Saturday, June 27, 2009

MJ: His Music Lives On

In Aug last year, I wrote on his 50th birthday and now....

I do plan to write about Michael Jackson (MJ) again but I never thought I will be writing about his demise, in less than a year.

I caught the news yesterday morning shortly after his death was officially confirmed. It was unbelievable but I had no reason to doubt what I heard over the BBC. I tried to related the energetic MJ on stage to "cardiac arrest". They don't gel.

MJ's music is extraordinary and so is his life story.

His is called the King of Pop not for nothing. MJ was born in 1958, the seventh of the nine Jackson children. At age 6, he joined his brothers in the 'Jackson Five'. By age 8, he was the lead singer in the group. He later went solo and his "Thriller" album in 1982 became the the best-selling album for a long time (until it was overtaken by Eagles' Greatest Hits, 1971-1975, released in the late 90s.) His career was not built solely on his singing talent. In 1983, he thrilled the world with his signature dance move, the 'moon walk'.

His records were sold in the millions and his concerts grossed him hundreds of millions. He was due to begin his "comeback" concert next month in London but now he leaves his fans around the world feeling the loss.

His music is recognised across races, cultures and generations. I have no doubt that MJ is a genius in music and there has been little disagreement to that. However, when it comes to his personal life, his successful music career seems to pale next to the slew of controversial episodes in his rather short life.

Here are some:

Appearance - he went through a series of 'makeover' which drastically changed his look. Not only his facial features were altered, his color too. He was totally refabricated and defaced after three decades.

Health - He was reported to have slept in oxygen chamber so as to slow down his aging process.

Sexual abuse - He was accused of child molestation in 1993 and 2005. Even though he was not found guilty, the incidents tainted his life.

Marriage - He married and divorced twice. Once to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley and the second time, to his nurse.

Children - He fathered two children in his second marriage, Prince and Paris. He later fathered his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, aka 'Blanket', with an unidentified surrogate mother.

Finance - His foundation supports a whooping 39 charities and has been listed in the Guinness Record for that. On the other hand, his masses of assets seem insufficient to finance his spendthrift lifestyle.

Pet - He had an unusual pet: a chimpanzee named Bubbles.

MJ is just famous for being infamous. It is not difficult to understand how he has earned the nickname "Wacko Jacko".

When he came to Singapore in 1993 as part of the third leg of his 'Dangerous World Tour', I was amidst the 90,000 crowd. I was there on 29 Aug 1993 and together with thousands others, we 'celebrated' his 35th birthday. He was due to perform his second concert on the following day. However, he was reported to have taken ill and the show organiser had to announce the postponement right before a screaming crowd at the National Stadium. The concert resumed a day later on 1 Sep.

Watch this (rather blur) footage taken on that day of his birthday in 1993.

At that time, he was under a lot of stress, being away from his family for a long time and feeling the pressure of the on-going child abuse accusations. He began taking sedatives and later went into drug rehabilitation.

When I wrote on his 50th birthday on 29 Aug 2008 (Every Dog Has Its Day), 15 years after I witnessed this music genius on stage, he was keeping an unusually low profile. He stayed away from the media and behaved rather reclusively.

After a long absence, his much awaited "This Is It" concert was meant to begin from 13 Jul 09 till 6 Mar 2010. Pre-sale began in March 09 and his fans rushed to get the tickets online, causing the pre-sale ticket sites to crash within minutes. It was reported that two million people tried to grab the tickets within 18 hours. I am truly amazed at his never diminished charm.

Life is full of ironies. MJ has to die 18 days before his planned show. With that, all the 50 shows over the next nine months are cancelled. Millions of fans who were expecting his astonishing comeback can only say "this is it" with huge disappointment and sadness.

The news of MJ's's death spread like wild fire over the media, text, email and social networking sites such as Facebook and Tweeter. The spread of the news caused a spike in Internet traffic as millions of worldwide users tried to access and share information. It seems that the news has generated a high volume of tweets, exceeding that during Obama's election.

MJ was born black but died white. I do not know for sure if he has yearned to turn white or his skin condition has indeed lightened his color. In "Black or White", which is one of my favorites of his songs, he sings "I'm not going to spend my life being a color." Is he saying something?

His life is a transformation just like the images in this video. Watch how he is being morphed from a young black MJ to an old white Wacko. The video ends with a question of which only MJ has the answer: "If this is what's happening outside, what's going on inside?"

When he was alive, there was so much criticism about him. I am glad that the media is now observing the rule of decorum and speak mainly good things about him. Let's remember only his contribution to the music world and let him rest in peace. I will leave you to browse through the 10 great MJ moments, put together by 'TIME'.

Well, this is it. R.I.P, MJ.

"If you enter this world knowing you are loved
and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in
between can be dealt with."

* Michael Jackson (1958-2009) *

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