Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson's demise

Like everyone in America, I became a fan of the Jackson 5 when they first hit the scene. Who didn't like the idea of a group of kids from one family (except maybe the Osmonds) performing with such professional aplomb, led by their cute and charismatic little pixie, Michael.

Of course I was finishing up college when J5 was at their peak and we at Howard were probably more into the Five Stairsteps (World of Fantasy, You Waited Too Long, Oo Oo Child, etc.). They were the same deal basically although one of the five was a sister. Don't know why they didn't go on to enjoy similar success to the Jackson 5, although not having the support of a Berry Gordy and the Motown machine is probably the biggest reason.

That said, I've been trying to figure out why I'm not as bummed out about Michael's death as so many people world-wide seem to be. I suppose the main reason is the inescapable conclusion that Michael led such an unhappy life that his death gives him some respite from the suffering.

Still, I made a list off the top of my head of the entertainers I was most bummed out about after their premature deaths and Michael comes in at, I don't know, somewhere in the lower half. After Hendrix, the list is in no particular order and is not exhaustive in any case:

The List:
[1] Jimi Hendrix
[2] Otis Redding
[3] John Belushi
[4] Natalie Wood
[5] Curtis Mayfield
[6] Richard Pryor
[7] Gilda Radner
[8] Phyllis Hyman
[9] Isaac Hayes
[10] Bernie Mac
[11] Minnie Riperton
[12] John Lennon
[13] Marvin Gaye
[14] Michael Jackson
[15] Luther Vandross
[Honorable Mention] Barry White, Eddie Kendrick, Levi Stubbs, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin.

Don't get me wrong: Michael Jackson was a supremely talented man who tried to make the world a better place through his music and humanitarian efforts. He meant a lot to a majority of people whose lives he touched and he will justifiably be missed (even by me) and mourned. I am saddened by his death. I'm just trying to understand why I'm not more moved by it.

For the record, my favorite Michael Jackson song is "The Lady In My Life," which saw a lot of air time on WHUR's Quiet Storm back in the Melvin Lindsay days, although there are many more that I liked as well. I remain more drawn to Michael Jackson's ballads than his dance music.

I'm sure others (entertainers I will miss) will pop into my head but R.I.P. all of them including Michael. And Steve McNair, too.


Danielle said...

I've been trying to figure out why this feels so personal, actually. Because I definitely didn't expect to feel upset, especially since I didn't know the man, you know?

I guess when a figure like that is such a huge part of your childhood and his music and his videos (Thriller! Bad! Remember the Time! Smooth Criminal!) is a part of so many happy memories, and reminiscent of more innocent times, it makes you bummed out to know that not only is he gone, but at a relatively young age.

I do think you make a good point though, in that he seemed to be in a lot of psychic pain, and now his suffering's over.

I was definitely bummed out when Richard Pryor died, the weekend Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes died, and when James Yancey (aka J Dilla) died. I don't know if you know his work, he was a hip-hop producer (he actually sampled the Jackson 5's "All I Do Is Think Of You" to brilliant effect on his album Donuts) who died in 2006 at age 32 from lupus. I don't know if you're into hip-hop (I'm not into a lot of it these days myself) but even if you aren't, I think you would like him.

I don't know. I'm always saddened when people who have inspired me pass on, even when they've led long, full lives. The world's a little different when they're gone.

Dr. F. said...

Thanks, Dani. I appreciate your reasoning and the depth of your caring about Michael and others you have lost.

I had to modify my post somewhat because even before your comments I became concerned that I may have been (at least perceived as) too mean-spirited and shrill.

I also wanted to list my favorite Michael Jackson song, though there are many I like.

My appreciation of hip-hop is most keenly focused on the music of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott (do they count?) Don't know Dilla but I will check him out on your recommendation.