There’s probably no more contentious name in all of pop culture than Michael Jackson. His sudden death doesn’t change that. This post isn’t a rehashing of the news stories we all know already, nor is it a defence or attack on his well-known odd personal life. This is just a personal reflection.
I’m probably not someone who could be called a “fan”; in fact, I disliked much of his music in the 1970s. One of my first 45s was the Jackson Five’s “Little Bitty Pretty One”, given to me when I was quite sick, and I played it even though I didn’t exactly like it (oddly, with age, much of that music I now like).
The first and only Michael Jackson album I bought was “Thriller”, at a time when everyone I knew owned a copy. It was the soundtrack for my early years out of university because the songs were, quite literally, everywhere. There were albums I liked more, songs I was more likely to hum to myself, but that album alone was present unlike any other. And, yes, I liked it.
It wasn’t long after that that Michael became, well, weird. We all could see that, and there’s no sense pretending we didn’t. We now know that most or all of Michael’s weird behaviour can be directly traced to a seriously fucked-up childhood and an abusive father. That was Michael’s tragedy.
But his gift to us was genuine feel-good music that permeated our lives, whether we wanted it to or not. Michael Jackson provided the American score for the 80s, a decade that was hugely overshadowed by others, Europeans and Britons especially.
So, Michael is gone, and his own, personal struggles are ended. As a non-fan, I recognise the wealth of what he left behind, music that will endure when most of today’s "hot hits" are long forgotten. We are, whether we admit it or not, whether we like it or not, the richer for it.
Goodbye, Michael. I wish you’d found happiness in this life, but I thank you for the happiness you brought to mine.