” Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.” Michael Jackson Thriller
In the American radio soaps of the 1940s no one got pregnant-they expected a blessed event. These days no one dies-they merely pass.
What were you doing when Michael Jackson passed? I was returning to the office after a post coronary earth walk and got the news hot from a colleague who had just been texted or twittered (or both) by a distraught teenage daughter.
I can tell you a few of my other What were you doing when… passing parade moments if you’ll remember yours:
JFK in 1963-I was in the bath on a Saturday morning getting ready for a friend’s wedding (no cheap jokes about Saturday bath days and having one whether I needed it or not. Now it was one wedding and a funeral and I was pretty upset. Kennedy has got us through the Cuban Crisis the year before).
Elvis in 1977 -I landed in L.A. the day after he died and the loss in Los Angeles was palpable. His early recording career coincided with my high school years and gauche dancing transition from the Waltz and the Fox Trot (with a second name like mine I won’t even mention the Gay Gordons) to R&R and the Twist.
Princess Di in 1997 -I was at home preparing for our first SmartNet event. (It was about the time Mother Teresa died. I understood the popular outpouring of grief for the late Princess, but was slightly miffed that the gritty Saint of Calcutta, who I had interviewed live in 1978 after the big Indian floods, got far fewer in memorium column inches to have her heart-warming story told than did the now dead English Rose).
It was immediately after President Kennedy’s death that the morbid wwydw… game began. This was the same year that English aristocratic refugee Nancy Mitford, then living in the United States, wrote The American Way of Death. This monumental work chronicled in wry and sly detail how the Cost of Dying was escalated by guilt-edged funeral parlours with their galaxy of egregious embalmers, unctuous undertakers, costly coffins, memorial park property plutocrats and assorted funereal flunkeys who extracted large sums from small plots in demographically divided cemeteries. Not to mention the associated high-priced florists, casket makers, vault manufacturers and monumental masons who followed in the Grim Reaper’s slipstream.
People still read books then: the first edition of “The American Way of Death” sold out in a single day, which showed that it had hit a live nerve, though there was a deathly hush all over the world from the funeral industry.
Mitford revised it in 1998-just a little too early to catch the extra multimedia dimensions and new media now employed to digitally memorialize the duly departed, with abbreviated emoticons and endless twittering without a dusk to silence the dirge.
It is no doubt a reflection of my advancing years that while I followed with one eye the bizarre pre-funeral heavenly talk of Michael as the Father, the Son-and after the YouTube apparition at Neverland-the Holy Ghost, I did not feel the same sense of loss as when Buddy Holly or Elvis died (or retrospectively, because I hadn’t heard of her until well after she died and then became a posthumous star, Eva Cassidy).
As you might expect, Michael Jackson’s funeral was a hi tech, high production value show biz event, although his father’s new Blue Ray record label venture missed the showboat, though not the promotional opportunity. Even the prayers seemed scripted; was it just my imagination, or did the preacher’s bowed head and the almost closed eyes have a direct line of sight to the discretely concealed divine autocue?
I only caught a few minutes of the live service, but that included seeing what was apparently one of the few really spontaneous acts, the teary tribute from his daughter Paris. Otherwise there were the (more than) usual emollient epithets and epigrams. Graver epitaphs will no doubt follow.
I don’t want to pan the lost boy Michael Jackson (he was more Lost Boy than Peter Pan). He was obviously a top entertainer who, at the time of new video technology, brought a whole new visual dimension to his performances and multimedia postproduction. It’s just that his music, even as a five-year-old he sang with his siblings, didn’t synchronise with my crucial adolescent and early adulthood passages.
Music, like smells, induces instant time travel, taking us back to testosterone and endorphin laden experiences, or at least to the hopes and dreams of a younger self. The Moon Walk I remember best is Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s, 40 years ago this month, not Michael Jackson’s in 1983.
I quite understand that for other people, whose early life passages were in sync with his musical career, his music was much more thrilling than for me.
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk YouTube Legacy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRsM_rU_80g
Michael Jackson-Thriller-song length, plus occult disclaimer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T3k7_ZlasY
Michael Jackson’s father not missing a chance on CNN to plug his own business interests at the BET awards. (His own personal Best Bet, with a little legal help, is at the 3.23 minute mark): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H27665VPRmQ
Eva Cassidy’s version of Judy Garland’s favourite Over The Rainbow-a wistful and hauntingly beautiful song which could be the epitaph of all entertainers whose lives and careers have been cut off at the pass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccCnL8hArW8
Lyall Lukey 11 July 09 http://www.lukey.co.nz/