The Chair is not my Son

It’s a sure thing that Michael Jackson’s life was not going to end pretty. In fact, it can be argued that this mode of death is not the worst thing that could have happened. Seeing him waste away from cancer or die in prison, or collapse and die onstage would have all been worse. You could feel that how ever it was going to occur, Michael stood a good chance of going out in spectacularly tragic fashion. If the rumors are true, it was a shot of Demerol and he stopped breathing. At least it was mercifully fast. Can you imagine the mad scramble that’s now going to occur for his assets being carried out while he was still breathing? And who gave him this alleged shot? I have a feeling that a number of Dr. Nicks are about to be uncovered. At least his poor tortured soul departed quickly for what I hope is a better life somewhere else.

There’s no way not to feel sorry for Michael. The guy’s life had become an absolute disaster. Yes, some of it was of his own making. And the child molestation stuff is obscene and wrong and I was among those who thought that perhaps a little jail time, i.e. a dose of REALITY, might do him some good. But then you have to consider his upbringing. As much as some magazine editors want to coo over the Jackson Five, those were the years when Michael’s life basically went over the falls. He never really had a chance for happiness after he was about 10 years old. His life was predestined to be a head-on collision before he was even a teenager. The myriad of bad decisions he made afterwards proves this out. Sharing his bed with young boys? And then defending it on camera? Absolutely perverse. Clearly, he was not properly equipped to deal with life, or reality, or anything approaching normalcy. Adding fame to that kind of twisted personality is a sure recipe for nihilistic narcissism. There is some truth to the fact that the damage was done early. It’s always been fashionable to bash Joe, and in the end who knows how much of it is true. Although Michael talked openly about his father beating him, let's just say that in my opinion Joe has always looked mean, what with those pointy sideburns and those burning eyes.

Any yet, it seems as if when Michael got out from under Joe, he soon fell into a pattern of making bad decisions. In some cases, catastrophically bad decisions, that sapped his strength both as a person and an artist, and enmeshed him in costly legal swamps for the balance of his life. You got the feeling some years ago that Michael had ceased caring about much. Even music. His gluttony was too reckless and too empty. The marriage to Lisa Marie was a pathetic scam. Neverland Ranch which was intended to be his fantasyland, crawled with psychoses. And finally, his constant self-mutilation was a horrific sign that something inside Michael had turned terribly wrong. Even now I can’t stop looking at the frightening mask in the Santa Barbara mug shot. The greaseapint. The lips. What was once a nose. What besides an enormous of self-hate would possess a person to do that to their face? Related to that visage is the image of Jackson on South Park. The character, “Mr. Jefferson,” came complete with a fake mustache, a high, wavery Michael-like voice and Jacksonesque statements like “Noooo, that’s ignorant,” and “They have doody in the their souls.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeking out episode 117 from Season Eight that was first broadcast in 2004. His nose continually falling off is an unreal, unforgettable sight.

Despite America’s increasingly disturbing tendency to speak no ill of the dead, let’s agree that Michael Jackson’s impact on music was some 20 years in the past. It has been a long time since he made a good record. To my ears, Off The Wall will always be his best record. By Thriller you can hear the rot setting in. It could also be the fact that Off the Wall was not played to death by the radio. And also like everyone alive during Michael’s great run (the three Quincy Jones-produced records, 1979’s Off The Wall to 1987’s Bad), I can remember exactly where I was when his music first struck me. I can vividly recall when I first heard, “Don’t Stop `Til You Get Enough,” (on the dance floor of Dooleys, Tucson, Arizona) and the girl I was with (Tracy Dawn Stebbings). The raw power and immense talent that throbs off those records, aided immensely by the Q, is still astonishing. On Thursday, June 25, 2009, a very sad end to an increasingly sad life.

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