Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both died yesterday, and I’m sitting here pondering why the media is spending as much time broadcasting news of Jackson’s demise as they did on 9/11, which in my opinion, was a much bigger story.
Poor Farrah…Jackson’s death has completely overshadowed hers, much like John F. Kennedy and my literary hero, C.S. Lewis. The day Kennedy was assassinated, very little media attention focused on Lewis, a brilliant man who died quietly in Great Britain.
I wonder if Jackson’s life and death will reach mythic proportions like that of Elvis, or will he fade into ignominy because of his questionable character?
North Americans are obsessed with celebrities, even the ones they love to hate. I find it funny that Americans pride themselves on having rid their country of British kingly rule nearly three centuries ago, only to bow at the feet of actors. singers and sports figures, made rich by our worship. Regardless of their sometimes sordid or eccentric lives, we pattern ourselves after who we think they are and wish we had what they have. (Or had. Our deaths balance out all the inequalities of the rich and poor, the known and unknown.)
But it’s all a sham, isn’t it? Like many other 40-somethings, I was a giggly high school junior when Jackson released his “Thriller” album in 1982. All the girls thought he was cute, all the boys (well, not all) thought they could become more impressive if they learned how to dance. Even the stoners and the Iron Maiden set admitted, “Well, I don’t like his music much, but he sure can dance.”
Everybody moonwalked in their leather jackets, white sequined gloves and spiky, frizzy hair. I still remember the scary delight it was to watch the “Thriller” video, directed by John Landis.It was the beginning of the music/story meld.
But none of those giggly teenagers knew just how far he would fall from grace, how strange and eccentric he would become, and how he would never top that album in his professional life.
Today, on Canada AM, Canadian choreographer Luther Brown said that young dancers working with Michael Jackson on choreography for his upcoming concerts in London were blown away by his unbelievable talent, kids that weren’t even born when Jackson was in his heyday. They told Brown in awe, “He’s The Truth, man.”
I heard the catch in his throat when he said that, though I couldn’t see tears behind his sunglasses. He found it difficult to speak afterward, and I felt for him. Certainly Michael Jackson was gifted beyond measure. Whatever his torments, he had the power to astonish people when he performed. His was a profound and unique talent.
But I’m convinced he wasn’t “The Truth.” I think someone else has that category covered, and He doesn’t share his glory with any man. Nor should we.