So, Michael Jackson has died at only 50. Fittingly enough, his death was surrounded in paradoxes and shrouded in mystery. A man of monumental talent, a singer, songwriter, dancer and all around entertainer, he lived his life as he saw fit, whether or not the rest of the world understood or approved. And it was by many accounts a bizarre world, made possible by fabulous wealth and a willingness to be considered strange. Only it probably didn’t feel strange at all to him, more likely it felt like home. And in the end, it was really no one else’s business since they weren’t the ones who had to live that life, he was. It was his to do with as he pleased.
His troubles were as well-documeted as his music career, even resulting in child-molestation charges, of which he was acquitted. That he preferred the company of children to adults was well known. The home he built for himself in California was basically a child’s theme park, aptly called Neverland. His adventures in self-invention led to a series of plastic surgeries that physically transformed him before the eyes of his public. Again, he didn’t seem to care what anybody thought of his metamorphosis. He also entered into a couple of oddball marriages, including one to the daughter of Elvis Presley, the original pop superstar who went his own way lifestyle-wise and died prematurely under mysterious circumstances.
Also like Elvis, he was always making dramatic comebacks, another #1 hit never seeming out of reach. At the time of his death he was in rehearsals for a spectacular European tour, the seats already sold out. The promoters of the tour recently had him undergo an extensive medical checkup and he was pronounced fit and healthy, further making his sudden death an enigma. Well, enigma or not, the world is mourning Michael Jackson today and his death is dominating all media outlets. Again like Elvis, it is his music that will be his enduring legacy, an impressive musical catalog that has long been a staple of popular American culture and will continue to be for years. And his breakthrough work in music video remains the gold standard for that genre.
Few actually knew the man, and no one owned him. He followed his own instincts for better or worse and lived life on his own terms, as far as that is possible. One of the most public and publicized people to ever live, he still maintained his privacy and shielded his 3 children from the white hot glare of his fame. He was a public figure, not public property. The shrewd business acumen that led him to launch a solo career at age 13 and outbid Paul McCartney on the Lennon-McCartney Beatles song catalog eventually failed him and he allegedly died in unbelievable debt, rumored to be in the hundreds of millions. But again, who knows? Like so much about the man and his life, speculation and rumors often take the place of hard facts.
He wasn’t in the business of confirming or denying all that much, and is beyond all that now. He leaves us like he came to us, a mystery and a very different person from most human beings. Once again he answers to no one and seeks no approval for who he is or how he lived or died. Michael Jackson was who he was, did what he did and thought what he thought. And that’s just fine, and his unbreakable right. In the end what we have is his music, and that’s more than enough. His album “Thriller” remains the single biggest selling album ever, and in total all his albums sold over 750 million copies, an astonishing figure. The mourning for him is heartfelt and real on every continent, not only his home nation. His art touched billions of lives. He spread joy and love. No matter what else he was or wasn’t, that’s an excellent legacy. Here’s hoping Michael Jackson finds the peace he never found here.