Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Death of Michael Jackson: Good Career Move

I am reminded of the day back in August 1977 when Elvis Presley died. It was said that an unnamed industry insider, upon hearing of the untimely death of the 42-year-old hip-shaker, was quoted as saying, “good career move.”

As history shows, truer words were never spoken. In the years since his death, Elvis has become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Too bad he’s not around to enjoy it. And in a world that is obsessed with lists, which follows closely behind the other obsessions of money, youth and thinness, it should be noted that Elvis regularly topped the list of room temperature money earners up until 2006 when Kurt Cobain became the top annual earner of cold, hard cash, while cold and hard himself.

Well, Cobain now has to look over his shoulder, not at the still top earning King of Rock & Roll who is at number two, but at the newly deceased King of Pop. Michael Jackson, who himself was quoted as saying many years ago that he didn’t think he would make it to 40, surpassed his own prognostication by a decade to make it just two months shy of his 51st birthday.

Jackson’s place in history is now secure. He already had the largest selling album of all time in Thriller, with very little chance of anyone coming close to catching it and now with his death you can surely tack on the several million more copies that will be flying off the shelves in the next little while.

Jackson was working hard for his upcoming farewell concerts in London – concerts that were a necessary comeback due to his alleged precarious financial situation. He had some major debts, creditors hunting after him like wild villagers with pitchforks and torches and an armada of lawyers who were always squelching the revolving door of lawsuits that seem to highlight his career. Plus his extravagant lifestyle did come with a cost.

Well now, it’s just simple Economics 101: Millions upon millions of dollars will now be coming in, and Michael won’t be around to spend them. No more wild shopping sprees, no more clothes for chimps, no more hyperbaric chambers, no more plastic surgery. Jackson’s death might just turn the economy around, and without a bailout! Everyone and their sister will probably try to cash in on Michael’s death (hey, I might make about a whole eight cents myself from blog traffic!)

And let’s not forget how prolific and talented Michael Jackson was. For everything he released, that turned to gold, there has got to be a plethora of material, in various stages of completion, that is locked away somewhere. If Tupac Shakur can somehow manage to crank out albums long after his last breath, just think about what the “Gloved One” could churn out.

Since his death Elvis Presley has spawned an entire industry of Elvis impersonators . . . oh, sorry . . . tribute artists, who have done quite well for themselves over the last 30 years. Well Jackson has had many impersonators while he was still breathing! Imagine how that’s going to mushroom now posthumously!

Something else that is secure will be our memories of Michael. As freakish as he may have become in the last few years, I would have to believe that it would have only gotten worse in the years to come. Michael Jackson would not have aged gracefully and youth is a virtue that is put on a pedestal in our society. Those who have died relatively young, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Bob Marley, James Dean, Bruce Lee and even John F. Kennedy, have had their images enhanced because of an early demise. Their pictures never age. They are forever young.

Although we still think of Mohammad Ali as “The Greatest” and film footage and posters take us back to an earlier time of his power, you’d have to admit that there is a slight tarnish of his image only because of his more recent Parkinson’s-riddled appearances. How could this be the same man who was standing over Sonny Liston taunting him to get up?

Jackson no longer has the opportunity to continue to turn himself into a living version of a Salvador Dali painting (just what would the stats listed on a Michael Jackson driver’s license be anyway?) He kept altering himself like a tailor with ADHD. After years of being “under construction” we sadly now have the final product.

So let’s not say goodbye to Michael. He’s really not going anywhere, except onto the Forbes list of money making dead people. Let’s just hope that this tortured man with the Peter Pan complex will finally achieve the peace that clearly eluded him in life. Let’s enjoy his catalogue of existing music and listen with a jaded ear to what’s sure to be a vault-load of previously unreleased “Jackson classics” because as far as careers go, Michael Jackson has just hit the mother lode.

And finally, if you believe that there is a heaven, then just imagine what this week’s Tonight Show is like on the other side of the Pearly Gates. Ed is back with Johnny, Farrah’s on the couch and Michael is performing. What a show!

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.


  1. Wallis Loewen & Debra LordJune 28, 2009 at 11:19 AM

    Michael Jackson was a genius both musically and in the business world, but was pushed way too hard by his father as a child thereby robbing him of his childhood. This manifested itself with his erratic behavior as an adult. Maybe he wouldn't have attained the degree of fame he did without this pushing, or he could have seen above all this turmoil and be the Michael we knew. We will never know unfortunatly. This abuse caused no end of grief and trouble as he was still the naive little boy even though he was a grownup. What also complicated the matter was that his entourage never did him any favors as they were all yes men who catered to "The King of Pop" and his every whim. Maybe you could'nt deny Mr Jackson's requests lest the price be that they would be cast off from said "entourage", yet still nobody seemed to even try. L.A. doctors as well wrote him pain killing prescriptions like they were handing out "Pez" candy. He had a unique soul, one that we may never see again, and we all let him down. The blood is on many hands. I'm just glad that Michael never has to face anymore humiliation. Rest In Peace Michael Jackson, I'm so sorry we all let you down.

