I’ll be honest. I still don’t think I’ve grieved properly for Michael Jackson. The initial heartbreak reverberated into a militant need to defend him against the soul-parasites leeching off his legacy, which is precisely at the point I remain.
The death of Michael Jackson broke my heart for two reasons: firstly, with the acknowledgment of the positive qualitative impact that the man indubitably had on my life; and secondly, at the recollection of his life as one that contained such unquenchable sadness – one in which a five year old boy was whipped into shape for our listening pleasure. Why could Michael convey the pain of heartbreak at such a young age? Ask the man stood behind him holding the switch. It was a veritable tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Michael carried the hopes of his family. He would grow up to take on that mantle for the world; a world that started in the palm of his hand, before eventually becoming the weight on his shoulders.
There is a theory that Michael Jackson had been dead for hours before Conrad Murray called the Paramedics, which is why he was apparently making such a pathetic show of performing CPR. This theory arose from the revelation that Michael’s skin was cold to the touch when the Paramedics arrived, and that his open eyes had had time to dry out.
Think of all the things those eyes had seen. Probably more separate individuals than any other individual that has ever lived. In the fifty years he was alive, he had more lives and experiences than one hundred normal men (how many people have their life’s work sectioned off into eras?). The man genuinely understood, loved and feared for humanity.
Michael was a martyr for innocence. He died engulfed by an inherent sadness that he could not realise his idealistic perception of the world; a romantic perception borne of a lifetime of being a sounding board for love. And, as the human being who’d experienced being loved more than anyone else in existence, who was better qualified to state that love is the answer? The song Heal The World has its detractors, but who can deny the sincerity with which it is sang? That song is all the proof required to know who Michael Jackson was. Michael felt the pain of people’s suffering. We saw Michael as myriad characters, but they were always beneath the umbrella of him as humanitarian; a record-breaking philanthropist. He conveyed his beautiful ideal to anyone that would listen: that the innocence of childhood has an untouchable preciousness, and should be universally treated with unimpeachable honour. This is what Michael Jackson represents.
Michael holds up a mirror to humanity. His fans were given the opportunity to perceive the world through his particularly painful yet privileged pane of the prism. Each of us fans as individuals is in some way, to varying degrees, a reflection of the man himself, with his common goal: to help heal the world. Those who project themselves onto Michael and see a monster are merely construing themselves. The only monster is the one interpreted. There is no evidential basis whatsoever for a belief in Michael as a monster. It was envy and extortionists that did that. As Michael sang, “The heart reveals the proof, like a mirror reveals the truth.”
Michael Jackson was conditioned from a very young age to believe in a correlation between the volume of the ovation he received and the amount of love he deserved. During the two decades between the BAD Tour of 1988 and the ill-fated swansong of 2009, the setlist of Michael’s concerts and the way each song was performed rarely ever strayed from the iconic hits of Thriller and Bad. These were the songs of his hey-day, and so, naturally, were also the songs in which he received the loudest ovations. Since 1988, every Michael Jackson concert was practically identical; the only thing really mutable being Michael himself.
Of course, everyone’s making their money now: fake posthumous albums, documentaries here and there, Cirque du Soleil shows. He’s being turned into a cartoon character; becoming even more of a commodity than he was when alive. Those same old songs from Thriller and Bad, rehashed and remixed. Except now the people that loved him don’t clap at all.
It’s somewhat ironic that I haven’t listened to or seen anything of the posthumous ‘Immortal’ campaign. But therein that irony lies the crux of the matter. Michael’s immortality lies in his artistry, not how he is marketed. Some fans seem to forget that it was Michael himself that fronted the ‘Sony Sucks’ rally. Michael fiercely guarded the integrity of the artists in the ATV catalogue, be it The Beatles or Little Richard. What right does big corporation have to not now afford him the same level of respect?
What with the ongoing AEG trial, this has been an especially intense June for us fans: a strange song of nostalgia and defiance, with only the heartening bridge of the 13th providing us with brief respite before the emotive crescendo that is the 25th. We followed a similar trajectory in the preparation for the This Is It concerts; journeying as we did from the press conference, to the excitement of hearing reports from fans listening to rehearsals, to watching him starve with stress in front of our eyes; fans telling Michael it wasn’t worth it; to stop putting himself under all that pressure. As had become the pattern, we accompanied the man on his rise to an angelic apex, before descending alongside him in his fall from grace.
And this time he died.
What inspires and consoles me is witnessing the hard work undertaken by so many people in their effort to try and cease this dilution of Michael’s life work. And to think how proud of them Michael would be. He would have known that due to the loyalty of his fans, his legacy was in safe hands; in spite of what I’m sure he knew was in store. The difference in Michael’s resurgence in popularity this time is that it is an artificial one manufactured by the Estate. It is a false bastardisation worth fighting against. And as Michael demonstrated, even pacifists can become soldiers when their principles and loves are pushed too far.
Perhaps my defence of Michael is my expression of grief. All I know is, four years on, the pain remains the same.