Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sad Life and Death of Michael Jackson

What a performer! The Jackson 5 were an electric stage act and young Michael had "star" written all over him. As he hit his late teens, it was obvious Michael Jackson was a special talent. "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" would have everybody moving at high school dances. Then it happened. In 1983, "Thriller" exploded and the star became an icon. The videos, the Motown 25 appearance and the concerts made Michael Jackson the "King of Pop." It should have been a happy story.

While much will be written about Jackson's talent and accomplishments, there is no escaping the strangeness that enveloped an incredibly talented man in a macabre web of inappropriate behaviors and bizarre responses to the world's querries. How did this incredible entertainer become a walking punchline? He sleeps with a monkey? He has little boys over for sleepovers? His home is an amusement park? He dangled his child over a balcony? What happened to his nose? Why does he wear a surgical mask? As great as his music may have been, it was the weird lifestyle that defined his last two decades.

Sadly, Michael Jackson was another victim of the celebrititis. He had no real childhood. He was an icon, not a person. His every move was covered since before he reached puberty. If Jackson seemed out of place in the real world, it was because it was not his native land. How can a person whose life is lived entirely within a fame-drenched bubble not lose perspective? Or maybe even lose their mind? There is little doubt that Michael Jackson suffered from psychological problems. Maybe he would have been that way even if he had not become an international mega-star. But, I doubt it.

A couple of years ago a widely reported poll reported that 81% of young people want to be rich and 51% want to be famous. Wealth and fame. These young people should remember the words of the philosopher Notorious B.I.G.: "mo money mo problems." Marilyn Monroe. Jim Morrison. Elvis Presley. John Belushi. Ann Nicole Smith. Some incredibly talented and some merely rich and famous, but all lived in the fish bowl. Would anyone be surprised to wake up to the news that Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan have tragically passed away? Would you trade a stable and productive "anonymous" life with their rocket ride to fame and slow descent into madness or fiery crash to sudden death?

Fame and money are fleeting. Yes, they provide a lot of opportunities and toys. But, is it worth the incredible cost? I wonder if Jon and Kate Gosselin would rather be an anonymous couple raising a large family in a small Pennsylvania town rather than "Jon and Kate Plus 8" on the cover of every tabloid in America?

Maybe all the inevitable tributes will focus our attention back on the talented artist. Hopefully, it will help us forget his last twenty years of erratic and unexplainable behavior.

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