Friday, June 26, 2009

The Man vs. The Artist

How do you reconcile and remember the life of an artist who was a troubled man? Coates schools --
I guess I could peel these people out my life. I guess I could stop seperating art from men. Regrettably, I think, I wouldn't be left with much art worth admiring. Sometimes awful people, do beautiful things. One doesn't cancel the other. And mourning the loss of human life, does not excuse the sins of that life.

Have You Seen My Childhood?

I don't have any of his albums on CD or on my iPod. I haven't been a true fan since I was a little girl. Yet Michael Jackson's passing is making things shift inside. It makes me sad and I feel like something irrevocable has been lost. Or maybe I just feel confronted by the loss of something I knew was long gone, but now it's just in a really tangible way. My father died five years ago yesterday. Maybe I'm just projecting or transferring or insert your favorite psycho babble term for not dealing with your shit here.

It's impossible for me, born in 1978, to think about Michael Jackson and not also think about my childhood.  I remember the purple Thriller tshirt that had an ironed on screenshot from the Thriller video on the front of it. It was a gift from my grandfather, who surely thought he was proving he still had it, still knew what was cool. I never wore it. It scared the crap out of me and remained, neatly folded and menacing, towards the back of my tshirt drawer. I would try my best to avert my eyes anytime I opened the drawer to hastily retrieve any shirt but it to wear.

I think about a VHS tape of the Motown 25 Special my father gave my sister Dana and I (I'm realizing now that all of us 80s-ites apparently had a copy)  and how we watched it over and over again with our friends. Our response as little girls to this move he busted out called the moonwalk as awed and enthusiastic as that crowd of music professionals and insiders on the tape. And then, I think about those same little girls being under the curious belief that the people that lived in their building would want to come and watch a choreographed (and much-rehearsed) dance performance set to several songs off of the "Bad" album. It turns out, people did actually come. But then that was the Bronx in 1987. We had the album on cassette and there was a lot of work put into getting all the cues right what with the technical challenges push button fast forwarding presented.

And as I talked to Dana this evening, while I marveled over the fact that this constant icon could be gone she was having a hard time getting over the fact that Michael Jackson could be fifty. But of course he is...was. I'm 30 now and Dana's 28. And isn't that strange and a wonder in itself? And there it is. The heart of the grieved outpouring and shock. How can we be here already? Living out the days when it's possible for our giants to fall. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When the Moonwalk Was Born

If there are uneducated young ones in your midsts who only remember the freak show, tell them you were there when the moonwalk was born. Or at least, you watched it on TV, which is the same thing to a tellyphile.

He kills it in the clip below from Motown 25, said to be the first time MJ did what would become his signature publicly .

Where Stars are Born and Legends Are Made

They're out en masse on 125th St tonight, all gathered underneath the legendary marquis of the Apollo Theater which reads:

In Memory of Michael Jackson, A True Apollo Legend: 1958-2009.

Vulture Watch

CNN: They've had some chick in a stakeout outside the gates of Neverland for some time. Larry King is talking to Cher. She doesn't disappoint, telling a story of when she wore beaded socks on a night out with Jackson. She says he kept saying, "Cher, I just love your socks! I love beaded socks!"

MSNBC: Being MSNBC, they are sure to follow the helicopter taking the body of Michael Jackson from the hospital to the coroner's office. Keith Olbermann who has been at the desk since around 6 PM EST or so, sans jacket makes a crass comment while the body is being moved from chopper to coroner van about this being his last appearance on television. Really, Keith? Really?

Also for some reason, they keep insisting on going to some fool hanger on attorney named Brian Oxman for comment. He's only able to keep retelling the same grim anecdote about hugging Jermaine and Randy at the hospital, unable to speak because of grief. He's undoubtedly skipping the part where he was promptly removed from their presence.

FOX NEWS: Two words: Geraldo Rivera. Oh, wait. Just when I thought it couldn't get douchier, TMZ's Harvey Levin is here!

And we all know one thing. Somewhere, Barbara Walters is pissed! This totally pwns her 20/20: Buzzard Edition on Farrah Fawcett that airs tonight. You know BW thought she had this in the ratings bag.

MTV is Playing Music Again

The Times takes note in their obituary.
As with Elvis Presley or The Beatles, it is impossible to calculate the full impact he had on the world of music. At his height, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world and has sold more than 750 million albums. Radio stations across the country reacted to his death with marathon sessions of his songs. MTV, which was born in part as a result of Mr. Jackson’s groundbreaking videos, reprised its early days as a music channel by showing his biggest hits.

Did You See Mike Hit that Lean?!

Only days ago, I was thinking about Michael because of this now prescient post by Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates (one of The Atlantic's impressive roster).
Mike used to be beautiful. My sister Kelly just knew she was marrying him. And he danced so smooth and easy. I hate to think that what gave him that ability, was the same thing that ruined him.
In another post, written a day later, Ta-Nehisi talks about his love for Smooth Criminal. I loved it too. It's one of the few songs with my name in the lyrics so as a little kid it always made me feel cool and then there was the video (below). When you see him dancing like that you realize what pretenders to the King of Pop crown dudes like Usher, Chris Brown and Timberlake really are.

Like TNC says, "Yo, did you see Mike hit that lean!"

Smooth indeed.

Michael Jackson

In the middle of watching Tyra of all things while visiting a friend today, a teenage girl "in crisis" (aren't they all) was interrupted so that a stricken looking newswoman in black could tell us that Michael Jackson is dead.

Let the media frenzy begin.