  2. "The "Tonight Show" vision is a happy thought to end a sad week. Thanks for all your great insight!"

  3. Once again, as your first poster mentioned, bad parenting in the entertainment business has won out once aga
    in. Joe Jackson should be tried for the murder of his son. Hey Joe, did your sons death make you enough money to band-aid your soul for what you did to him? What did you do to cause such a young, beautiful, incredibly talented child to hate his reflection in the mirror so much that he thought the only solution was to mutilate himself so he hardly even looked human anymore. Guess what, man? Stevie Wonder had all of those attributes and he's still alive. And I will bet dollars to donuts it's because his mom was totally kick ass.

    I heard a lot of talk this week about Mike's obsession with fame.

    If you thought that was the only way people could really love you, and you craved the love your psychopathic, ego-centric father was completely incapable of giving you, wouldn't you do everything in your power to get as much of it as you could?

    Even if it killed you?

  4. So true! So true! He'll probably earn a lot more than that tour ever would have generated. After all, he had been on the list of 'has beens' while still alive, achieving infamy for his misdeeds rather than his successes.

  5. Well put. He will no doubt leapfrog to the top once again. I do wonder however which youthful image will be remembered, the young child beaming with potential belting out his ABCs or the man with an ever changing face. Either way I would agree, it's a better way to be remembered.

  6. Someone wise once said that "To those who can't hear the music, the dancers appear mad." Millions have danced to Michael's music over the years and we were mad with joy as we revelled in his creativity. But in his personal life, Michael danced to a tune that only he could hear. Others called him weird, eccentric, wacko, and worse. In death, Michael is free to dance to the music of his soul – judged and criticized by no one. God bless you, Michael. Dance on!

  7. I'm sure we've danced together to a few MJ tunes of the years, eh?!

    Peter, interesting blog. I have so many mixed emotions of MJ over the years & his early death :( Sorta hard for me to even express it. One thing I do know, pain is pain, be it physical, emotional or combo of both. MJ was tortured soul that hopefully now has found peace. All I wish for now is that his children are kept together & are taken care of by someone who truly loves them.


  8. Good career move indeed.

  9. Now he can finally have peace.

  10. Hey Peter, great reflection here, enjoyed it very much. As a musician, I was always in awe of his genius.
    Did you know that he often 'borrowed' a musical writing technique from the greatests, such as Johann Sebastian Bach? Yep! Bach created the 'ostinato', which is to keep a repetitive musical base throughout a whole piece. Examples: Thriller is the best one. If you listen closely to the bass, it,s always playing the same musical line, and this song is way longer than the average.
    Another fact that always put me in admiration of his music was the fact taht he would purposefully write and arrrange songs in different keys than the average, again thriller is a good example (C#m), and Rock with you (Bbm). Other composers would have the usual (D, A, etc.) because their 'inspiration' was often linked to having created their piece on a specidic instrument (guitar, piano), but also (ha ah!) because they wanted to make sure ordinary people could play their songs easily, therefore having their songs playing more.
    Michael jackson proved them all wrong, being one of the first ones to work with computers and having a broader musical imagery, expressing may be his internal chaos, or... his musical genius. I prefer number two.
    Claire Jacques, Montreal.

  11. Well Peter mate,
    We all-the world-have another "Where Were You When?" memory exercise. You got your points across well.

  12. It was indeed shocking because Michael was always on the periphery of the ever ravenous media beast, but I expected a lawsuit or bankruptcy protection, possibly another botched plastic surgery, even more molestation charges, but a heart attack?! Way dowwn the list of possible death causes for the Gloved One. I thought it more likely that he die from an allergic reaction to sequins or hair dye. The saddest part of this I thought was that Farrah had only a very brief moment in postmortem sun. Farrah proved herself a very capable actress and deserved a longer moment to herself. That might make her death "a bad career move" or at the very least unfortunate timing.

  13. The following quotes come to mind as I read your entry, Peter.
    “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.” – Seneca and, “ When I become death, death is the seed from which I grow.” – Burroughs

    I must admit that I am not/was not a big fan of Michael Jackson, but don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate his work, his music and his contributions. I can only imagine how hard he worked to make sure that his creations were as close to perfection as he perceived perfection to be. Regardless of his personal challenges, he had a job that happened to be in the public eye. I believe he did a really good job, understanding the business, knowing what his audience wanted and giving them more than what they can ever dream of – at the cost of his health and wealth.

