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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy

I wish to make something of a Jackson retraction. My post of yesterday was written before I had watched Michael Jackson's memorial in Los Angeles. In hindsight, it was no circus, but a very stately, and mostly classy event. I was particularly moved by Al Sharpton's pulpit rhetoric, and the phrase he coined - surely to go down in American history - "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with". As a comment on both racism and the hard road of African-Americans to achieve dignity, but also as a comment on the weirdness of ultra-fame, it is superb. But as a gift to the children, it is even more profound and generous. My own father was strange - and what he had to deal with was too; I am not sure it is always best to deny the strangeness of persons.

I suspect Jackson was, all things considered, not mentally well at all times, and had eccentricities and disorders of the personality that, at the least, led him to modify his body needlessly. However, he was also, on the basis of last night's celebration, a one of a kind guy - or, as the head of Motown (himself a legend) put it - the greatest entertainer of all time. Maybe.

There have been other African-American icons - and I think that Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ali all did as much or more for America, culturally and politically - not to mention the great Jesse Owens, my hero. Prince, also, musically, is a genius. Billy Strayhorn and Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes. What of the great black actors and comedians? Pryor, and Cosby?

Jackson - though - was universal - since song and dance reach all of the globe. He was honoured well and truly last night, with distinction. The BBC coverage was disrespectful, and filled with snarky asides - why were comedians involved? Jackson was not first and foremost a spectacle, and the constant urge to make him into one turned his life into a show that could not go on.
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