Had Michael Jackson died in 1984, it is very likely that I would have locked myself in my room for weeks. I would have been inconsolable with grief, my ten year old heart would have shattered into a million fragments and my parents would be mystified by the spell over which a pop icon could cast over their child.
But that is fiction.
In the nonfiction version of things, I have always felt a curious connection with Michael. Now that bond has taken a strange twist: My boyhood idol is dead, having suffered a cardiac arrest on my birthday, June 25.
It’s a hell of a way to mark the occasion.
Michael turned himself into an easy target for ridicule. I judged him on his appearance and preyed on his eccentricities. Like a bully in the school yard, I built myself up by tearing him down. Now the compensation for my actions is a guilty conscience.
Michael’s death has brought a strange reprieve, of sorts. As a fan that once wished him nothing but the best it had been difficult to watch him, at times, put forth nothing but his worst. No longer need I endure watching a man who I once loved so much inflict so much hate upon his own self.
Death has a way of magnifying one’s celebrity; Jesus Christ, James Dean or Tupac Shakur can demonstrate this truth. Michael did not have to overdose on painkillers to secure his immortality. His death calls to attention the greatness we already knew existed but had long forgotten about.
Fair or not, Michael’s artistic talents will be overshadowed by the way he lived his life. But only in life did Michael make sense.
Death just doesn’t seem to suit him very well.