The world mourns at the unexpected death of Michael Jackson yesterday. Truth is, he died long ago.
The man who died yesterday was not Michael Jackson. The man who died yesterday was a husk, an empty shell, a chitinous membrane of the original. The man who died yesterday was not Michael Jackson, but a media concoction, a fantasy, a freak. I mourned for the real Michael long ago, as I stared at the stand-in that took his place with a mixture of horror and fascination, trying to determine if he was even human any more.
I was 12 years old when Michael Jackson released the greatest pop album of all time, “Thriller.” I remember being totally blown away — utterly enthralled — by the music. I thought Michael Jackson was the most talented man on the planet.
A year later, Michael was still riding the “Thriller” wave, and the moonwalk took over the world. I spent much time up in my room, trying to perfect my own version of the moonwalk. I could never quite get it right. If I was on the moon, I must have been wearing lead-lined gravity boots.
Michael, on the other hand, made it look like he really was moving in zero gravity, effortlessly flowing backwards while appearing to the eye to be walking forward. He looked like he truly was on the moon. Sadly, it was not long after this that it began to seem like he was from the moon, too.
It was about 1985 when Michael, 27 at the time, died. He had come out with the greatest pop album ever, which has now sold more than 28 million copies. He had been to the mountaintop. He knew there was never going to be a return visit. There never was.
The focus of his fans and the world began to shift. It was no longer about his music — the story was now just about Michael himself. When the focus of the story switched from Michael the artist to Michael the man, everything began to fall apart. Michael spiralled down with the story. We all stood around and watched as the toilet that had become his life flushed.
Michael died that day in 1985, the day the focus shifted from his music to his crazy life. In my mind, he plunged from being a great artist and entertainer to being a freak; an alien being; the breathing embodiment of the parable of Icarus flying too close to the sun. He had flown too close; he had gone too high; he had been burned.
The tale of Michael Jackson is a tragic one. He reached greatness too young. He had too much fame. He had too many fans. He never was able to become his own man. He was forever stuck trying to regain his former glory. He was forever stuck trying to reclaim his youth.
If we are stuck trying to reclaim the glory of the past, if we are trapped in a losing battle to retain our youth, we are already dead. Michael died long ago. I think he knew it, too.
Rest in peace, Michael Jackson (1958-1985).