This post has been rattling around in my head since yesterday; however, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must reveal that my blogami, Mark, also addressed this topic in a post, The Death of Strangers, that I read before writing my own. Any plagiarism on my part is totally unintended. BTW, Mark's post includes a really great piece of photoart.
I've watched a lot of television in the last two days. I've felt a little sorry for Farrah Fawcett. She had the misfortune to die on the same day as Michael Jackson. Farrah was a star but MJ was a superstar, a cultural icon, a bit tarnished, but nonetheless, a shining star. MJ has excited the sort of tear-streaming, "I can't believe he's gone," drama that followed Princess Diana's untimely demise.
Good and grown men and women are holding vigils, mourning the death of Michael Jackson. I don't get it. There is something overdone and fake about it all. A lot of crocodile tears, offered more for the display of grief than any real feelings of mourning. I take it back; maybe Farrah was the lucky one, her family and friends allowed a bit more privacy as MJ's fans make a display of expressions of grief.
I grew up listening to MJ and his brothers. I was far more into the Jackson Five than I was into the Beatles. They were young black boys with cool clothes, big afros, and a soulful sound ; and they made a young black girl growing up in a southern town believe that there was a world for her outside of her own backyard. I suspect that I wasn't alone in feeling that the five brothers from Indiana spoke to me of hope and opportunity. I sang along with their songs and tried to copy their dance steps. When Michael went solo, I continued to be a fan. I still sing along with the radio, Billie Jean was not my lover, she's just a girl who says that I am the one, but the kid is not my son. Every time that I hear Beat It I start shaking my hips and tapping my feet. I cry over She's Out of My Life..
Of course, I am saddened by Michael's death, but I'm not in mourning. I'm saddened because his death reminds me of my own mortality. I'm saddened because he was a young man, who died early. I'm saddened because he struck me as a troubled person, who in spite of his success and fame, never found any lasting happiness. I think that he was a musical genius and I am saddened to see his creative force extinguished.
However, I just can't join the teary-eyed masses who engage in wailing and gnashing of teeth as if they've lost a family member. I confess that I am fascinated by this outpouring of what I dub pseudo-grief. I empathize with the Jackson family; I can imagine how overwhelmed they must feel, especially as total strangers try to claim the family's private grief as their own. Michael Jackson has left a legacy of music and memories that belongs to the ages, but the enormous sorrow of his passing is the rightful property of those who knew him and loved him as a person, not as an icon.