Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson

It has been a couple of weeks since the passing of Michael Jackson, and perhaps now that the media frenzy over his death is beginning to subside somewhat, some thoughts from this corner on the man and his music.

Although I respected his considerable talents and undeniable brilliance, I can't include myself as one of his legion of fans. Not taking anything away from him, but I just didn't get into his music while both of us were growing older together. He was, after all, only a couple of years younger than I am. The adulation shown at the public memorial this week and the subsequent smaller events around the world are testament to the draw Michael Jackson had become, and I cannot dispute that.

Yet, I find myself wondering how long this will go on. Is this all driven by the mass media exposure the death has attracted? Although the passing of Elvis in 1977 was a huge event at the time, there was not the media as we know it today: no internet, no cell phones with camera, and so on. We relied largely on radio and television, with newspapers providing a lot of the in-depth coverage the following day. I remember working at my first on-air job in radio when Elvis died; I had just started about a month or two before, and I remember the coverage was considerable, but not overwhelming, as the passing of Jackson has now become.

Just as was the case with Anna Nicole Smith with her untimely passing not long ago, I suspect we are in for months of daily 'updates' on the latest developments, thereby preventing many to simply get over it and move on, as we all must. I know, it is too soon to 'get over it', but eventually, you have to. That is life and, unfortunately, death.

Predictably, sales of Michael's music went through the roof the moment his death was announced, as was the case with Elvis so many years ago. Just this week, there will be a new release of a live performance Michael gave in Japan some years ago, and yes, I will be featuring it on my Mike's Picks page of my website ( this week as well as in my July newsletter, FINE MUSIC NEWSLETTER, coming out this week as well. You can subscribe, by the way, by emailing your request to and including your email address with your request.

I was thinking immediately after the death, how unusal it seemed he should pass away at the age of 50, seemingly in good health. Now we know, of course, he had problems, compounded by the presence, it seems, of drugs in one form or another. We don't know the autopsy results yet, of course, but already fingers are being pointed in regards to who gave Michael what, when, and why. This will likely go on for months, if not years. Brace yourself, it can only get worse.

Is there a connection to other great artists besides Elvis we have lost over the years? In a way, I think there is. Not that drugs were involved with either of them, both Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and the great composer Mozart spring to mind, not to mention Schubert. Gould died, also at the age of 50, far too soon, following a massive stroke in 1982. Like Michael, Gould had so much more to offer the world of music, and yet we were robbed of his considerable talent at the age of 50, just like Jackson. With Mozart and Schubert, both were in their thirties when they died, both with seemingly lots of years of composing in front of them, one would think, before they were taken from us.

In each case, from Mozart and Schubert right up to Michael Jackson today, we mourn the loss of a great talent, albeit in different musical genres, and wonder what could have been. All we can do is appreciate a great talent more when it is still with us, and respect the family privacy after the artist has passed away. That, unfortunately, will not happen with Michael Jackson, since already the family appears to be at the centre of a media circus. I wish them well as they come to grips with the loss in the months and years to come.

We have lost a great artist, there is no denying that. But now, let us at least start to let go, and get on with our lives. It will be better for all of us; especially the Jackson clan.

July 11th, 2009.

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