Are we good now?
Have we fully recovered?
Have we gotten a grip?!!
If you’ve staved off Jackson marathon fatigue, or if you’re stumbling upon this at some future time, I recommend checking out the wtnr radio shows from last week which had some of the best retro-phonics of MJ I’ve heard. A lot of Jackson 5 stuff, and the Zartan show has my fav cover ever of Caetano Veloso doing Billie Jean. You can’t miss out on this kinda stuff folks.
…We had just turned onto my street, 3 blocks from my house in fact, when the cab driver confessed that he had “teared up” at the televised memorial service of Michael Jackson Rex. He didn’t call him that. I just put that in there. Just now.
Had I heard that Congressional Democrats were working on a Resolution honoring the late Mister Jackson? No, actually- (slow down a bit, this is my street). But I take it you saw this on TV? Yes, the driver assured me. Background digging revealed that:
House Resolution 600, lists several charitable acts by Michael Jackson over his long career and proclaims him as an American legend, musical icon and world humanitarian. He is, as the sponsoring Congresswoman said, “someone who will be honored forever and forever and forever and forever and forever.”
and forever?? (ps- the GOP is trying to block it. winners.)
“Michael Jackson is universal”, the cabbie attests. Did I mention I’m in Africa?
“You should have seen it on TV”, he persists. MJ was such a humanitarian he won Guinness Records and I would have been quite impressed. I reassured him that I was plenty impressed with the Pop King. (And I am!) I’ve felt, however, that its imperative to plunge oneself into the local culture, and cast off the preoccupations of American cultural imperialism. Its just bollocks that he kicked it while I was overseas, but I wasn’t going to cling distantly to the American media just to get my fair slice of it. I mean, I was in South America on 9/11 dammit! I get how this goes…
Oh but the memorial service was something else- I should have seen it. “Yeah”, I nodded, squinting to make out the street sign. ” I heard Stevie Wonder and a whole mess of people came out to perform there”. And at some point, I divulged my own misty-eyed moment. Sister Janet gave a brief but moving testimony at the BET awards. Her grief was palpable. It was almost too much for me. The pictures is what killed me. There was something in michael’s 70s prepubescent face that reminded me of my brother, and something in the contented little sister face of Janet Jackson that bore an uncanny resemblance to my own sister in the 80s.
I’m not saying that they reminded me of my brother and sister. What I’m saying is that the two of them actually looked like each of them respectively. Up to and including their age gap, the lighter complexion of Janet vis-à-vis Michael. Whatever it was, my body reacted before my mind could figure out what was going on. And by time my mind caught up, decades of quirky, ambivalent behavior had been tossed aside. Jackson was- and had always been- Ours. He had been Black. We put a Black man to rest this week.
As I paid the cab-fare, I realized also, pulling up to my house that Michael was everyone’s. And that this was not a national pop culture event confined to the US (as the NYT article discusses). It wasn’t just something that global papers were printing as a story for the fuck of it. The world felt some ownership of the Once-Smooth Criminal, and the World felt some loss.
So, obvi I’m smitten with the 70s MJ, but my favorite video, thriller aside, is from the a couple decades later. We’ll get to that. First I need to share this thing about the re-Negrification of Michael J. Jackson. Its from the NYTimes, so they use no such language of course. I’ll juxtapose it with a magazine cover from 1979, when MJ was more dreamy than I ever even knew. (seriously, would you not totally make out with that?! I mean, not in a gay way, just like in a “yr hot so lets make out, yeah?” kinda way)
Mr. Jackson was to music what Michael Jordan was to sports and Barack Obama to politics — a towering figure with crossover appeal, even if in life some of Mr. Jackson’s black fans wondered if he was as proud of his race as his race was of him.
But since his death many African-Americans have embraced Mr. Jackson without ambivalence. In scores of interviews across the country over the weekend, few expressed the kind of resentment some once had for his strangeness, his changing appearance, his distance from the cherubic Michael of the Jackson 5.
Darrell Smith, 40, a filmmaker in Brooklyn, recalled that “when his skin started getting lighter,” many black people said Mr. Jackson did not want to be black. Now, he said: “I honestly feel like I lost a brother. It’s a pain inside me.” Some African-Americans said those most determined to discuss Mr. Jackson’s failings were white. “The system likes to take black men down,” said Stan Jamison, a 61-year-old house painter, leaning against a fence on Sunday outside the old Jackson home in Gary, Ind. “They did it to Ali. They did it to Tyson.”
And with that, a new version of the Filipino prisoner’s thriller (they practiced for 8 hours the day after he died and performed it for a huge audience at the prison).
And finally. My favorite video was actually the sibling two-force team up of MJ and Janet, taking the negroes (and ex-negroes?) of space trope to stellar dimensions. Was this not utterly groundbreaking for 1995? Please for the love of god watch this in full screen mode.
And watch for a couple things:
a) check the contrast of Michael’s angles and Janet’s struts. They def play to their talents.
b) the desolate beauty of the two of them feeling alienated (and angsty), literally performing this as if in space- away from us all, and also ponder the space-pod send off as a Valhalla-type departure for MJ. Yes I’d make a nutso literature professor
c) Janet= WAY hotter than Michael. If I wanna do her in this video more than him does that complicate my sexuality?
d) the badass dance breakdown! it RULES!
e) the (not so) subtle critiques of art, materialized in the ornate vases and the (trophy-like) ‘cool’ rows of electric guitars
f) Janet standing up and pissing for like 2 seconds-mid video
g) the very beginning and very end are simply amazing. Blast- who the fuck directed this video?! Honestly, the last… say… six seconds or so leave me speechless.
Hope thats not too much build up. Enjoy!
I think I need to end it with that. Its been a long enough digression from yr workday, yes? I’ll bid you adieu and leave you with a little political humor/absurdity to tie it all together.
You Make Me Wanna Scream,
As many have noted, there’s only one person who is stoked about the passing of MJ, and Farrah Fawcett, and all the other celebs who crossed the river Jordan last week… (and add Oscar Meyer to that list)
oh, but what idiot would fumble a glorious assist from God Almighty?!