1st Anniversary of Michael Jackson's Death

Sometimes in our grief, great art is there to help us through. Shakespeare has a sonnet that speaks about the nature of love, stating that love “bears it out even to the edge of doom.” I was thinking about this line today, this “edge of doom.” Taken out of context from the sonnet, in my life there have been times when I felt like I was at that precipice, that “edge of doom.” It was a terrible loneliness.

I was a child. Young people have incredibly strong emotions, but they don’t have the abilities that adults have to deal with these emotions. I was a lost boy, helpless and hopeless. No one understood, and even though people cared about me and people loved me, I felt very much alone. I think, if we’re honest, we can all remember a time like that.

In those moments, and there were many of them when I was a child, Michael Jackson comforted me. I saw in him loneliness and a longing that I felt within myself. I saw in him love and joy that I felt within myself. I saw him finding himself in his art the way I wanted to find myself. Or was it lose myself in art and creativity? Sometimes it seems like it’s the same thing (as Michael sang in his song Speechless: “…I am in the light, where I cannot be found.”)

In my tribute song to Michael Jackson, I wrote “To me you were my mother, father brother.” Since I’m performing Michael (The One And Only) at a Memorial in Harlem on Friday, I’ve been practicing it and was wondering about this lyric of mine. It makes no sense. How could he be all three things? Or any of them? Especially since I do have great parents who love me and have even been comforting me even today as grieve. Emotionally, he was these things. When I was so lost and lonely, it was Michael who pulled me through, who served as inspiration, mentor and mirror. Sometimes an emotional truth trumps logic. Or as Michael once said “I’m Peter Pan in my heart.”

This experience of Michael as brother, Michael as savior, seemed unique to me, as if only I felt this way. But when I looked and look around the world, I see there are millions of people who feel the way I do. This doesn’t count the more casual fans who simply like his music. There are millions more of those. But to millions of us, he is “our Michael,” transcending language, culture, class, race, and nations.

Bruce Springsteen once said about another icon of his generation, Elvis Presley: “It’s like he came along and whispered a dream in everybody’s ear, and then we all dreamed it somehow.” We all dreamed the dream that was Michael Jackson. And whether we loved him passionately to the brink of doom as I did or had ambivalent feelings, he captivated us, spoke to us and captured us. When I say “captured,” I don’t simply mean that he captured our attention. Yes, he did command our attention, whether moon walking at Motown 25 or simply clapping for 5 seconds on top of a car). I mean that he was us. Michael is US. And of course he isn’t us at all. All great artists are full of contradictions. Perhaps the greater the artist, the greater the contradiction.

A final thought. I was speaking with a friend of mine today. She is a Chinese woman in her 70s. We were both sad about Michael. She said to me “There will never be anything like him again.” I agreed with her but I told her I thought that culturally, there are and will be other phenomena that capture the public’s imagination as Michael did. “Look at Harry Potter,” I said, “or Star Wars.”

“But those weren’t REAL!” she told me. “Michael was REAL! Moonwalk was REAL!” She’s right. Michael wasn’t someone else’s creation in an alternate universe. He was our creation, or his creation, but in our universe. He was real and his music was honest and spoke to our deepest hearts, our greatest yearning and our brink of doom. And now he is gone.

I miss you Michael.



“Every song you ever sang was true
We wish that we could give the same to you
Michael, you know we’ll always love you!”

- Michael (The One And Only)

1 comment

  • Anne

    Anne

    Beautiful!

    Beautiful!

Add comment