Holy Crap, Michael Jackson’s Dead

The details.

Lots to say, but for now: There was a life with a dynamic range to it, for better or worse.

83 Comments on “Holy Crap, Michael Jackson’s Dead”

  1. Incidentally, something weird’s going on with the comments on this end, in which once you press the “submit” button, you get a blank page. If you’re seeing the same thing, don’t panic, your comment’s probably gone through. I suspect it’s some sort of glitch on the WordPress.com side.

  2. @Johnny #3 A friend just posted this on Facebook, and it made me laugh!
    “Aww, snap! Somewhere, Farrah Fawcett is royally pissed off. Michael Jackson just stole all the magazine cover stories right underneath from her casket.”

  3. One of the students I’m supposed to have in class tomorrow died at his work site today. We suspect allergies (nuts) but nobody really knows. Farrah Fawcett died, and now the king of pop.

    Gods, what a day.

  4. @Johnny/Kati

    I was thinking something along those lines myself, but then these celebrity deaths do tend to come in threes.. who’s next?

    It’s a sad day to lose two true icons.

  5. “Dies in threes” has been statistically proven to be wrong.

    That said, today is fired. My childhood is even farther away than it was supposed to be after today was over. I’ve been mourning Jackson’s creative talent for years. This just caps how sad and strange his life was.

  6. The ‘trifecta’ has at least four people now. Balls to that.

    Too bad about Michael Jackson. I was fantasizing about him getting back together with his brothers and actually making a record with more musicians than producers on it again.

    On the other hand, I was also regretting not having bought tickets to his farewell shows, so swings and roundabouts.

    And on a more human note.. poor guy. Sad life.

  7. There’s a rumor that this development will speed up plans for a sequel to the “Thriller” video. The budget will be cheaper, since they won’t need the special effects.

  8. One of my students (a 14 year old girl) last year got suspended for getting into a fist fight – in defense of Michael Jackson.

  9. I would bet money that Gov. Sanford had him whacked. You could not possibly ask for a better news blackout than this.

  10. Joel@5: I am sorry about your student. His or her death is no less tragic than Michael Jackson’s.

  11. The roller coaster is over for MJ. Still hard to put his life in perspective.

  12. When I was just starting to be aware of my generation’s music, its deities were already dying premature, mostly drug-related deaths: Brian, Jimi, Janis, Jim. They died with their youth and legends intact.

    It’s profoundly sad to see some more mileposts of my younger days dying, neither legendarily young nor in the fullness of age, but still too soon.

    It’s hard to think of him as being 50; it was hard to think of him as the grotesque he became. In my mind’s eye and ear, he’s forever the demon-king of The Thriller.

    There are lots worse legacies.

    RIP, Farah and Michael.

  13. Let’s pause to note that MTV was “whites only” for years before MJ became too big to ignore.

  14. Joel @5: I’m so sorry about your student. My first year of teaching, a student (not mine) was killed in a bizarre manner not worth recounting here, and it colored most of the fall semester for many of my students, as well as the teachers who knew him.

  15. I was just saying last night that I could hardly wait until MJ’s kids are old enough get out from under ‘daddy’ and write their book…

    sooner rather than later, looks like.

  16. I turned of my laptop at 3:00 and farrah was still at the top of the news, 5 hours later MJ is dead when I return…wow…shocking…

  17. Wow. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson gone in one day. There goes a chunk of my childhood.

  18. Christopher T. @ 17 —

    I can’t see how one could put his life into perspective. From elementary school on, his life was subsumed into the Jackson 5. From age eight or so, he was a superstar, both to his benefit and detriment. Nearly his entire live was lived out/acted out on a worldwide stage in the blinding glare of camera lights, his every action fodder for media speculation. He had no normal life as we would describe it; his “life” was so much bigger that than. Which was both a benefit and curse.

    Or so it seems to me.

  19. First Ed McMahon died so he could be in heaven to introduce Michael and Farrah and Michael died on the same day so they could get married in heaven.

    I mentioned on Metafilter that next couple of days will be nuts. Sit back and watch humanity lose their collective mind over the death of Jackson, the biggest celebrity to kick off since Elvis.

  20. @19 – mensley
    “Let’s pause to note that MTV was “whites only” for years before MJ became too big to ignore.”

    Wow . . . oh Wow . . . I was around for the launch of MTV and watched it a lot when they still had music and reality television was PBS experimentation.

    Saw The Message by Grandmaster Flash very early on . .. and White Lines (oh yeah). Donna Summer, Tina Turner, etc.

    Sure they were a Rock and Roll format and like many Rock radio stations they didn’t play a lot of R&B or what would later become hip hop, but just because they thought Rick James was too racey doesn’t mean it was a “whites only” station.

