I wasn’t a fan, really. Apart from pulling over on the Tri-State tollway one night after some underage drinking to dance to “Billie Jean”, I hadn’t had many interactions with his music. But Michael Jackson was unavoidable.
He was a complicated soul. His was a life made difficult by fame and wealth. Following in the sad tradition of pop stars like Elvis Presley and Brian Wilson, Jackson was surrounded by parasites that had his earnings potential, and not his well-being, at heart.
In that peculiar kind of warpage that fame and wealth brings, Jackson’s delusions ruled. Tell the mad king no and you were likely out of what was a very cushy and very well-paying job.
As with Elvis, no one cared enough about the human being to rock the boat. Tip the apple cart. No one organized an intervention. No one informed Jackson we’re not going along with this. Individual job security and access to the star prevailed.
Warren Zevon had Jackson Browne. Michael Jackson had pharmacists.
Jackson had his faults, to be sure. But I wonder how many of his problems never would have materialized had Thriller not sold a hundred bazillion copies, elevating him to something just this side of saint-slash-miracle-worker.
There was no way it could be sustained. There was nowhere to go but down. Gravity, like rust, never sleeps.
Add to that the means to indulge a denial of the very genetic connection he shared with his father and the exit from reality was complete. From there, it was only a question which would run out first: his money or his need to distance.
We were different, he and I. Michael Jackson never heard no. It often seems that I hear little else. Yet Michael was the ultimate square peg. A square peg perhaps fatally misunderstood. A square peg we felt free to cast aspersions on and to judge.
I don’t believe he ever molested a child. He struck me as mostly uninterested in sex. An eccentric but gentle man who only wanted a loving, peaceful world free of the turmoil his was full of. It was a beautiful and noble delusion.