If you’re my age, plus or minus a couple years, then Michael Jackson’s music was part of your life. And yeah, later, he became a troll in his own life, poisoned by celebrity and the weird depredations that lifestyle brings, awash in money and adulation but desperate for love and acceptance in a genuine, human manner — but the man could write a catchy tune. For me, it’ll always be Thriller. That was the one that stuck in my head. It was catchy, fun and smart. There’s a lot going on in that video, self referential and PoMo long before that became popular in pop music. And the zombies and the symbolism, but the music. Man! When you’re eight years old and you hear that opening synth bit, you just want to go howl at the moon. That was childhood distilled.
And probably that will be his legacy. Looking past the stunted man who never had a childhood, obsessed with a fairy tale purity of innocence he could never reclaim,making music that for an entire generation, will remind them of summer afternoons, riding bikes and watching horror movies way past their bed time.
I don’t believe in an afterlife, but there’s some consolation in oblivion. No more pain and longing, no more aching emptyness at a life mangled by fame and celebrity. In death, we can all forget the tragedy and remember the beauty.