    The man left behind three children who will now reap profits from his legacy – after the legal issues and debts have been resolved. His music will continue to inspire the upcoming generations of artists as did Elvis, Janis, Koko, Odette, Farrah, and many many more who are now considered to be the “Classics”. I may not be a big fan of Michael Jackson, but I am definitely a die hard fan of his thorough understanding of his personal creative process, commitment and passion for his art. Let the show begin and never end, Michael!

  14. What I find amazing about all this is media reaction. The coverage of his death was the same as that of Kim Il Sung. I remember Western media making fun of the North Koreans for providing 24 hour coverage on local DPRK tv about his death. But wait a min! Western media is does the same. But for pop stars.
    For years the media has reported on all kinds of MJ rumors saying words like "loony, nuts, crazy ect", but now they are saying "what a wonderful guy, great entertainer ect ect" maybe they should have said this when he was alive.
    The coverage of Michael Jackson mirrors that of Elvis. This weekend I was looking at the media coverage of when Elvis died same thing. Death of Mao in China same thing. Death Of Monroe same thing.
    Next thing you know is the same media will report of Jackson sightings. I can see the headline now "Michael Jackson Faked His Death And Was Seen At A Road Side Cafe With Elvis". Or "Michael Jackson Not Dead! He's alive And Being Protected By The US Government".
    If I was to bet 1 million, I would not even need the one million as I would win hands down.

  15. Great piece. I immediately thought how his family will cash in on Neverland (specially with the tomb there), just like Graceland. They'll all be collecting the dough.

    In relation to your inferences to his ADHD crazy surgeries, best line I heard all week: "Michael came into this world a Black man and left it a White woman...."
    All that will be forgotten though. The negatives die away and we'll remember his unbelievable music, dancing, style, ....


  16. Great "Stuph" for a great performer. Michael was a true "Onion" - lot's of layers! Let's just hope the children actually benefit without too many "tears". By the way, I understand that "Billy Mays was not his lover..." - expect MJ sightings

  17. I'd love to see that Tonight show!! I also like the Salvador Dali comment--excellent writing Peter. Very nicely done!

  18. Peter, you're sooooo right on this blog. I live in a jazz radio world, and several musicians few knew outsdie jazz, when they were alive, come to mind:
    trumpeter Chet Baker died 1980s, doing just fine now.
    Saxman John Coltrane, dead at 43 in 1967: ditto
    Vocalist Johnny Hartman ... even Miles himself is as popular as ever.

  19. Very true...before leaving China I went out and bought MJ's Moonwalker. That bit about our society's obsession with youth really hit me. When I think of my favourite pictures of Ali, they're all of him from the 60's and early 70's. In many ways, the same way it's hard for me to look at Ali today without feeling bad, that's how I felt about MJ.

  20. Richard Rapoport - shrinkrapAugust 1, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    Make that nine cents for your efforts.....well-stated.

    The reaction to your blog only demonstrates the power of Michael Jackson to transcend all
    categories of music fanship...except,perhaps, fans of Druid music, but they are generally an exception to most rules

    ....and that image of the tailor with attention deficit disorder has found a permanent home deep in my psyche.....

  21. Peter, your piece on MJ really hit the nail on the head, my sentiments exactly

  22. Peter I had forgotten reading the MJ piece. I was at UCLA the day he died.

    My daughter was there to see her neurologist. The place was a zoo of people trying to get into the hospital.

    The Jacksons themselves were very reserved and quiet. I can't imagine the effect all those people had on them at that time. It was bedlam.

    Your piece, as all of your pieces are, is so well written and thought provoking.

    Love you


  23. Michael Jackson was not just an artist. He was a lost visionary between past, present & future. That complicated element made him unique and vulnerable to all aspects of living. One tends to shy away from the harsh reality of life. For the a thousand and one ways he did that, I dont blame him. What I do blame is the people and the media for raping his innocence for their own scandalous and selfish pleasures. He was different yes, but that does not hurt anybody. Hence, his artistic expressions were an art form and his message was always kind. Everything he created, he created with passion. He was an innocent soul and victimised unfairly by many. His purpose in life was not to make money but to live with hope and a dream that all is possible. That's what I learned growing up with MJ. He was a true dreamer and the rewards that came with his talent allowed him to dream unselfishly to his death. I see him next to Gandhy and Lady Diana, singing his new song: Forgiveness, for there is no God higher then truth where his new spirit is at. AP