Because we’ve been so busy recently I’ve been distracted from writing many blogs, even though there’s been so much rich and wonderful material to write about. And I guess the biggest story of the last week or so has been about death, sadly; Farrah FM, Man U’s credibility in the transfer market, British tennis hopes in the Wimbledon semis (yet again) and the unique Michael Jackson. Sorry to be a bit flip but I’ve just been watching the MJ tribute concert and I’m struggling with this portrayal of him as someone ‘pure’ as Brooke Shields described him, incredibly.
Here’s the scene as I see it; MJ was (some years ago) a quite brilliant singer and performer. Some of his songs are classics that will still sound wonderful even down the generations. When I was at my lowest moments in Italy I’d put on Thriller, Billie Jean et al and dance around the kitchen with my daughter R as we made dinner and it always, always made things seem better. It’s almost impossible not to get up on those songs. But MJ himself was a very sad person it seems who couldn’t grow up, hated his appearance – slowly but surely denying his blackness with increasingly extreme cosmetic surgery and becoming hopelessly addicted to pain-killing and other drugs conveniently prescribed by a veritable army of personal physicians. Worst of all, the torrent of allegations that he sexually preyed on young kids is hard to deny. Without the sublime music he might just have been reviled you suspect. I know that’s a harsh thing to say about someone who was an artistic genius and cannot now defend himself but there you go. In assessing his life how can you possibly overlook his dark character flaws?
But tonight that’s what they did at his memorial concert. It was supposed to be the American equivalent of the Princess Diana memorial occasion but the Staples Center cannot hope to be compared with Westminster Abbey of course and the setting just seemed kitsch rather than majestic. Coffins and office supplies..umm a bit odd. But I understand there was a need to accommodate a large audience so fair enough. What struck me more however was the complete sense of denial. As if they were airbrushing or whitewashing reality. At Diana’s funeral we witnessed a single eulogy from her brother which was the most moving, impassioned and, let’s be fair, honest statement about his beloved sister – faults and all. But tonight we got speech after insincere speech about how wonderful Jackson was, with not one reference to any of his many character flaws. In fact it was almost evangelical in its tone with huge political statements being made about his bearing on Afro-American culture.Is he really held up by the black community as a hero? Pastors, reverends, musicians and politicians were quick to pay tribute to his unbelievable contribution to ethnic advancement and understanding and his contribution as a true humanitarian – unbelievably – and all the time I was thinking about his skin-bleaching and facial surgery and the trial and many out of court settlements over the abuse of children, which nobody mentioned ….of course. Like it simply didn’t exist. I wasn’t expecting somebody to stand up at this celebration of his life and liken him to Gary Glitter but a little balance might have been more fitting. Pure? Try telling that to the kids he preyed on.
Do I miss MJ? Not the man to be honest but his musical legacy …for sure. But it’s been there for some time and nothing he’s done in the last 10 years or so of his life has been particularly likeable or edifying. It can’t be just me can it?