Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Jacko. He was already gone and now he’s long gone. Gone, gone, gone. Real gone. Infinitely talented, extraordinarily strange, America’s biggest sustained individual pop cult phenomena since Elvis. King of Pop, Little Michael Jackson, Wacko Jacko---which pic gets posted alongside the obit? A true, far-beyond-the-norm childhood prodigy he morphed into an adult whose back-story eventually outweighed his pop cult accomplishments. Springing forth from a more fully formed, highly manufactured star making machinery music biz than the dank carny environs from which his inverted doppelganger The Big E hatched himself, he became the next logical step in the pop biz’s evolutionary chain—-thoroughly understanding the Elvis-Beatles transition—-and singlehandedly wrote the blueprint for unlikely big top pop stardom for peeps like Madonna, Justin Timberlake, or Eminem.
Michael transfused elements of Frankie Lyman, James Brown and (yup) Little Richard and became (a) a soul child lead singer crooning and prancing way out in front of his band mate brothers, (b) then emerging as a ever maturing take-me-serious artist who co-wrote material and helped shape production, (c) transitioning to the progenitor of Thriller (arguably as iconic a recording as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Blond on Blonde, Pet Sounds, or Dark Side of the Moon) and all that became associated with it---moon walking, a single glove, music vid as mini-movie, Elvis-like capital E Entertainer and searing object of obsession, affection, and unfettered emotional connection, (d) and finally a major attraction in The American Wierdo Hall of Fame and all that became associated with that---hair-on-fire, bankruptcy, out-slicking Paul McCartney in order to posses the Beatles songbook, fake marriages, a wholly manufactured 50’s Hollywood styled cover-it-up marital hook up with goddamned Elvis’ daughter (no one, not even Hunter Thompson, Philip K. Dick or Charles Bukowski could have braincrunched that), the butt (get it) of a million radio jocks jokes, the Elephant Man, the chimp, the amusement park fantasy land home, the ultimate living, breathing exemplar of the Peter Pan Syndrome, the melted face, the unsavory whispers and actual courtroom charges, the kiddies in masks, the perpetual comeback that was also lurking around the corner.
Michael and Elvis. One, a redneck who carved out a career by approximating blackness, the other a black manchild who seemed dedicated to erasing all traces of his very own blackness, both waving the hiddy-hiddy-ho, holy, magic , ju-ju stick and transfixing hicks, rubes, churchgoers, sophisticates, rebels, outcasts, boy scouts, gym teachers, and yer mama, with their own VASTNESS, their inner shaman, replete with sparkling baubles, majestic hair styles, hypnotic hip-shaking and otherworldly movements, neither with an iota of self-doubt, inner shame, or actual self-reflection. Both of them perfect fodder for our ever-ever pop-culture starved nation, the American Entertainer as Stageshow Jesus, their respective races and their inherent perspective on race defiantly flowing together, grinding, and somehow mashing, prematurely dead and all laid out in a country forever divided and often defined by race, intermingled forever as fellow race vampires, blazing talents, freaks, and little boys lost.


chuck trem said...


james said...

There is a certain Transubstantiality about the report of another dead famous person. Obits are usual prearranged and prepackaged and run about a day unless there are escalating demands for more and more.... Who when why what. I recall a minor masterpiece by Tobias Wolff about the reporter who wrote obits for a local newspaper (when there were some) and he wrote and published a obit for a chap accept there was an error. The guy wasn’t dead.
So the heavy shit came down like a wooden mallet on his balls.

Truly, there are certain cherished domains where mistakes mean a lot; surgery, airline pilots, busdrives, mimes,,,but other domains (producers directors, movie stars, bankers, corporate executives, playwrights, actors, singers, strippers and exotic dancers), where you can easily survive a bad run.

So why does one death merit more attention than another? Why care more about Michael J then Sonny Liston—After all it was Sonny whose life and death contained more of the truth about the American experience.

Well there is impact and influence, a spectacle career in a domain we all know and care deeply about.
A premier cardiologist may merit a note, but say a singer who has sold twenty seven thousand million albums and has a chronic inflammation of the derma, and a strange infatuation with animals and children….
But its easy to share the death of a celeb no matter how insignificant.
Yet others will die in a riot or the bombing of a village where bodies are stacked up and dosed with lime and tossed… .Some die in the john or a closet; or prison or on the streets, or in a nursing home and in a demented shoot-out on the streets of Baghdad; or in an SUV or on motorcycle. Some sitting in chair fondling a rosary, the seams in the heart having collapsed and gone bust.
The very same day Hemingway killed himself another 7,000 people in the US, died. But he wrote a Moveable Feast and they did not.
What counts, I guess, is what you do. And how much it matters to others, and if it lifts the heart .

You can forgive a lot: say someone who writes a sentence like this:

A lonesome oil lake that is for a fella to go killing himself in. It makes me sad to think of it. To think of poor Tom sitting alone there, alone with his thoughts, the cold lake in front of him, and him weighing up what’s best, a life full of loneliness that took him there but a life full of good points too. Every life has good points, even if it’s only… seeing rivers, or going traveling, or watching football on the telly….

But, no one I know recovers sufficiently from the death of parents; or the death, premature and unjust, of a child. Everybody else nods and moves on.

But then there are those who take the death of their parent or child and chisel a poem picture play song, in order to infuse in all of us who go on our different ways but are held momentarily to take account in the rendering…..
Times I think we are taking on a lot of water, and the diesel engines are choking. And sea that envelops this placid earth has suddenly taken on the expression of a deadly, furious, hostile deity… And the night sky contains a trillion trillion stars. And the crew shouts orders and oaths against the merciless blackness. These shouts alone guide us back through this fury to the mossy pilings and the lights of the cafes and bars and fish mongers' shacks, to the tiny vinyl covered cottage where a clothesline waves ivory pillow cases and a stray red tricycle is tipped over on its side, as if it had ran out of gas, and to a stuffed yellow bear with black button eyes squatting on the lawn getting soaked in the rain.
Dr hackenbush