A Light Goes Out [The Times]

Long after the life has faded from memory, Michael Jackson’s talent will endure

The death of Michael Jackson brings to an end the tragic third act of a remarkable life. The final, reclusive years were a descent into an increasingly bizarre and dysfunctional world of his own devising. The strange, plastic contortions of his face, the tales of sleeping in an oxygen tank, the personal amusement park populated by chimpanzees and children and the allegations of child abuse — a whole life lived out in the glare of publicity had turned in on itself. He was reported to have a critical lung condition and to need a transplant and, on his rare appearances in public, he cut a pitiable figure.

There will be a great deal of raking over of the details, some of them sordid, of the life. But where life is short, art, of sufficient quality, will last much longer. And the music that Michael Jackson created in two phases of fabulous creativity will be the story long after the peculiarities of his life have been relegated to the footnotes.

The first creative flowering began when he was a child. Born in 1958, into a poor family in Gary, Indiana, Jackson was put on the stage, with his four brothers, at the age of 6. The seeds of problems were probably planted at this time. Many years later Michael Jackson accused his father of abuse and it is clear that he had no semblance of an ordinary childhood. For a grown man to call his ranch Neverland is surely the desperate plea of a boy who did not want to grow old, at least not before he had been allowed to be young.

No human being should ever be a repository for the ambitions of another, a father or anyone else. So nobody should say that the music justifies the treatment. But the music is still there, all the same, and the early Jackson Five records have stood the only test of art that matters — the test of time. In a string of magnificent cuts for Motown (ABC, I Want You Back, The Love You Save, I’ll Be There) Michael Jackson established himself, while still no more than a boy, as a vocalist of the first rank.

There are some great recording artists whose reputation rests, and deservedly, on this golden period for Motown records. The reason Michael Jackson ranks higher than his contemporaries is because of the extraordinary second act to his career. Between 1979, with the release of Off the Wall, and 1987, with Bad, Jackson and his brilliant producer Quincy Jones produced a trilogy of albums that both defined a new genre and marked its high point. In between the two, Jackson released the highest-selling album of all time, Thriller. In the process he upset all the usual musical categories, a black artist creating a new market, bigger than any before or since. Sales were helped enormously by the short films accompanying Billie Jean and Thriller that also made Michael Jackson the first great star of the video age.

The tortured circumstances of Michael Jackson’s life meant that his best work had, almost without question, already been done. You need to hear the music, that insistent beat, and suddenly the talent is obvious. The singer dances lithely through the streets. He slides effortlessly up to a lamppost. He touches it and a light goes on.

"Rest In Peace" for ever...

Michael & Janet (1972)


July 5, 2009 at 11:25 PM Mia PALLAS said...

Your article on Michael , made me break down ( for yet another time within the past week ) ; I cannot accept that he is gone , and I believe that many years will have to go by before I am able to come to terms with it. feel as if I have lost my brother - we have loved Michael ( in my family ) ever since we saw him for the first time ( when we had first arrived in America in 1967 , I saw Michael for the first time in '68 ) . We loved him instantly , how could you not ? A friend relayed the news to me the night he passed ..it was 2:30 am here ( in the N. Region of Greece where I now reside ) . I immediately ran in my moms room ( 78yrs old ) and woke her up , all I said ( through sobs ) was : " Mom..Michael is dead ..." my mom didnt even bother to ask " Michael who ? " she knew ..as if I was refering to a family member - she rose up and began crying as if she had lost her very own child . We sat there and cried together , and she just couldnt sleep after that . Throughout the years ( decades ) my mom had loved Michael so much , that she never allowed anything bad to be spoken against him or about him - EVER ! when she would turn on the tele and those vipers ( media ) would be reporting their venomous lies , my mom would just sit there and curse at them , then she would just quickly turn the tv off and continue her tirade of cursing them out . She loved Michael so much , that she hasnt been able to turn on the tele since that day . Every time I see his picture or hear a song I cant help but break down . And still, these vicious vipers are out there slewing their slander . When will it ever stop ? What a hateful world ! They didnt allow him to live in peace and now they wont allow him to rest in it either ! All I know is , that Michael was an angel on earth , and now he is surely an angel in Heaven where he belongs , in God's loving embrace . Thank you so much for doing his memory honor . God Bless you and yours .

Im just so upset right now , and forgive me if I havent made much sense ..

October 21, 2009 at 3:03 AM Anonymous said...

I'm missing the person I haven't even met! Love ya Michael Jackson!


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