June 25, 2009, - 10:06 pm
Michael Jackson, Weird But Extremely Talented King of Pop, Rest In Peace; Will Be Remembered as Music Phenom Rather than Eccentric/Accused
By Debbie Schlussel
When they say celebrity deaths come in threes, maybe they’re right. First, it was Ed McMahon, and today, it was Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Poor Farrah, she picked the wrong day.
I’ve written a lot about Michael Jackson over the years, a good deal of it negative. But I will miss Michael Jackson, who died suddenly, today, at the young age of 50.
Not the White Michael Jackson plastic surgery addict, who became weird beyond belief, may have converted to Islam, surrounded himself with Louis Farrakhan and Nation of Islam acolytes, and acquired three kids he insisted were his (but who were entirely White), one of which he named “Blanket” (tonight, I’ve been getting thousands of hits on my post on and picture of Blanket Jackson and the other two kids, Prince and Paris). Not the guy who dabbled in not just Islam, but Judaism–accompanied by his friend, showboating Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, with whom he formed a foundation to help the unfortunate–the money from which strangely disappeared. And I won’t miss his anti-Semitic remarks (“They suck . . . they’re like leeches. It’s a conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose.” ) and lyrics (“”Jew me, Sue me” and “Kick me, Kike me”). He apologized for those.
But I miss the original Michael Jackson–the one with talent, a voice that could range several octaves, feet that made us all dancing “the moonwalk” in the ’80s, composing music and writing and singing that had him melding rock guitar with pop in songs like “Beat It” in a way that even demanded the respect of the heavy metal world. He was an original, all right. And he was a phenom.
Seeing Michael Jackson in concert was one of the great concert-going experiences. You got your money’s worth. It wasn’t just the dancing or the singing. It was the showmanship. This guy had it.
And then there was the ever increasing weirdness. Jackson went from being the attractive young Black pop sensation to a guy who said he had vitiligo, whose skin turned white, and whose plastic surgery turned a cute guy into a living version of “The Joker.” Then, he was the guy who married Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie in a marriage no-one believed was real.
For the record, I’m not convinced of the allegations that Jackson ever molested kids. We never saw any concrete proof. My father always said he thought Jackson was just a rich, weird guy who had an abusive father, never had a childhood, and therefore, didn’t mature properly. He was an overgrown child acting childlike. Yes, Jackson was a weird guy who was in extremely inappropriate situations with kids in his bed, etc. But that doesn’t mean he molested kids. And we’ll never know. We only know that irresponsible and money-hungry parents allowed their kids to spend the night and time alone with him and thereafter were shaking Jackson down.
And my dad and I sort of had some inside scoopage on this. My first cousin’s first cousin was the University of Michigan roommate of the sister of Jackson’s alleged first victim, while the whole matter was going down. She told our family that she heard telephone conversations that disturbed her, that it all seemed like a shakedown by the parents.
On the other hand, Jackson paid millions–the first settlement was about $20 million–to make the allegations go away. When you’re innocent, it’s hard to see settling for the GDPs of several countries combined.
But there’s no denying the influence Michael Jackson had. It’s not just the heavy metal guitars of Van Halen on “Beat It” or the tremendous musical influence of the “Thriller” album. It wasn’t just that he pioneered short-movie form music videos with old-timer stars, as he did with the “Thriller” video complete with Vincent Price. Jackson influenced fashion. Remember the glove and the famous zippered red leather jacket?
He influenced the concert industry, with his fantastic special effects, in addition to the workout-worthy dance numbers and songs. His dedication to special effects was such that he burned his hair in making a Pepsi ad. Remember that? While his spoken voice may have been markedly effeminate, his singing voice was very mellifluous. And he even influenced weddings. How many weddings around the world–not to mention prisons–feature renditions of “Thriller”?
Jackson even spawned several generations of impersonators, the most famous of which–Alfonso Ribiero–parlayed it into his own music, singing, dance, and acting career, from ’80s TV-sitcom “Silver Spoons” to Broadway as “The Tap Dance Kid” to ’90s TV-sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Jackson sold the most albums of all time, a record that will never be beaten, since the album is now dead and individual song downloads are king. His success was a confluence of factors. He was a Motown sensation with his brothers in “The Jackson Five” at the height of Motown success in the early ’70s. Then, he was a video sensation at the beginning of MTV, when it was all the rage and actually played music instead of non-stop scripted “reality” shows.
Jackson also remains extremely popular throughout Europe and the rest of the world, where he is a huge superstar even today. As I noted on this site during Jackson’s criminal trial, the countries that love terrorism and soccer and hate America . . . love Michael Jackson.
When I was a kid, we danced and skated to one of my Michael Jackson faves, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” at my roller disco birthday party at Bonaventure Skating Rink (in Farmington Hills, Michigan). And that’s the stuff I will remember fondly about Michael Jackson. (And, yes, I can do the “Moonwalk” like nobody’s bid’niz.)
Michael Jackson may have been weird. But he was truly an artist and a music geninus, whose talent may never be repeated.
Some say he’s the Elvis of this generation. But, sadly, I don’t think they’ll be telling us that Jackson isn’t really dead.
Michael Jackson, Rest In Peace.
There are so many Michael Jackson songs I love, all of which are on my IPod and Zune, and on the playlist to which I work out. But my favorites are these:
Which are your fave Michael Jackson singles? What do you remember about Michael Jackson, good or bad? Do you think that the weirdness of a man and his alleged misdeeds cancel out his tremendous talent and entertainment contributions?
I say it depends. And in this case, the misdeeds simply haven’t been proven. Or disproven.