I guess considering I comment on pop culture things on this blog I should make some reference to the events of yesterday. Although it perhaps says something that I was more upset when the rumours of Jeff Goldblum dying were swirling about there for awhile than upon hearing of the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I was also just asked outside the post office by a CBC reporter if I wanted to comment on Jackson's death. My reaction was a touch more....vehement than I would have imagined.
Anyway, Fawcett's death truthfully has little impact on me. I was too young to appreciate her in her prime. It was 1976 when she was on Charlie's Angels. I was six years old at the time, living in Newfoundland and we didn't have cable TV. So by the time I became really aware of who she was, she was spoken about more as a person who had been big once, but wasn't any longer and nobody figured she would ever be again. She was a fading sex symbol.
I appreciate she occupies a certain place on the cultural landscape, but at least to me she was kind of always a third string Marilyn Monroe. It's too bad she died, but people die of cancer every day. I feel bad for those people too.
As for Jackson, well, that's certainly a more complicated matter. Jackson was certainly big years before I had ever heard of him, but when Thriller broke in 1982 I was 12 years old. And if ever there was an album designed to be played over and over again when you're 12, Thriller was it. I must have driven my parents nuts, sitting on the front step with friends, listening to the songs on my JVC ghetto blaster.
"Beat it" had a guitar rift that I liked, "Billie Jean" was the kind of pop song you liked at that age because you knew there was more going on in the lyrics than you understood, which was cool. And "Thriller" was the kind of song/video every geek could love, what with werewolves, zombies, Vincent Price and whatnot. I remember taping Friday Night Videos at 2:30 am (because my parents wouldn't let me stay up that late and watch it) on the Betamax so I would see the world premiere of the "Thriller" video.
"The girl is mine" with Paul McCartney sucked, though. Even at 12, I knew that song sucked. But that's all right, you're allowed one complete clunker on that album.
This might seem strange, but there are two other people I think of when I contemplate Jackson's death - Arthur C. Clarke and Princess Diana. Bear with me on this for a minute.
When charges were laid against Clarke for being involved with small boys, that rocked me pretty hard. Clarke was one of the most important authors in my life growing up, along with Stephen King and Isaac Asimov. The notion that he might be a pedophile made it hard for me to look at his writings seriously for many year. There was a taint on them for me. And even though all charges were dismissed and Clarke strongly denied he was anything like that, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a residual effect to those charges and how I view his legacy.
Now amplify that by a thousand and that's how I view Jackson. Yes, he was a musical genius for decades, but that impact has long since been tainted, for me at any rate, by his strange behaviour and, more importantly, the many allegations that he may have molested young boys. I can never listen to his music and get any kind of enjoyment out of it again because of that. I can work through it with some difficulty with Clarke. That's never happening with Jackson. I'll always believe that if not for who he was and his money, Jackson is in prison or a mental facility for the last 10 of more years.
And where does Princess Diana come in? When Diana died she'd been a joke for years. Whatever good she had done in her life for AIDS charities, landmines and the poor had been overwhelmed by her poor personal decisions and the fact that many people now viewed her as nothing but tabloid fodder. And if she were still alive I have no doubt the tabloid frenzy and poor decisions would have continued unabated.
As hard as it is, I think it was a mercy when she died. "Thank god that's over," I was naive enough to think at the time. It wasn't, of course. It still isn't, in some ways. But it's nowhere near as bad as when she was alive.
Same thing with Jackson. He was a sick and disturbed man and I had no hopes of him becoming any better. There was no more great music going to come out of him. I strongly suspect his children are probably deeply damaged as well by now, although I hope I'm wrong. I think it's a mercy he's dead. I think it would have been a mercy for him to have dropped dead 10 years ago.
That might not be a popular view, but after watching some of the coverage and thinking about it, that's how I feel. So fire away...
1. Zooropa - U2
2. Walk on by - Diana Krall
3. Outskirt of town - Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
4. Shut your eyes (live) - Snow Patrol
5. Big love - Fleetwood Mac*