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Friday, 26 June 2009

The King Is Dead

Sad news. As everyone in the world must now know, Michael Jackson has died. In a spontaneous act as moving as the lights dimming on Broadway, the web slowed worldwide at the news. I don't have much to say. I woke up, got out of bed, turned on the radio, and was met by the news, which stunned me. This is the greatest loss to pop culture since the death of Elvis.

As many commentators have been saying, Jackson was a sort of Elvis and Beatles in one - a triple-threat singer, songwriter and liver performer of extraordinary ability. He was the Mozart of the age - and the major figure of the 1980s, surely, in terms of cultural impact and influence. I don't happen to like the song "Thriller" but the album is a masterwork of its kind. Jackson was stranger than fiction - and curiously disliked in later years, when many other less brilliant, and less strange, entertainers were less sinned against. It is, for example, unlikely his excesses match those of The Stones. He was never as cruel as Marilyn Manson.

What was uncanny and upsetting about Jackson, of course, was that he was in a world of his own, in so many ways - having made the world's best-selling album of all time, owning the Beatles back catalogue, living in a Neverland, trying to buy the Elephant Man's bones - not to mention marrying Elvis's daughter, or slowly transforming into a humanoid figure - all this made him the ne plu ultra of weird, but never had the mainstream and weird been so closely aligned - not even in the case of David Lynch. Jackson, it seems to me, needed help, love, support - and like Tinkerbell - belief.

We took that from him after the sexual misconduct allegations with kids, which, if true, would be damning. However, as his millions of fans insisted, he was "innocent". It may be that, if this childlike genius was simply a misguided Prince Myshkin figure, then we all killed Michael, by removing what he needed most: our love.

Still, death comes to all men, and in the case of Jackson, it came just before his rebirth - had his 50 London shows gone ahead. He was poised tantalisingly on the edge of destruction or redemption. It seems oddly right that he died middle-aged, at 50.

It is hard to recall when someone so world famous died. Princess Diana, I suppose. Jackson would have been moved by all the attention his death is getting, I think. Sadly, he may no longer have expected it to be so even-handed, and, rightfully, mainly positive. For all his faults, he was the King of Pop.
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