25 June 2009

We've lost our chance for a happy ending

Like many people today, I was shocked by the sudden death of Michael Jackson.
I was getting on to the on ramp to Highway 169 North when my niece and I were shocked by a radio announcement. "...TMZ is reporting that Michael Jackson has died. He was taken..." The next half-hour was spent on the phone, trying to confirm that it was true. After all, TMZ being what it is, I held on to the possibility that it wasn't true. I had my reasons.
Michael Jackson was the closest thing to a fallen god that our pop culture will likely produce. For much of his life time, everything he touched turned to gold, as the Pop King Midas hit after hit. He influenced an entire generation with records like "Off the Wall" and the immortal "Thriller." Until the late 1980s, he was unstoppable. Afterwards, the eccentricities and controversies overshadowed his tremendous talent and influence. In time, he became a sad punchline, an easy laugh to make at the expense of a many who in many ways remained a child.
In my mind, Michael Jackson's death denies us what I think many of us wanted for him: a happy ending. After so many false starts, so many missed concert dates and unmet expectations, we wanted that shining moment where we could look at him again as many of us saw him during the 1983 Motown special that revealed his out-of-this-world moonwalk for the first time. We all wanted to see this tortured and eccentric man remind us why we all believed in him in the first place - and I, for one, believed that he could do it.
He simply seemed to have the ability to make magic from absolute nothingness, to take a tragic and lonely childhood and and use it as fuel in a successful quest to make the world love him. I will remember him for that as much as anything else.

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