant classics one after another. Like Marvin Gaye and Rick James before him, Jackson leaves an artistic void that no other artist could possibly fill. Today, we are inundated with a glut of suckasscity and mediocre clowns: zeroes hopped up on Auto-Tune who can't dance without a choreographer and hours upon hours of rehearsals. But like many other pop stars, Michael's legacy has problems.
There's no denying he was the King Of Pop. However, Jackson's legacy is complicated because the most popular black man in the history of the world seemed to have a strange relationship with his blackness. You and I never doubted his blackness, but it was a strange love we had with Brother Michael. Like O.J. Simpson before him, MJ wasn't black until he needed our support — remember? He was apolitical, ambivalent and went to great lengths to diminish his Afro-centric facial features. Once he was embraced by the mainstream after "Thriller," he seemed to forget all about Us. Michael Jackson broke down boundaries, I guess. But did he denounce his color to do it? I don't know if he did or not. We can't deny his talent, but how do we reconcile his relationship with the people that loved him best, first?
His legal troubles were most disturbing because he was alleged to have flouted conventions of appropriate conduct and he seemed not just unrepentant but completely oblivious to the fact that some of what he was doing was WRONG. He didn't seem to get that piece of it. He was confused, stymied by accusations of child molestation. His child-like demeanor perhaps made him vulnerable to lawsuits and shakedowns of all kinds. "What's more loving than sharing your bed?" he innocently asked of Martin Bashir during that car-crash of a TV special, while rubbing a child on the head.
His troubles were only eclipsed by his antics and his unrelenting talent, even if his appeal seemed to have waned in recent years. He lived and died in the spotlight, and in some ways, the circus has just begun. Wait until his family begins to fight over his publishing and air him out. You ain't seen nothing yet.
CUE AL SHARPTON:
"There are those praising Michael Jackson in his death that would not have come near him in life," said the good Reverend. This time, he's right. I'm probably one of those people.
I am a Michael Jackson fan. A reluctant, conflicted Michael Jackson fan. Yes, I did all the Michael Jackson dances, own three pair of MJ gloves and socks, and coveted all the jackets. But the saddest piece of his passing is that he never stood account, really, for his alleged crimes against children. We'll never hear his side of the story. And that's too bad.
How will you remember Michael Jackson? What made him the King of Pop?
Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper