Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The King is dead, Long live the King

In the summer of 1984 I happened to watch Michael Jackson do his moonwalk on TV and that performance was so graceful and powerful that I remember not blinking during the entire performance. It was a performance the likes of which I had never seen any entertainer perform, and immediately I was hooked onto the Michael Jackson bandwagon. Of course what happened afterwards with “Thriller” and everything else is now history. There was brashness and confidence about this young man and it looked like he was born for the spotlight. It was only obvious that Michael Jackson swept the Grammy’s, despite showing up in that cheesy and flashy navy-like outfit, and evoked unprecedented mass hysteria wherever he went. Madonna and MJ ruled the roost in the 80’s and the 90’s, and it seemed they could do no wrong. Growing up we spent innumerable hours trying to perfect the moonwalk and accentuate our pelvic thrusts. Some of Jackson’s songs like ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Thriller’ evoke nostalgic memories for their coordinated dance numbers. The songs as such, were not much to write home about, but the dance choreography was really something else. Since Thriller happened to be inspired by ‘An American Werewolf in London’, me and my buddies suffered through this mediocre movie as well. Annual college day functions were incomplete without a Jackson song medley with the resident college star shaking his rump trying to emulate the original gloved one.

And then things started going horribly wrong. It started with the hair that got set on fire during shooting of the Pepsi commercial. This was followed by the cosmetic transformations which were steady fodder for late night parodies and constant media scrutiny. There were accompanying stories like sleeping in the bubble, friendship with the Chimp and Macaulay Culkin, infatuation with Diana Ross, Peter Pan fixation, Neverland, the short lived marriages and then the pedophilia charges. Too much weirdness. The complete deconstruction of an American icon into a freak show, a source of ridicule and unending snickering the world over. Despite having being acquitted of all the charges in the latest media sham court case, his persona has taken a beating. Michael Jackson will never again be viewed in the same light or capturing the dizzying heights of adulation that earned him the epitaph ‘King of Pop’. Whatever happens to these super achievers? It seems like the bigger they are the harder they seem to fall. Icons like Brando, Elvis, Liz Taylor, Maradona and many others reduced to mere caricatures of their former selves. Seems like there is truth to the adage ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, at least for some of these megalomaniacs. Whatever is the truth behind Michael Jackson’s pedophile charges, will now stay under a cloud forever. Even if that could be disregarded the other eccentricities are piled up way too high for any semblance of normal human behavior. With his career almost non-existent, his vast fortunes now spend and public goodwill squandered, Michael Jackson will be wishing for a life on the moon even if the courts on earth let him walk a free man. As for me, the moonwalk will never be done any better by anyone else.

Robert Hilburn has an excellent article on Michael Jackson in Yahoo news. Check it out.


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