As I write this, I'm playing Thriller. As I placed the needle down on the record, I paused and couldn't figure out why I was doing it now. As some sort of memorial to Michael Jackson, though it's not as though his music is going to go away. And yet the time is right. As I searched in the crates for it, I laughed a bit thinking what if that were true and on the instant of his death, all those 28 million copies of Thriller (and everything else as well) vanished.
The only way most of us knew MJ was through his music and then, unfortunately, through his increasingly eccentric behavior, culminating in the child molestation trials, which were all hazy and we still have no idea what was true and what wasn't. Jackson was admired and then met with the scorn that so often follows popularity. Do we remember the disgust with which his name was spoken during the trial? The way we laughed when he showed up to court in PJ's? The confusion and anger people felt towards him when he dangled a baby out a hotel window?
Unlike his music, with his death, most of that falls away. Of course the media mentions it, but only to paint a picture of a man who suffered. A man whose life was lived almost entirely in the spotlight. He was working like an adult at the age of ten, is it any surprise his body gave out at 50 like that of an 80 year old? It's tragic but we all took part in this tragedy by being media hungry fans, first by expecting anything at all from a ten year child who could sing and dance then later by snickering at his antics, by talking about him as if he was anything other than a human like us. Of course, he was responsible for his actions as well and perhaps his expectations for himself were too high, were too much for anyone to bear (outselling Thriller would be impossible). But it was our pop-loving fickle society that fed those expectations.
And now Michael Jackson the person is gone. Strange to think that such a distant figure should seemingly impact us all by ceasing to exist. And yet, here it is, he has not ceased to exist. The body is no longer breathing, the mind no longer thinking, but the Michael we know is the Michael imprinted onto vinyl or digitized into MP3's. It is here where we can say and really mean it, the king is dead. Long live the king.