by Mitchell Warren
Once upon a time, a boy named Michael Joseph Jackson made a deal with the Devil. And because of that deal, some say he gained the world but lost his soul. It is quite eerie and mysterious, if you think about it, how this one man, who virtually appeared out of nowhere, acquired unprecedented fame and incalculable fortune in a conspicuously short period of time. Even at a very young age, the music industry called Jackson a King among men. Even though countless years had already passed, and the music industry had already seen icons and legends come and go, like Elvis Presley, John Lennon and the Stones, this one man—a child in many respects—was still capable of turning the music world upside down and making history.
No doubt, Jackson revolutionized music for the here-and-now MTV generation. He was an innovator of song and dance, described by his peers as a master of his craft, even a genius. Some said the way he sang and danced was so amazing it was almost supernatural. Some compared Jackson’s movements to an angel, and others, to a demon. Movies like Men in Black even portrayed a very wicked thought that he was an alien doing a poor job masquerading as a human being.
Jackson’s otherworldliness will no doubt continue to separate him from the musical archives and isolate his legacy as royalty, something monumentally achieved only once a generation. Jackson is the Gen X’s answer to Elvis Presley, a prince who became a king, and a life that we vicariously shared through the media. He is also Gen Y’s answer to John Lennon, an iconic and politically incorrect media shyster that brilliantly promoted himself even while outwardly dreaming of a perfect, not-quite-possible paradise world of tomorrow.
His controversial personal life will only help in characterizing him as one of the great eccentrics of modern time. Jackson’s weird behavior transcends the self-destructive spiral of Elvis and the bare-ass posing of Lennon and aims to an even more perverse level worthy of Howard Hughes or King Solomon. The fact that so much of Jackson’s legacy is stained with the voices of violated children and angry business associates makes us wonder if indeed the Devil came to collect on Jackson’s soul about twenty years too early. It also reminds us of the familiar tragedy that is the American Dream: where else but in America could a brilliant black man die as a white woman; where else could the world’s most successful singer die $200 million dollars in debt?
Jackson’s life, when not triumphantly reaching for the stars, painfully reminds us that the answer to happiness is not merely hidden in money, power, sex or fortune. In the weeks prior to his death, Jackson was reluctantly going on a world tour in an effort to pay off some debt. Everyone claimed he looked sickly and unprepared for the ordeal. The question is, was Michael pushing himself beyond physical limits or did no one think to stop him from exerting himself? We can only imagine the devil’s cachinnations, as Michael’s brow-beaten and concert-beaten body is finally lowered into the ground.
Jackson’s legacy will not only be remembered but will continue to dazzle and dwarf the American zeitgeist. His musical style, his theatricality and his grieved androgynous high tenor voice, will continue to permeate much of what we hear musically in the 21st century. He is the type of god, the type of king, the type of master teacher capable of eliciting worship from our own self-chosen idols like Madonna, Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Eddie Van Halen, Sheryl Crow, Mariah Carey (and the list goes on). People say you can tell a lot about a person’s life from the genuine praise that his friends give him. What does Jackson’s collection of star-struck, obsequious eulogies say about him?
I suspect Jackson’s legacy will never die in the minds and hearts of his enemies, critics, friends and fans. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Jackson’s ghostly face continues to haunt Never Land long after his death, or that MJ sightings continue to be reported in nightclubs all across the world. Never dying would be a fitting tribute to the real life Peter Pan, a boy that rebelliously and meekly chose to never grow up.
In the end, I can’t help but think that Jackson’s lyrics for his 1982 hit Beat It somehow symbolized his own view of how the world would one day come to betray him.
They’re Out To Get You, Better Leave While You Can
Don’t Wanna Be A Boy, You Wanna Be A Man
You Wanna Stay Alive, Better Do What You Can
So Beat It, Just Beat It
You Have To Show Them That You’re Really Not Scared
You’re Playin’ With Your Life, This Ain’t No Truth Or Dare
They’ll Kick You, Then They Beat You,
Then They’ll Tell You It’s Fair
So Beat It, But You Wanna Be Bad
Jackson’s death was imminent, and by lacking the courage to get out of the public eye or compromise his lifestyle for the politically-correct, Sarah Palin-esque mentality of the United States, he let “US” destroy him. Fortunately, his legacy will continue to be something untouchable to the masses, somewhere between heaven and the stars, though his life was always at the Devil’s disposal.