Who's Bad?


Michael Jackson 1958-2009

And so it goes and so they go and like the best aspects of a morbid suggestion, why the surprise? A heart has to give, and this one beat under the immense pressures of expectation and disapproval. No aspect of infamy follows beyond the haunted spectacle of former glory. Redeemed by death, his music now holds the answer, but what was the question? Which, of many ponderings, should be answered first?

I grew up with Michael Jackson, born in the same year; I remember him as a black boy on black and white TV, with an Afro and a voice that stunned me to envy, but that memory is long clouded by the gradual morphing into a strange recipe for self-hatred, with a nose that only ever existed in the world of children's illustration and a face that became a mask of fascination.

Once described as asexual, aracial, and amusical, he transcended the boundaries of expectation. An androgynous shaman of shame. Famous for being famous, but notorious for the rumors that surrounded and followed him, Jackson became the greatest icon since Elvis, even marrying the daughter of the King, Lisa Marie Presley, the ultimate pop will eat itself moment of freakery, but his recent years were literally eaten up by a sense of personal eclipse, his finest days beyond him.

Court cases and baby dangling, and boys who got paid for claiming things we did and didn't want to know. A man who spoke like a child, but sang like an angry angel. The unrealistic brazenness of a comeback in London that will remain beguilingly anticipated is an almost perfect moment to leave the domain of fame. People become frozen by it. Liz Taylor hasn't made a movie for years, but she remains illuminated in the public imagination, just as her friend Jackson existed in the minds of others, despite not releasing a new song for years. He was what it said on the tin. He was Michael Jackson.

As the news of his demise spread around Escape, the music-themed bar I was in last night, nobody was sure what to believe, but even the suggestion of his passing grieved the crowd, largely indie but far from devoid of his influence or his strange, silver-gloved grasp. Mobile phones burst into asking. I cynically put it down to a career enhancing rumor, although the ring of truth seemed to cut through. A girl in her twenties burst into tears after I quipped I was surprised that he lasted this long, then she socked me one on the shoulder. He was like air. Always there...and now he isn't, but now he is everywhere, and will remain so.

Many years ago, the poet David Robilliard flippantly encapsulated things in his "The World of Michael Jackson": Michael writes for dancers he stops you in your tracks Michael's good for song and dance and romance he's off the wall he's a thriller he's BAD Michael Jackson is exciting I would love to meet him more than anyone else in the world Michael Jackson is for everyone I would like to be with Michael Jackson I would like to be Michael Jackson Some people exist because we need to create them as mirrors, even though their being is a burden to themselves. The list is as endless as the desire that requires it. They are strange and mad aspects of ourselves.

Jackson was a cracked reflection, returning a myriad of elements. Death, because he is no longer available, has rendered him immortal. A Pied Piper and a Peter Pan. So where -- and upon whom -- shall we now gaze, and who will carry the blame