Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Generational Loss - Part 2

This past week, the world also lost Michael Jackson. I was in Las Vegas in the old part of town, on Freemont street when he died. If you've ever been there, you know they have a canopy over the entire street, that stretches several blocks and they project images onto the canopy to create amazing light shows and displays. They did a very touching tribute to him several times during the evening.

I remember seeing Michael Jackson on the Ed Sullivan show when I was a kid. Even when I see those clips today, I'm amazed at the talent and charisma that he had, even as a small boy. He simply radiated contagious energy with his power house voice and seemingly effortless dance moves.

I watched him grow up, and enjoyed his music, my favorite songs of his are:

Don't Stop til You Get Enough
Rock With You
Black or White
PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
Wanna Be Startin' Something
Gone Too Soon

I just read that the song he sang with the Jackson Five on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, "I Want You Back" knocked "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head" from it's number one spot. Rain Drops was my favorite song at the time! I know... I'm 'dating' myself here.

At any rate, Michael Jackson was an enormously talented individual who changed the music scene and popular culture in dramatic ways. The show he had with his brothers in 1975 was the first ever to feature an African American family. He was a pioneer and a trail blazer in many ways. His music, his music videos and his inventive and creative dance moves were all trend setting.

He was also a deeply tormented and troubled individual. As I watched him continually trying to 'alter' his physical appearance, and exhibit strange and eccentric behavior, I felt sorry for him. He was clearly locked in some sort of internal prison of mental and emotional anguish. He seemed to have some sort of deep body image/appearance disorder. He had the money to indulge his impulses to try to 'fix' whatever he thought was 'wrong' with his appearance, and in so doing, turned his appealing and attractive appearance into something artificial and disturbing. I feel sorry for the pain that he was obviously in. His internal pain showed up on the outside in his bizarre appearance.

He also displayed behavior that rightfully concerned many regarding his children (the strange names, covering their faces continually in public, and the 'baby dangling' incident). His own psychological problems were evident in some of his 'public' parenting displays.

He also had a strange and troubling relationship with children. It could have been an innocent childlike nature that lingered into an adulthood. Possibly the result of being forced into adult roles far too early in his life. Perhaps he was truly a 'boy who never grew up' and related to children as 'one of them.' Or, it might have been much more sinister and sick. It is truly hard to tell. His behavior towards children was definitely not normal by our cultural standards, but he also was a huge target with his fortune. People will often try to exploit anything they can to get money from wealthy people.

I personally was troubled by what I saw with him and his relationships to children (including the parenting of his own). However, I certainly wouldn't draw absolute conclusions in any direction about what his issues actually were.

It was clear that he was emotionally and mentally troubled. Many brilliant people are. He was no different. With enormous talent and ability often come demons and a tormented inner world.

I sincerely hope that Michael is at peace now. I appreciate the immense contributions that he made to this world, through his music, blazing a trail for other artists, shattering racial barriers and also important the amazing amount he contributed to charity. He believed in giving back and did so at every opportunity.

It always makes me sad when people of enormous talent struggle with demons and find no path to relief. I hope Michael is finally free of all that plagued him.

Rest in peace, Michael.