In the Wall Street Journal, Bill Wyman (no, not the former bass player with the Stones) writes, “Am I the only one who sensed, amid the raucous hoopla that followed Michael Jackson’s death, something antiquated in the air?”
The hip-hop era, profane and insistent, [and also surprisingly antiquated — Ed] continues with little obvious influence owed to the supposed King of Pop. Superstar franchises like Bruce Springsteen, the Police and the Rolling Stones [ditto — Ed] efficiently sweep across the world’s stages, pulling in $300 million, $400 million, even a half billion dollars. Jackson barely appeared live in the last dozen years of his life.
Jackson’s fame was a simulacrum from another era — or eras, to be precise, because he managed to glide effortlessly out of the slightly musty world of 1970s soul into the bright and incandescent MTV age of the early ’80s. But that was more than 25 years ago, before Public Enemy or Nirvana, before Eminem, Jay Z or Lil Wayne.
There was another way Jackson seemed from a previous time. And that is the obsession with victimhood that ran through all of the commentary and memorials that followed his death.
Marlon Jackson, one of the original members of the Jackson Five, gave this version of his late brother’s life at the memorial service: “Being judged, ridiculed — how much pain can one take? Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone.” The Rev. Al Sharpton got the crowd cheering with his litany: “He outsang his cynics, he outdanced his doubters, he outperformed the pessimists. Every time he got knocked down he got back up!”
Even the head of AEG, the promoter of the series of London concerts Jackson was set to perform, hit this note in Billboard: “To me, the success of [the memorial] is measured by the fact that I think we were able to really humanize my friend and erase those caricatures that the press had created of him.”
From Brooke Shields to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas) everyone was on message, echoing the talking points Jackson himself threw up in the shadowy years before his death. Somehow or other Jackson convinced himself — and seemingly, his family and partisans — that he wasn’t a powerful musical superstar. He was instead a victim of some mysterious stew of health maladies, public persecution, and secret sadnesses that, we were to understand, made this frail man-child shiver with fear.
The reality is different.
Read the rest, which dovetails remarkably well with Mark Steyn’s obit for Jackson.
Update: On the other hand, this is more than a little scary to watch: found via Hot Air, Us magazine has a newly released video of Jackson’s 1984 Pepsi commercial gone awry, resulting in the singer’s scalp and face being burned. Us bills it as “How Michael Jackson’s Pill Addiction Began” — which again implies the same sort of passive victimhood that Wyman decries above.