  21. Ed@25: I think Princess Diana’s passing was a pretty big deal, though it was in England. I stayed up to watch the footage.

    I think that a lot of the MJ nostalgia will be closer to what I’m feeling, which is nostalgia for 1983, whereas Elvis and Diana were more mythic than Michael Jackson. Although Jackson will spark a lot of “just what happened?” speculation.

  22. CV Rick@26:
    Okay, now I’m going to have to do some research, but I honestly thought that his video was the first by a black artist that they played… hmmm…

  23. Yup, CV Rick was right, and I was mis-remembering the whole fracas that surrounded his videos getting played on MTV. Apologies.

  24. Michael Jackson’s obvious talent had long ago been overshadowed by the freak-show nature of his eccentricities, plastic surgeries, strange and failed marriages, and his many legal troubles. His death today is just the final confirmation of his long, slow decline of the person who dazzled us those many years ago. For all the troubles that he had, I think he’s found his final escape from them.

  25. I honestly wish I could say that I’ll always remember him for Thriller if nothing else, but that would be dishonest. The saddest part is that whatever he achieved will be overshadowed by just how irrevocably strange he was. I don’t know if that’s the way it should be or not, but it’s unfortunate that there was nobody in his inner circle who sat him down and told him to “knock it the fuck off, already, because you’re going to be remembered for going to trial twice over child molestation charges, among other things, at least as much as for making Thriller.” Or maybe the tragedy is that at least one person did just that and he never took heed.

    He was a tormented man, and now he isn’t. I hope, and it sounds like, his end came quickly and he deserved that, just like the rest of us do when it’s our time.

  26. Being just slightly older than John and growing up without cable, I remember being young and staying up really really late one Friday night to watch the debut of the Thriller video on network TV. Blew my little mind.

  27. I cannot believe that the 6pm news is all-Jackson. I can see 5 or 10 minutes, but this is just nuts. Farah gets a brief mention. No weather, no sports, just nonstop drivel about a talented nutcase. He didn’t find a cure for cancer, didn’t contribute to world peace. He was just a successful singer with serious emo issues.

  28. Farrah died, I believe, with as much dignity as could be possible for a famous person with a tabloid life and a horrible disease.
    How much do you wanna bet the next weeks/months/years are going to be spent going over all the details of Michael Jackson’s death, such as 911 recordings, paramedic statements, what the (hypothetical, as far as I know) maid saw, did he have a will, what will happen to the children, ad nauseum.
    I wanted to be Farrah Fawcett in 1977 (I was 8) and I was in love with Michael Jackson for about 3 months in 1983. For that, I will remember them both.

  29. Jackson was a deeply-troubled and deeply weird individual, but there’s no denying that he was, not merely one of the greatest pop musicians ever, but probably the most famous person on the planet. No exaggeration.

    So I choose to remember him from the glory days of Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad. Such a great talent, and such a great loss.

  30. He didn’t find a cure for cancer, didn’t contribute to world peace. He was just a successful singer with serious emo issues.

    True, he didn’t cure cancer.

    But he did a lot of AIDS charity work (with, IIRC, Ryan White), and was instrumental (with Quincy Jones) in getting “We Are the World”recorded (which in turn led to the Live Aid concerts).

  31. One can only wonder how Elton John will rewrite the lyrics to “Candle in the Wind” to fit and perform it at this memorial. Unless he’ll do it for both Michael and Farrah? Much wardrobe and rewrite for Elton…

  32. Like every celebrity complete with their phobic insanities, Michael Jackson was a gifted singer and entertainer in his early life until he turned weird. Sad, but money does not bring happiness. Farrah was a pretty actress. Ed McMahon was a television sidekick, again, tons of money made and lost, more than I will ever have. David Carradine, an actor.

    Yes death is sad, especially when sudden. But there are so many more people in this world more worthy of our sadness. It saddens me that it takes fame to make us feel sad. They were, after all, just people.

  33. Johnny Carruthers, the cynic in me wants to think the Iranian government arranged to have Michael Jackson killed, in order to distract people from what’s going on in Iran.

  34. Dude – man, it is really sad. And Farrah too! We heard a little earlier because we were right downtown. There was a lot of questioning, but this a.m. there were paparazzi at St. John’s (for Farrah) and then this. It happened really, really fast. Poor Michael, RIP.

  35. Ed@25, monica@27 —

    I wonder if Michael Jackson will end up being considered the Elvis of his generation. Musical success, quirky bizarre life, strange pecadillos, scandal, death at a young age.

    Could Neverland Ranch become another Graceland? Time will tell.

    Perhaps MJ’s heart simply burst at news of Farrah’s death.

    – yeff

  36. It saddens me that it takes fame to make us feel sad. They were, after all, just people.

    Social beings that we are, we get sad at the deaths of people we know. People who are famous aren’t, usually, people we know, but they’re the next thing to it.

