Child prodigy, music genius, superstar, icon, nutcase, alleged predator, dead man.
Michael Joseph Jackson probably touched more lives with his music than any other artiste, living or dead. Yet, there’s deep irony that his own crazy story can be summed up in such few words.
The facts of his life and death are playing through the news cycle right now, and the sheer volume of the global response seems to have brought massive news websites to their knees. This could well have been an international head of state or monarch.
And he ruled, didn’t he? Whether it was his miraculously original, massively infectious music that plays equally well in a hip club or a ganpati mandal. Or the complicated signature moves that inspired an entire generation to sprinkle talc and skid-walk. Or even the breathtakingly overproduced, path-breaking videos that defined a new art form.
MJ’s popularity, his ‘brand’ transcended boundaries of every kind, geography, age, colour, language. We all have important life milestones around an MJ song. I proposed to my girlfriend (and now wife) at the Bombay concert, even as she shrieked and shed tears for Miiiiiiichael-I-love-yooooooou!
He ruled our hearts, sure. But then he overran our imaginations with that larger-than-fiction Peter Pan life. The palatial amusement park/zoo/home, the gazillion-dollar shopping sprees, the nose-jobs, the white gloves, the hysteria, the legendary wedding, all fed and fertilised by the emerging celebrity crap-gossip media, took him to demi-god status. And also set him up for the denouement featuring scandal, whether real, fake or embellished.
There is probably an unassailable law of nature that governs lives of this un-frickin-believable size, scale and strangeness. Like the other King, his father-in-law Elvis, before him, the devolution into self-destructive ignominy seems inevitable. We never stopped believing in him, never stopped loving his music, but somewhere inside we knew this wouldn’t end well.
And as I watch the news channels roll out their stodgy-dodgy inaccurate tributes, I know that some folks will profit from this. Some anonymous hack somewhere will be writing another pulp-job behind the stories of his crazy last days. The memorabilia market will skyrocket. There will be yet another ‘definitive documentary’. The music label will predictably see a massive windfall with in-memoriam box sets.
The loss will be ours. Moonwalk on your cloud, Michael. We love yooooooouu…
Saurabh Kanwar is VP- content and communication, Channel [V]