A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Eternal Boy Has Flown Away...Forever

It was about midnight in England last night when the news of Michael Jackson's death reached me. I caught the NBC News on Sky TV and was shocked. He slipped into unconsciousness after suffering a heart attack in his home and was taken to the UCLA Medical Center where all attempts to revive him were futile. In the last two decades, his life had been mired in controversy. After having huge hits for so many years, his last album had very poor sales. But the word on the street was that he was ready to bounce back.

He had been rehearsing to make his great "comeback" with a tour that was to start in London. He had been working out with Lou Ferrigno (of "Incredible Hulk" fame) and wanted desperately to put on the best show possible. For Jackson, it was always about his loyal fans. He wanted to please them and he was determined to do so. I am sure that part of his commitment to having a successful tour was financial. He had been hit hard with debt and lost his Neverland Ranch in the process . The ticket sales in London were through the roof and all signs pointed that it was very possible that he would have accomplished his goal of restoring his career. Or maybe not. Rumours were circulating that he had missed several rehearsals and that it was taking a cocktail of pills to get him out of bed and on to the stage. He appeared frail and weak. He had signed up to do fifty performances in London and those around him wondered if he could manage one.


It was through "The Jackson Five" that I first heard Michael Jackson sing. Like a lot of girls my age, I had a transistor radio (aqua colored) permanently attached to my ear in the late 60's and early 70's. In junior high, any time that a Jackson Five song was played at our school dances we crowded the floor. At birthday parties, on warm summer evenings under the Texas stars, we would rock out on someone's patio to "I Want You Back" and slow danced to "I'll Be There." Jackson was cute and he was talented and we read all about him in our favorite "16 Magazine". (He was, after all, our age.)

But it was after he came out from under his father and brothers' shadow in the 1980's that he emerged in full force to become a brilliant entertainer...composing song after song that were international hits and eventually classics.His choreography was unparalleled. His moves were imitated the world over. His "Thriller" album released in 1982, won multiple Grammys and is considered one of the best albums of all time.

He continued his successful career through the years but his private life was a soap opera. He surrounded himself with children and lived like "Peter Pan". In 1993, he was accused of child molestation and was acquitted and continued to grind out hits. He impetuously married Lisa Marie Presley (daughter of Elvis) and the marriage fizzled out after a year and a half. Two years after that, he married a dental assistant named Debbie Rowe under reports that he had "contracted" her to have his children. He had two children with her and then divorced her and fathered a third child with a surrogate.

However, even with this lifestyle that was far from ordinary, I remember meeting a young aboriginal woman from Australia who had benefited from one of Jackson's youth programs. She had met him personally and her face took on a great reverence and hushed tones when speaking about him. Yes, with all his eccentricities and the unanswered questions about his personal life, he worked tirelessly for children's causes. And to this student, and millions around the world, he was not just a pop star, he was an icon.

In 2007, he went on trial once again accused of sexual abuse with a minor and while he was acquitted of the charges, the circus of a trial took its toll on him. Michael became an exile, hopping about the world where he could find some privacy and some solace. Despite a jury finding him innocent, the charges that he was a "paedophile" continued to haunt him until the very end.

In a television interview tonight, Uri Geller told a very odd story. He kept saying that he and Michael often had "rows". The interviewer kept saying "About what?" And Uri kept saying, "You know...about the stuff the media reported...." And the interviewer kept pressing, but Uri was not forthcoming. Apparently, Uri was not pleased with the compromising situations that Jackson put himself in. He then said that once, Michael asked him to hypnotize him. (Geller is a hypnotist). Under hypnosis, Geller said, "I did something that was unethical.." (as Jackson had not asked him to do this). Under hypnosis Geller pressed for an answer. " I asked him, Michael did you ever touch any of those children inappropriately? And he said, 'No, I would never do that...'" And Geller said that it was then he realized that Jackson was innocent. None of us will ever know the real truth.

Jackson was weirdness, strangeness, a puer aeternus (eternal boy) who chose to live life in an insular world that he created to protect himself. He populated it with children and toys and monkeys and everything that reminded him of his lost childhood. It was a childhood that was stolen from him to front the family business. He was the money machine of the Jackson family. But he was also warm, kind-hearted and a practical joker. He had a good sense of humor. As an adult, he was hunted everywhere he went. He was adored and vilified. He became bigger than life and eventually life began to be too big for him.

No matter what one thinks of him personally, he will always be known as one of the greatest legends in music. I grew up with his music, my daughter grew up on his music. He continually re-invented himself. He won't have to anymore. Could we have thought of him growing old, sitting on a verandah in a rocking chair? No. He left us as an eternal man-boy. In the end, I think he died (literally) of a broken heart. But in Neverland, hearts are mended and boys live forever. And in Neverland, finally, Jackson is now at peace.