    The post–and comment thread–to read is on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog; he’d coincidentally been musing about Michael Jackson just a few days ago.

  37. Holy Crap, Michael Jackson’s Dead..

    …And little boys everywhere breathe a sigh of relief….

  38. In the 80’s, MJ led everyone’s dream life.

    After the 80’s, I wouldn’t wish his life on my worst enemy.

    A shame it had to end this way, so suddenly. Despite all his weirdness and scandal, the tiny part of me that roots for underdogs was kind of looking forward to seeing musical and artistic Redemption after his 50-gig residency wrapped up.

  39. I first saw him do the “moonwalk” during “Billie Jean” on the televised 25th anniversary special, Motown 25. I was like 13 years old, sitting cross-legged in front of our old television set, probably sporting a retro Bay City Rollers tee shirt. Even though I was a rock n’ roll kid, loved the Beatles, the Stone, Genesis (Peter Gabriel), and Led Zeppelin, I was blown away by the dude. Man, he was a phenomenal performer. I wonder if his legacy (legend) is going to go the way of Elvis Presley . . . morph into a cult following.

  40. Earlier, when I heard about his death I was strangely unaffected. I was thinking more about the freak show he had become rather than the music.
    When I got home after work, I listened to a few cuts from “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” to see if the music still worked for me. It does.

    So, gathering it all together in some sort of a meaningful way is rather difficult but I’ll try.

    It wasn’t just the music. Brilliant as the music was and is you have to also look at the way his dancing and his videos changed the direction of Pop music as a whole. In reality, and I know that this will be an arguable point, he influenced music in a way as much as the Beatles did two decades before. I’m not going to use the word genius here as I think it’s overused but I will say that Michael was brilliant in his way.

    That extremely talented people lead extremely weird and troubled lives has been chronicled throughout history. In that, Michael was no different.

    Jeff S.

  41. The pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists in D.C. should be ashamed of themselves. Drugs like Vicodin and Ambien are rotting America from the inside out . . . Michael was addicted to painkillers for decades. Post-Prazac Nation . . . now a Analgesic Nation of hallucinating game-playing, internets-surfing, pill-popping, country-invading zombies. It’s the Dawn of the Dead, sponsored by Abbott (and Costello).

  42. 31. Dave Moore – (the picture) Is that his original nose?

    Yup – he was a young, handsome african-american man. The rumors were he wanted to look more ‘white’, which started the surgerys – cheek implants, nose job – and skin bleaching.

    Sad, sad.

  43. Terribly sad. I’m gonna echo Cartoon Coyote, because from his early life, he didn’t seem that wierd. So even if he was shaping an orbit out past the sanity event horizon, there should have been someone saying “Dude, crazytown’s fun to visit, but come over here and have some reality, it can be great”. I can’t help but think that a lot of managers and handlers probably made a big wad of cash just feeding Jacko more and more Kool-Aid, rather than trying to give the poor sod an anchor in reality.

    For me, the real tragedy is that it doesn’t look like he ever got to get back to some semblance of happiness with his own self, so this sad story ends without redemption. I might be talking absolute rot, but that’s the impression I’ve gotten over the years.

  44. The media coverage (cable news breaking into programs when they didn’t do i for the Iran riots, showing helicopter footage of photographers standing around outside a hospital) reminded me of an old National Lampoon headline from about the time Thriller was released:

    Nuclear War! Michael Jackson, 80 million others die!

  45. It’s so sad to hear about Michael Jackson. As a dancer, I’m performed almost every one of his hits in some form or another. A lot of celebrities have died recently, but he’s the first one that had a big impact on my life personally. It’s a really weird feeling. Anyway, nice post. ;)

  46. Um, no, thats not the nose he was born with. But its good enough. If he had just stopped there…

    As a TV comedian once said: “Wow, you have to love America, where else can a poor black boy grow up to be rich white woman?”

    Michael Jackson will get more credit for the talent he once had, after the generation that knew the face he was born with, dies off. A man that outlived / “wore out” the creditable accomplishments of his life.

    Speak nothing but good of the dead…

  47. I really feel sorry for the kids. The mom gave them up for cash, their father’s family is a bunch of leeches and sycophants. Dad was massively in debt and now every vulture in the entertainment/media will descend and try to rip off a profit on their father’s corpse. The aftermath is going to almost as sad as his life.

  48. Glad he’s finally gone. Needy, whining, look-at-me crappy strategy for life. His music was passable but generally uninspiring. Really just pleased it’s over.

  49. The bass line for “Billie Jean” is one of my all-time favourites.

    The tone is warm and full, with a hint of fuzz. The riff whirls round and round through the intro and verse like a snake eating its tail. Then the bridge hits and the bassist lays down just one or two notes to pin the bottom end of the song down till the chorus, when the circular riff starts up again and keeps going back into the verse. No pops or slapping or off-beat funkiness, just simple, straight quarter notes. It’s blissful.

    Thank you for that song, Michael, and rest in peace.

  50. Quenby @63: His music was passable but generally uninspiring.

    Your opinion, of course. I think many people would disagree with you on that one, though.

  51. I don’t think I ever bought any of his music, (we won’t discuss some of the embarrassing albums I DID buy back when I was a kid and didn’t know any better.) but I gotta admit, he had an impact on the world.

  52. Matt Greenwood @64:

    It’s ironic that Quincy Jones wasn’t too fond of that bass line. Nor did he like the long intro, but Michael told him, “That’s what makes me want to dance!”

    He also thought the title of the song should be “Not My Lover,” thinking that people might mistakenly assume “Billie Jean” was tennis pro Billie Jean King.

    Fortunately, Michael won his battles on that song. And created a legend.


  53. Erbo, people DID assume that he was singing about Billie Jean King. Moreover they asserted that she and Michael were having a clandestine affair. I remember hearing (and scoffing at) both.

    Stupid people, of course. But most people are stupid.

  54. I was in Grade 8, at my first ever high-school dance. All the lights were off and the VJ showed “Thriller” on the two big screen TVs. It was awesome (especially the reference to “American Werewolf in London”).

    Plus with no MJ, there’d be no “Eat It”, and we can’t have that.

  55. I wasn’t a great fan but 50 is way too young to die. RIP Michael.

    One thing I did read that gave me a chuckle (it was on one of the news websites, I think): Johnny Carson will be real happy. Ed McMahon is back and Carson’s show will have two great guest stars!

  56. Now that the man’s dead, can we finally get this cleared up:

    He had vitiligo. It’s a disease that causes, essentially, albinism one spot or blotch at a time. This would be why he was wearing heavy makeup, long sleeves, and gloves for the last 30 years.

    As for the nose, his brothers used to make fun of his big nose when he was a kid.

  57. It’s been good for me to listen to the retrospective coverage on “Jacko” today. I’m old enough to have been witness to the entire arc of Michael’s performance life … and wow. An amazing talent. It’s much harder to talk about the other things in his life … other than with sadness at how much energy they cost (us all) and what might have been.

  58. A life that eerily paralleled Elvis’s, in both the heights and the decline. If I was a mega-star, I would not accept the mantle of “the king of…” anything. The title appears to be cursed. The king is dead, long live the king…

  59. Oh, and while we’re at it, save a passing thought for Farrah Fawcett who passed just a little earlier in the day than Jacko. Among other things, her swimsuit poster hit me at the same time as puberty, resulting in some interesting side-effects. Not as much “dynamic range” between her successes and failures when compared with MJ, but quite a bit of “dynamic range” in her acting career in terms of the roles she took on.

  60. His nose problems started because he broke it, and then it didn’t get fixed up quite right, and then a while later he broke it again.

    Or so it says on Wikipedia. Which is a really good article, actually, following his musical career and all the charitable work he did (including promoting AIDS research with Ryan White). A good read. I read the whole thing last night while listening to his videos on Youtube.

  61. Not as much “dynamic range” between her successes and failures when compared with MJ, but quite a bit of “dynamic range” in her acting career in terms of the roles she took on.

    I TOTALLY respect an actor who can start with cheese/beefcake roles and then develops a competent set of chops and reputation to match.

  62. I regret the loss of the King of Pop Michael Jackson! Jacko is a legend. I hope he gets where he is now, finally in peace.
    Leave also your last greeting at Michael Jackson on our site, thanks.
    a big and now sad fan

  63. #52: whatever your opinion of pharmaceutical companies and the use (or overuse) of painkillers in this country, I think it’s very safe to say that Jackson’s problems went miles deeper than merely using Vicodin. Let’s not mistake symptoms for causes here.

    And also, let’s please remember that the man was, among other things, a professional dancer. Which, if you stick with it much past adolescence, tends to have the same long-term effects on your joints and tendons as being a professional hockey player. Additionally, if you believe Jackson’s publicists, he was diagnosed with Lupus (along with the vitiligo) in 1986, one of the primary effects of which is: crippling joint pain.

    There’s no lack of perfectly good reasons to knock Jackson as a human being, but fuck if I’m going to begrudge the occasional (by which I mean daily or even hourly) vicodin to someone who likely had tendonitis in places where you and I don’t even realize we’ve got tendons.

  64. I for one am very happy to see not many jokes at a time like this. After all, Michael was a great musician, dancer, and overall entertainer, but most of all he was a loving, and loved, father, brother, son, and friend of the majority of the WORLD.

    We should all respect and love each other, WE ARE THE WORLD.

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