Jun 28, 2009

Jackson was a hero to most...

I've had to rush to hospital when a family member had a heart attack. I've had to do CPR in a desperate attempt to save someone's life. I still get flashbacks about both, so what happened on Thursday at the home of Michael Jackson was nothing more than a basic human tragedy.

My heart goes out to all involved, in the same way I winced with recognition when I saw the two princes at the funeral of Princess Diana. We're flesh, we're blood, and we bleed with the best of them.

Having said that...

Michael Jackson was a hero to most, but he didn't mean sha mon to me. The way he used narrative in his Thriller videos confused my nine-year-old brain. Pop songs were meant to be instant and intense and fleeting, like a magnesium fire.

The mixture of fantasy (zombies) and credibility (street fights) somehow eluded my leafy South Manchester suburbia. I was more of a Pet Shop Boys kinda guy.

But I admit, Jacko produced some amazing pop music. The basslines and the keyboard riffs on Thriller should be studied by generations of budding musicians. And those studiously-scrawled notes should be tucked neatly into the inside front cover of KLF's The Manual.

One pundit said Michael Jackson had many careers, over and over again. Yes, he did, but only until Bad.

Dangerous was a plethora of wailing over-production (put that guitar down, Slash!) - he didn't even sing in tune on Give In To Me. And it will come as no surprise to you that Earth Song is an anagram of 'The Groans!'

They Don't Care About Us was a little clue for what was to come when he released the worse-than-awful Invincible album. The supposed king of pop couldn't string a basic tune together; the thought of any further Michael Jackson material filled me with a throat-splitting, spine-scraping dread.

I don't think Jackson ever saw himself as anything more than the pretty, smiling young man in the Rock With You video. His Wildean worship of youth, set in stone by an abusive upbringing, led to a public and personal downfall.

In that sense, Michael was a tragic victim of his own upbringing.

But, as another eternally-young costume-wearing saviour of the world once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Michael Jackson's many transgressions, which I don't need to repeat here, were totally unacceptable and were an appalling abuse of the power that he held.

As a black musician, he changed things forever: that is a whole blog post in itself. But he had a woeful lack of accountability. He valued his image - or his own hazed imagining of his image - above his duty as a parent.

Once you are as big a role model as he was, it doesn't matter how much you waffle on about saving the children and bringing world peace: integrity is something you do, not something you say.

As his legacy descends into the inevitable lawsuits and counter-accusations, I'll remember Michael Jackson as a deeply troubled, and troubling, man.

He was both the abused and the abuser. He made the best and the worst music in the world. So yeah, maybe he meant something to me.

And the most amazing thing I have learnt from researching this post? Quincy Jones' middle name is "Delight".


steve said...

Wow, I'm so with you on this. I'm glad (well I know) I'm not the only one who feels this way.

On a somewhat related note, he definitely had an influence on Aphex's "Windowlicker" vid, which is a good thing.

Eva said...

This is the most realistic and insightful piece that I've seen about Michael Jackson. Accountability was (& is) the key.

Fat Roland said...

I'm glad you both appreciated it. I wanted my thoughts to be personal, rather than the usual tripe peddled by commentators.

I have just realised I do own one MJ album. It's not one of the better ones... yeesh...