02 July 2009


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 03 July 2009

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon but it was Michael Jackson who popularized the moonwalk—a jaw-dropping back step/slide, with accompanying arm swing and head movements, that appears to defy the natural mechanics of mere mortal bipedal locomotion. Too bad young Michael—not even 9 years old at the time of Armstrong’s historic walk in July of 1969—was just getting his career started and had not yet created his mind-boggling dance move. And had Van Morrison released his ‘Moondance’ tune a year earlier there could have been no other choice for background music to complement Armstrong’s fancy footwork. Too bad the stars did not align—it would have been pretty cool to see the first astronaut walk on the moon—moonwalking—to Moondance. It was just not meant to be.

Almost 40 years later moon walker, Neil Armstrong—nearing 80 years of age, still walks amongst us. And the Irishman, Van Morrison—in his mid-60s, is still making music. But smooth moonwalker, Michael Jackson—a troubled soul who led a bizarre life, tragically made his final curtain call—under the sliver of a waxing moon—last Thursday at the age of 50.

As it turns out, Armstrong, Morrison, and Jackson—of different generations and from completely different walks of life—ended up having a celestial connection, of sorts, after all. They were all stars—one a lunar voyager; one a lunar crooner; and the other a lunatic.

Unless you live with someone, you never really know what is going on in their life. That Jackson was a peculiar personality and a recluse was ideal for news exaggeration, exploitation, and downright lying; whatever it takes to sell. When it comes to our media—mainstream or tabloid—the old 'believe none of what you read and hear and no more than half of what you see' axiom applies.

The average person has no idea what really went on in Jackson’s life other than from what they read, heard, saw, and surmised through reporting—and reports of reports of reports. And that “information” requires a huge leap of faith—making assumptions that, for all intents and purposes, are baseless. And yet everyone—fan or foe—has an opinion of Michael Jackson. Perceptions and circumstantial evidence aside, we still live in an America where the presumption of innocence rules.

No question Jackson’s obsession with plastic surgery, his infatuation with children—especially young boys, exotic animals, and sundry kooky interests, to mention only a few of his personality quirks, made for a public image of him as being from outer space—maybe the moon. Yep, he was one strange dude and even looked the part. But there is no law in America—not yet anyway—that makes it illegal to act or look “strange.” Less we’d all be locked up at one time or another.

Strange or not, and regardless of what you think of Michael Jackson, there is no denying he was a gigantic talent. As songwriter, singer, and dancer he was a genius. His creativity charted new directions for pop music and culture—here and abroad—and along the way he sold hundreds of millions of records. He crossed color barriers, opened doors many believed were nailed shut, launched the careers of a string of imitators—male and female, and had global appeal and a faithful following like few stars are able to command. And even in death there’s more to come. Amongst flesh and blood “royalty”—including Elvis—Jackson, the “King of Pop,” may prove to be the king of kings.

Despite not being able to read or write music, Jackson was an innovative superstar of phenomenal ability. Talented indeed but he also had a knack for making his work look oh so easy—his physics defying moonwalk and body lean come to mind. But any artist—regardless of medium—knows there is nothing easy about creating. Creating is tough, frustrating, aggravating work. Driven to drink, drugs, self-destructive behavior, insanity, and suicide is a familiar path of the extraordinarily creative and gifted. Shaping ideas into finely-tuned, polished reality and presenting them to the public so that it looks effortless—which, in itself, is an art form—is no easy task. Like the work of any inventor—the “products” seem so obvious and simple to us all—once they are done. There rests the genius.

Michael Jackson was an oddity—at least the Michael Jackson known to the general public. Though a 50 year-old man, his reported behavior and misbehavior and rare, carefully orchestrated public appearances led the public to conclude he had not emotionally matured beyond adolescence. That may—may—be true. Furthermore, physical neglect and abuse of his body only served to compound his problems. What a quandary Jackson faced—the body of an aging, self-destructing man struggling to meet the desires of his youthful mind. And, then there was the bigger problem of delivering performances to a crazed public whose expectations were for an ageless Michael Jackson—moonwalker and master of the stage extraordinaire. Impossible.

But then again what’s the truth? Do you believe—the photographs of a frail, sickly-looking Jackson being pushed around in a wheelchair or recently released footage of him shot two days before he died strutting on stage during rehearsals for his upcoming concerts? You have to be much closer than a distant observer to know what’s really going on.

With each passing day after his death it’s becoming more evident Jackson was not an especially good steward of his own life. And not all but many of the people surrounding him were there only looking out for number one—and number one was not Michael Jackson. Whom could he trust? No wonder he once commented he felt the most comfortable around children and defended his remark offering they (children) wanted nothing from him. Odd as it may seem, it makes sense.

The list of worms, leeches, weasels, snakes, sharks, and cockroaches hanging around the Jackson money trough is a long one. And less than a day after his death two familiar con men sprinted to center stage. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—operating under the guise of community activists—finagled their way in front of Michael Jackson’s grieving family as self-appointed spokesmen. As if there is a shortage of Jacksonites clamoring for microphone and camera time. These two shameless characters have a long history of exploiting anyone and anything for face time and to pocket a buck or two. Their appearance—of course, all in the name of brotherhood—was trite.

Undoubtedly there are many that see themselves as victims and losers in the death of Michael Jackson. And a few may be legitimate. But for most their gig has ended—they’re scurrying. Some looking for cover and others undoubtedly searching for another gravy train—there’s another mark out there somewhere. Of course his parents and siblings will miss him—that’s a given. But the only real victims and losers are his children. For whatever Jackson may have been and may or may not have done he was their “father”—in some sense of the word. The children could care less about his fame, fortune, and idiosyncrasies—they will miss him for nothing more than who he was to them.

As of today, Michael Jackson has been dead little more than a week. It’s been a circus for sure but the circus is just getting started. For despite a plethora of far more important issues facing our country, Jackson will be headline news for days, weeks, and even months to come--a sad irony of our plastic culture.

Tomorrow marks Independence Day—the 233rd celebration of the stars and stripes; forever may our colors wave. Michael Jackson was an American original—a remarkable rag to riches story of all that is possible in the land of the red, white, and blue. The world has not heard the last of him. That his past work will live on is a certainty. Supposedly Jackson left a cache of unreleased music--caliber unknown. And rumors are floating that the 50 concerts sold out before his death may still happen. Funny, his death may prove to be nothing more than an inconvenience—not a show-stopper—especially if there’s a buck or two to be made. Standby. For no matter what happens, no one should be surprised if, once again, Michael Jackson’s music turns our planet and maybe even the moon upside down.

No comments: