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Michael Jackson: Speak A Good Word

Michael Jackson died yesterday. I wish I could say this came as a shock. Though I didn’t know anything about his health or recent condition, somehow I just found myself unsurprised. And profoundly sad.

In deciding to write this, I went through many thoughts on why I feel able to be sad about Michael’s death and to even say positive things about him when I would not extend the same charity to other flawed artists. For example, when Ike Turner died I was unwilling to allow his talent to overshadow my feelings about his history as an abuser. And if R. Kelly were to die today I would think it was a shame, but I would not mourn. In the former case I don’t have much opinion on the talent of the individual; in the latter, I do feel that the man has a lot of talent, but I can’t separate that from the disgust I feel at his sexual adventures with underage girls.

So why don’t I feel the same about Michael?

I can’t give you a good answer. Perhaps because I feel like, whatever Michael is alleged to have done, I can see how the damage done to him in life could have led to it. Doesn’t excuse it, certainly. But it allows me to personally look past it to the good things about him: his music.

The first music video I ever saw was Thriller and I was around 3 years old. My aunt was excited to have me watch it, my mother thought it was too scary for me. But in the end my aunt won and I tried to match those dance moves all night. Michael’s music has been in my ear since before I was born. And before I was five I could sing all the lyrics from every song on Thriller and a bunch from his Jackson 5 days, too.

I was too young at the time to understand the implications behind Michael being the first black artist on MTV. As an adult I still feel a sense of incredulity when I think about that. In the 80s there was still a need for someone’s talent to transcend their race. But Michael did and music (and television) is all the better for it.

The first record I bought with my own money was Bad. Dangerous and HIStory were the first CDs I ripped to MP3. I know that in my music-listening life there has rarely been a month that’s gone by without my listening to some of his music. It seemed like everything he set himself to do he did really well. The singing, the dancing, even the acting.

The videos! Oh goddess, the man pioneered music videos as cinema. Thriller did us all in, but as I sit here searching YouTube I’m reminded of so many more. Remember the Time, Black or White, Smooth Criminal (the long cut), Bad, Jam

I saw him in concert once when he was touring after Bad came out. It was… amazing. He was a machine. Dancing, singing, never stopping for hours. He gave the crowd everything and then he went on to do it every night for everyone else. It increased my love for him ten-fold.

I think I mourned the MJ I adored many years ago. I had no expectation that he’d make a satisfactory comeback, though I would have been happy to be surprised. It all ended sometime after HIStory for me. Invincible didn’t impress, Blood on the Dance Floor didn’t even register. I felt bad for that. But Michael changed, and not in the way he was able to change before to keep up and transcend.

Still, today I am sad. Because the image of him I have in my head is that amazing entrance to the stage for the Dangerous tour. He exploded out of the stage in a spray of fireworks and then just stood there, silent and still, for a full five minutes, with the bearing of a god. He knew he was good. He knew that, in those moments, he was a rock god. And then the music would start, and he would move, and the concert began, and everything else melted away.

Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson. You and James Brown can spend eternity trading moves. Maybe you’ll teach him to moonwalk.

28 thoughts on “Michael Jackson: Speak A Good Word”

  1. karnythia says:

    I think the lack of proof about Michael matters too. With R. Kelly and Ike Turner there was no question (at least in my mind) that they were proven abusers. Not so much with Michael.

  2. Moondancer Drake says:

    I’m damn tired of hearing people spout off against Michael Jackson about things that no one has the real facts about. People have been using him most of his life, taking whatever they wanted from him, without thinking about him as a person. I’m not all that surprised to see folks doing that to him at his death, like vultures picking at the fallen. What I know for a fact about Michael is that he opened doors, and tore down walls in popular music that have opened it up to millions of artists that wouldn’t have had a shot otherwise. The number of musicians he inspired is without measure, and for that I choose to honor him. As for the rest, I don’t know enough to judge, and I don’t think the people bashing him know any more then I do, though they seem to think it’s okay for them to judge without facts. Must be nice to be that above the need for proof that they can cast stones whenever they feel like it. I don’t believe I have that ability. Michael’s music touched me in a way few before or since have, and for that most of all I mourn his passing. May the King of Pop finally have the peace he was denyed for so very long.

  3. The Angry Black Woman says:

    This is my favorite pair of live performances by Michael. I love Will You Be There SO MUCH:

    Also, her’s what Al Sharpton had to say about Michael. It moved me. (I’m also going to be pissed if Michael is laid in state at the Apollo while I am not in NYC!)

  4. Jonquil says:

    “I think I mourned the MJ I adored many years ago.”

    Yes, this, this. And I also mourn the little kid who didn’t get the childhood he needed.

  5. Lenox Ave says:

    He was only 10 years older than me and I cannot remember a time in my life when his music was not present.

    I think we have difficulty dealing with human complexity. We like people to be either one way or the other, so that our lives are easier when it’s time to reconcile.

    I think Michael fits into this category. His brilliance and his frailty as a human being. I have find mmemories of him and his brothers.

    That will not change.

  6. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan says:

    I watched all the trial – the reconstruction, that is, but it was based on the transcripts, so I have a bit of an idea of what went down.

    And I do not think he ever hurt these children he became close to. The only thing that might have hurt them is that he had a tendency to become less interested in them as they grew older and a lot of them resented this. But I don’t think it was abuse. I think he was a seriously damaged person, capable of great tenderness and great betrayals, and that he was more good than bad for these children he sought out.

    I am sorry for him, I have been for a long time. He was obviously in quite a lot of pain. There was a lot about him that I didn’t like, but there was so much unhealable grief in there that I understand a lot.

  7. Byron says:

    What amazes me the details which are reported on his skin condition, the fact that he was never convicted of any sexual abuse, and then the fact that all of these points are ignored 20 seconds later when the same new anchor starts talking out of their ass about his legacy. It’s like people would much rather think of him as a child molester, even without proof. They’d rather think of him as a freak addicted to plastic surgery and ashamed of having dark skin than remember (20 seconds later) that he had vilitigo (sp?) and therefore a valid reason to start “changing his face.”

    The main constant I always noticed in him, although I was never more than an admirer and not a dedicated fan, was that he was like a child – in a good way. Endearing, sweet, optimistic. This is why he made great music!

  8. electra says:

    Im only 20 years old, but I grew up with MJ. I get a little ticked when people say remember him for the music. While admittedly he changed our world with it, there is nothing wrong with remembering the person because he was a good person. Remember the man who gave over 50million dollars, paid for countless medical bills for sick children, opened a burn center and found a child a lung! He was a great person, all his issues aside. The media wants to smear him and seeing as he’s a black man it doesn’t shock me. Bleach really?? What bleach is strong enough to do that. Show me another black person in the world that has changed their skin to that complexion. Im not turning him into a god, but the man didn’t have more plastic surgery than other stars but he was called a freak because of something that was out of his control(vitiligo). He didn’t have anymore faults than you or I, but his faults were always under a microscope and manipulated.

    I seriously pray for this world, when I turn on my tv and see vultures on cnn and the like making money off his death. Praising him yet always continuing that praise with unfounded negativity. Rest in peace michael, you are still loved by the world.

  9. Jaishree says:

    Thank you. I was looking up the net if *someone* had something good to say about him. People make mistakes.. even if something like child-abuse would be something I would not stand. I guess– being a soft person, I wouldn’t look at the negative things even if they dance naked in front of me.

  10. electra says:

    Oh and he found a *liver* not a lung, my bad. Either way, man in the mirror, heal the world, earth song, they don’t care about us, he went into africa before it was cool! this is a guy who cared about the social causes for the voiceless.

  11. Gabb!e says:

    ppl may say this or that about MJ
    but the truth is he was a great singer
    and he was also good looking
    and no one will ever erase that record
    people must not mix issues
    they should love him or hate him as a singer
    not hating for some issues about his personal life

  12. Gabb!e says:

    and ppl must now stop dogging around about him
    cause there is no purpose ‘his gone’.

  13. Placebo says:

    I am very sad about MJ’s passing.

    And you better believe the haters are going full-throttle. I just got banned from a forum I hang out at because I got into an argument with some unsavory individuals who were saying really terrible things about him. I was told by the moderators that these people were entitled to their opinion and I should basically shut up. When I refused to silence myself, I got the boot.

    What a rotten world we live in.

  14. Bindicated says:

    No kidding, Placebo. Good for you for sticking up for him. I am sick over all the revelry in these leaked details from the autopsy, and goodness knows whether any of it is true. Why can’t we just leave the man in peace? He had little peace in life and it makes me so sad to see that he’s not getting it in death either. RIP, MJ.

  15. electra says:

    Its just bad journalism. CNN and MSNBC reported the autopsy and debbie rowe claims which turned out to be untrue, but then never went back to report that what they had said before was baseless. Anderson Cooper had some man on last night who basically said that black people have turned MJ into a god even tho we’d deserted him last week. This man he had on was black and I felt like AC was allowing him to speak for all black people. I find them calling MJ a tragic character because they’re hell bent on making him one.

  16. George Farrell says:

    Micheal Jackson is no more disturbed than Salvadore Dali and his sureal paintings or Vinent VanGogh, who cut off his ear or Albert Einstien. Ultra Great people are always on the edge and creative genius is never appreiated in its day.

    The editors at CNN and MSNBC are now practicing tabloid news and getting updates from Twitter and Facebook and reporting anything as fact prior to doing any reasonable analysis.

  17. Eri says:

    It just horrifies me how people are so quick to judge and so insensitive to the people who loved Michael Jackson and might be watching the things said about him. People expected him to be flawless but forget that it’s impossible! The man did so many great things in his life, he should have earned a bit of privacy and certainly respect. I can’t stand watching the news, hearing them smear his name with no damn proof and grasping for any straws dangling before them. Have some respect for his poor mother and siblings, for his children! And be grateful for what he did for music and humanity….he definitely didn’t have to share anything with any of us. Don’t just remember him as an icon, but as a sweet and gentle man who was greatly generous. I hope he is finally at peace because God knows he didn’t have much of that on earth.

  18. Nisi Shawl says:

    Thanks, Tempest, for this post. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say about Michael’s death. I’ll go with your words.

    Friday night I was at a Clarion West party that also served as the opening event for the Locus Awards Weekend. I had a bad (racist) experience at a previous LAW, and had already decided not to waste my (or anyone else’s) hard-earned dollahs on ever going again. But I’m on the Clarion West board, so I went (for free). The Guest of Honor and Clarion West instructor that week was John Kessel, and he was teh gracious.

    Also speaking, though, was Christopher Moore, who made Michael Jackson jokes. Jokes. I won’t repeat them, but I will say I was not laughing. You hear me, Mr. Moore? I was not laughing. And I caught the tang of something burning, hair or skin or something. Just a psychic whiff of lynch. Not saying you put it out there, but I smelled it.

  19. David B. says:

    The cynical world we exist in, I suspect contributed to a lot of insecurities Michael had. In Quincy Jones’ recent interview, even he couldn’t believe half of Michael said about his illnesses and physical ailments, but it’s hard for me to believe *anyone* could do well in all the accolades lauded on Michael.

    He had extreme talent, he had extreme love and compassion, he had extreme song-writing/production capabilities, a very istute student of audio productions.

    His desire/struggle to regain not what he wanted, but what he thought the world wanted to see in him, eventually caved in on him. Like Elvis and others before him, he will be remembered forever.

    If he would have learned more from folks like Paul McCartney on how to survive the ineveitable rough times, Michael would be touring now..

    Perhaps now, his legacy will go unchallenged and finally inspire others to strike out and go their own route as well in this homogenous industry.

  20. Placebo says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of people, on various blogs, complaining because they think that MJ’s death is getting too much media coverage. He’s only been gone for a little over a week, and these vile creatures are saying that the coverage is “bothering” them and “going on and on”. WTF?

    Bindicated: I’ll always defend Mike. :) Some of the people on that forum were just pure scum. They kept telling me to “lighten up” and accused me of “taking things too seriously”. The mods basically came to the rescue of someone who is notorious for making racist comments (among other things). He practically gets away with murder on a daily basis, loves to verbally abuse anyone who disagrees with him, talks about how much he hates immigrants who are “draining the system” and talks bad about Latino women who get WIC (which is ironic, considering that this white man has openly admitted to applying for food stamps). The whole situation was just irksome. Talking bad about the dead just doesn’t sit well with me, and when the MJ bashers started their crap, I was determined to tell them off. It was worth the ban, even if I do feel I was treated unfairly.

  21. alady 21rose says:

    Micheal Joseph Jackson has been many name in his short life time. Many I believe were complete lies impressed upon fans and admirer’s by the media. I believe as people we must be careful who we put our mouth’s on. Because we hold life in death in the power of our tongue. It seems to me with all the speculations going around we take a moment. To pause and look at the real message of MJ’s look at the man in the mirror and make a change. YOu everyone is putting this man down it was obvious he had a skin condition. You don’t go from dark black to porcelin white. The man could not even stand out in the sun. And another thing that gets me how in the world could someone who donated so much to charities rape a child. Whose message was about healing and change could do something like that ? It doesn’t make any sense at all. BUt the real question now is wheather MJ was saved. I pray he made it in and think we need to start looking at ourselves.

  22. MuzeBl says:

    For me, Michael was an extremely happy part of my childhood. Besides living in a white suburb. We just didn’t have many black folks in the media. He didn’t just spotlight himself when he was a little squirt. He brought everyone who ever influenced him into the spotlight. Ben was my favorite song when I was little…shoot, it made me wanna be his rat! I used to wish for a friend like Michael…and Janet. Remember how cute she was when she came out?
    And then when he grew up and let us know what was in his heart. I know I wasn’t the only one to feel it.
    And WHY do people think that his money and fame made him happy? It’s NOT fun to be run down by a screaming mob of fans and picked apart under a very powerful microscope by the media. I had a nibble…it was unsavory. I couldn’t imagine my whole life like that. I wonder if people will learn anything from this? Why are people so hungry for all that tabloid garbage? Read a biography or something…sheesh!

  23. LV Henderson says:

    Michael J. was timeless. He’s been in my ear for 39 years. So now radio and tv has began playing his music again. What? As a hard core fanatic, I listen to it everyday. If you stopped listening to him after History, too bad. You missed out because he poured out his soul in “Blood on the Dance Floor”. He even screamed out for help with his addiction. He raged about that modern day lynching of a trial.

    In his later works, we behold Micheal Jackson, the Man. Not the little boy from the Jackson five, nor the young man from Thriller. He evolved and so did his music. Trouble is folks wanted to put him in a box. He complained about it constantly.
    The world will never understand what it must have felt like to be Michael Jackson his fame, superseded anything that anyone has ever seen. Far beyond ordinary celebrity. Elvis was not a world-wide phenomena. Folks in China and Russia were not big on the Beatles. There is no comparison. There will never be another Michael.

    I salute him. The quality of his work never diminished even with dealing with so many distractions and physical ailments. In the end it was too much for a mortal man to endure, many would have caved in eons ago. After the horrible Pepsi fire. His perseverance is a testimony that he was more than just an ordinary singer, celebrity, he was a warrior. He came, he saw, he conquered. When his enemies found out that they could not destroy him by slander and malicious attacks, they came for him and took him away from us.

    I hope that they know that their day is coming. It is only a matter of time for they have released generational curses upon their families for 100 years. Michael Jackson was a powerful force who was more than music, song and dance.

  24. Griselle says:

    He was a special person and he made great contributions to this world. There were many things in his life I didn’t agree with or liked, but I NEVER, NEVER thought of him as a child molester. I TRULY believe he was innocent and unfortunately was taking advantage of b/c of his wealth, generosity and fame. The manhad his faults but guess what SO DO WE!!! WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE!!!

  25. Regina says:

    I’ve been a fan of his since age 11, when my mother bought me the Off the Wall album. Michael was my first crush. I was in love with him from age 11-up to my college years. Alot of things happened with him that I as an outsider will never understand, but even after I grew up and my big crush on him cooled somewhat, I still loved his music. Michael was truly one of a kind. There will NEVER be another performer of his caliber. There will never be another voice like his, and nobody could ever dance with his precision and smoothness. Once in a lifetime, God sends an extraordinary person with superhuman abilities to the earth, and Michael was that person for our generation. I got into an argument with a coworker back in the 90’s defending him against those bogus child molestation charges. He was flawed like the rest of us, but a genius nonethless. I will miss you Michael. May you find the peace in death that you never found in life.

  26. femme noir says:

    I was with you until your last line, “maybe you’ll teach him to moonwalk.” I’m obviously older than you, and I remember that JB did it first – he called it “the camel walk.” When it became MJ’s “moonwalk,” it was like the passing of a creative torch.

  27. stactioa says:

    i wish michael jackson could be night i slept and thougth he touch my head singing (you are not alone). he could be the only king of pop for all i care.he could be the #1 star

  28. mc says:

    i miss you mj

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