Say whatever you want about Michael Jackson. He was one bad MF, and his dying at 50 after having apparently drifted out of the solar system long before then is one of the greatest losses pop music will ever know. Since there are, at the moment, approximately 17,448,293 reverent online tributes to the late King of Pop, I will keep this short.
Like so many, I remember when I Want You Back hit the street and was blaring from every loudspeaker in existence in 1969. We were all jabbering to one another about this superhuman 11-year-old boy who sang as if he had already lived a hundred lives of heartbreak. Maybe he had. And of course there was the song's body-melting orchestration with strings and every other instrument known to man, and that gorgeous Phil-Spector-on-steroids intro that practically had you weeping before the singing even started. And the so-called B side? Who's Lovin' You, one of the great shattered-heart songs of all time. I challenge you to make it through the extended vocal coda, with Michael finally breaking upward a full octave at the end, and keep your composure.
But we know all of this, and all that came after. And we all have our perplexity about What-The-Hell-Happened-To-Michael, with the nose and the skin and the whispery perpetually pre-pubescent voice and the chimp and the Lisa Marie marriage and the baby on the balcony and the allegations about little boys at Neverland and the rest of the awful circus. A beautiful genius of a black man literally sliced into a creature we couldn't recognize. It's a story partly about race, partly about family, partly about Hollywood, partly about outer space. That's the story, mind you, the narrative we thread together. The truth, though, is something we will never know. Even the most definitive autopsy and toxicology report will never give us, really, the cause of Michael Jackson's death. If you know what I mean.
So, as with every death, we are left with what he left us.
In the documentary film Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger delivers the best summation of the meaning of Hendrix's death -- and, almost presciently, of Michael Jackson's death -- I have ever heard. Jagger basically says, and I'm paraphrasing from memory here: I don't know anything about Jimi's private business or whether he was a casualty or any of that. All I know is he was the best rock act, the most original, and I miss him, and I wish he was still here. And that's it.
Yeah. That's it.