A coworker came by my desk to give me the news.
Hey Peacemaker, have you heard?
Farrah Fawcett died today.
Oh yeah, I heard about it a little while ago when I was listening to NPR.
So did you hear the other part?
The other part? What’s that?
Michael Jackson had a heart attack and stopped breathing.
Over Farrah Fawcett???
And then I noticed other people in the office were having their own version of the same conversation in the cubes nearby and throughout the office. Michael Jackson was dead. Farrah picked a hell of a day to kick the bucket. The last thing a self important person like Ms. Fawcett needed was to be upstaged by the death of Michael Jackson. I went back to work.
It might be sad to say but I really could not care any less. Michael Jackson was the very worst example of a black person who really hated being black. While most self hating black people would be content to simply say that they have transcended race, Michael Jackson was the one black person that actually decided to do something about it. Michael Jackson stared at the man in the mirror and decided he didn’t like what he saw enough to buy a new white skin tone, a keen nose that stayed on his face most of the time, thin lips, and a drippy jerry curl to exorcise the kinkiness of his natural hair and eventually just had it permed straight and long. This was not a person happy about being black or who wanted to embrace his blackness. Mr. Jackson ran from being black in front of the entire world to see. Being black was much too painful for him to live with.
What is sad for me is that I loved Michael Jackson just as much as anyone else. Who didn’t? Who didn’t love to hear Michael Jackson sing? And I’m sure there were people who didn’t, but to hell with them. Everybody knew this was a seriously talented young black boy. The dude was crooning like a troubadour at five years old. Who shows that kind of natural talent just months after kicking their diapers to the curb? What was there not to like and admire? No doubt the boy was singing about things he truly didn’t understand. But his voice was so strong, so controlled, with such a good range, and so full of emotion that he could give you the impression that he knew exactly what he was singing about when he was singing songs like Got To Be There and Mama’s Pearl and I’ll Be There.
When Michael broke the stranglehold grip of Berry Gordy and Motown, he truly hit the stratosphere of stardom. Off the Wall, produced under the talented tutelage of Quincy Jones and released under the Epic label, was a phenomenal success for a debut album. And although the cracks were beginning to form in his blackness, his Motown roots were shining through. The songs were soulful modern interpretations of the songs Michael Jackson grew up singing with his brothers. And we all would be talking about Off the Wall to this day if it wasn’t for the even more spectacular success of his follow up album Thriller. Thriller broke just about every record when it was released. But by now Michael’s true colors began to show and black was not one of them.
On a daily basis Michael Jackson got weirder and weirder. And his music started to suffer as well. You use to be able to sing to a Michael Jackson tune. You could snap your fingers and bob your head as you sang Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough or Rock With You. But I couldn’t sing some of his latest stuff if you held a gun to my head. Michael stopped making the kind of music you wanted to hear and focused on the kind of music that had to be performed with a killer iconic dance move. For sure Michael Jackson’s name is associated with some of the most famous dance moves of all time. Everybody remembers the moonwalk and the robot associated with the song Dancing Machine. Everybody liked to see him spin in place like an ice skater doing a pirouette. But the new music began to take a backseat to the new dance moves on the stage and the songs became impossible to simply listen to or sing with over the radio.
The music that made Michael Jackson famous evaporated along with his blackness. The new hybrid Michael Jackson that looked more like a scarecrow from a Japanese anime and his accompanying music could never compete with the older version. And instead of being content to let his greatness lie in the past the King of Pop kept trying to recreate a new phenomenon based on superficial glitz and glamour instead of what really drove his initial success, the raw talent and the music.
Yes it is sad to hear that Michael Jackson died. But the fact of the matter is that to me, the Michael Jackson I came to know and love died a long time ago. The caricature that took the talented Michael Jackson’s place has finally died as well. Maybe in his death he’ll get the peace he appeared to never have had in life. I will miss the Michael Jackson I fell in love with. I will miss the Michael Jackson that I thought I could identify with as an obvious member of the black community. However, I will confess that I will not miss the man that became better known as the King of Pop.
Rest in peace Michael Jackson.