Hours after first hearing the announcement, I’m still left feeling as though it cannot really be true…that the King of Pop has died today June 25, 2009 and all of a sudden I feel like I might know what Don McLean felt like when he was writing American Pie…and that today might have been the day that the music has died. Pitchfork listed some interesting tweets by high profile musicians on their thoughts on MJs death.
Whether or not you’ve tempered your view towards Michael over his antics in later years, virtually everyone has been positively profoundly affected by Michael’s career. I recall as a child when I’d first heard Thriller, I would recreate the music video, using styrofoam mattresses that I’d found to be the ground through which I was breaking when coming back to life. In fact, I still dream of one day owning a red leather jacket like the one he wears in the video. It’s hard to imagine that the 25th Anniversary of that album was released just last year. Some months ago I was ecstatic to get a copy of it on vinyl and practically wore it through. I can’t help but to feel strangely affected by this. I’ve spent my entire life under Michael’s rule and the memories and his music will last long after he’s gone (as it largely has already done), but that the day has come feels so incredibly eerie.
As you might expect with a character as controversial as MJ had become over the last few years, not everyone was spilling forth positive words. Particularly, Perez took time out of his schedule to show just how much of a pig he can be.
On the other side of things, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic had some very interesting words to say about MJ and they’re worth reading.
There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.
But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.
I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.
I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours’ and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.
I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.