Wednesday, July 1, 2009


When Michael Jackson (1958-2009) passed to the other side I pondered his substantial musical influence on my life wondering what his ultimate legacy will be. Will I, like most everybody else, forgive and forget his blatant eccentricities and absolutely absurd, unacceptable behaviors of the last few years and choose to memorialize the showman, dancer, performer and musical genius extraordinaire he was? His now iconic music is unparalleled with several generations using his songs to script and accompany key rites de passage in their lives. His music means that he will never, ever really be far away…

Along with millions of other folks I listened to some of my favorite Jackson songs the first few days following his death. Those songs included one of my all time favorites, the 1995 Platinum, You Are Not Alone, the first song ever to debut as #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Though the melody was written by the mega talented twins, Eddy and Danny Van Passel (If We Can Start All Over), Michael made it his own with his lyrics and delivery. It seemed to fit Jackson just when his world started to change, seemingly for the worst. The semi-nude scenes against an ethereal backdrop in the You are Not Alone video of Jackson and then wife Lisa Marie Presley documented his transformation from a handsome medium-brown African American Man to an almost opaque lily white caricature. Vitiglio, lupus and a near (and maybe) lethal identity crisis had taken their toll and Michael exacerbated his soon to be bizarre appearance with a series of disastrous plastic surgeries on his face. I don’t know how I could have dealt with the trauma of such identity transforming illnesses so I’m not throwing any stones. From that point Michael was seemingly always trying to be or evolve into something else – the butterfly eternally struggling out of its chrysalis.

I then saw the Dallas Morning News editorial on June 27, 2009 re Michael and they mostly said it all for me…


Michael Jackson's life, from beginning to end, was mythical and mysterious, triumphant and tragic. He represented both the best and the worst of American pop culture of the past half-century.

His meteoric rise as the youngest performer in the Jackson 5 seemed like something out of a fairy tale. The charmed prince went on to become the King of Pop when he and the talented music producers around him recognized that his talents could not be captured only in sound. He needed video.

He moved in ways we'd never seen before. He transformed pop music. He redirected the spotlight to good causes. And he became the biggest star in the world.

But along the way, his fame seemed to close in on him like a prison.

The higher his star rose, the deeper he sank into an insular world few understood. The glimpses we got into his life made us uncomfortable, skeptical. Then we were repulsed by the sexual abuse allegations, never proved, involving children.

A pop icon the world once could not get enough of was fully transformed into a shadowy, suspicious figure we'd rather not see. We hoped he would just disappear from the headlines. And he did, for the most part, until his recent plans for a comeback.

The whole tragic story of his life could be seen – literally – on his face as it changed through the years. The pressure of stardom, the yearning for a real childhood, the insecurity and, finally, the frailty.

He often said he was most comfortable on stage – gliding across the floor to a good beat, lost in his own world, yet connecting with fans from multiple generations.

We aren't sure that we can, but we will try to remember him that way.”

Michael wasn’t afraid to confront the major issues of our day including genocide, famine, discrimination/bigotry and war, among others in the guise of entertainment. Michael’s dramatic and poignant Man in the Mirror video can be used to gauge one’s understanding and awareness of a major part of the Modern Human Experience.

From a pure entertainment perspective don’t hesitate to also view Michael’s performance of
Mirror at the 1988 Grammy Awards. – breathtaking

Michael Jackson was time in a bottle and like other celebrities and their affectations, we probably contributed to his malaise and given his/our expectations, pushed him in that direction.

But, enough already, let Michael rest and allow us to move on with our lives without being bombarded 24/7 by yet another Jackson revelation, the location of Jackson’s animals, innumerable memorials or analysis of his children’s needs and states of mind. A totally consumed media has apparently successfully engaged an infotainment paradigm and is seemingly transforming itself into a tabloid institution. The second autopsy, the toxicology tests, his alleged abuse of prescription medications, the interviews with Jackson’s physician - Texas cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray (who now has an attorney), Michael’s insolvency, his last will and testament, Big Daddy Joe, Neverland, the involvement of Jesse Jackson, the speculation that Jackson’s body will lie in state and the competition for and chaotic speculation of Jackson’s final resting place (heart and brain?) all seem to point to an endless parade of Michael this and Michael that, ad nauseum. Count on Daddy Joe and the owners of Neverland to keep The Gloved One’s legacy flowing. It’s all about money…

While we need to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, the Media’s over the top homage to an incredible and irrational excess cheapens and renders irrelevant the real world and validates the observation that the media is using this as another last hurrah to bolster their sagging revenues. Hopefully the memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles will allow for a proper and dignified goodbye. Michael deserves that...

Maybe someday Michael can finally sleep and the rest of us who have to continue our mostly “mundane” trials and tribulations on this earthly plane can move on - though at this time that reality seems a very distant prospect.


Ned Buxton

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