By Ben Cohen
As a child of the 80’s, I spent many, many hours perfecting the moon walk and arguing over the lyrics of ‘Bad’ and ‘Smooth Criminal’. I thought Moon Walker was the greatest film ever made, and I would have traded all my toys to see Michael Jackson perform live.
I was saddened to hear about Jackson’s death, but not surprised. You only had to look at the man to realize he was not well, emotionally or physically. It’s sad to say, but an individual as tortured as him may well be in a better place, despite the enormous void he has created in the music industry.
I suspect Jackson was guilty of the crimes he was accused of, but in a weird way, not responsible. I don’t believe Jackson knew what it meant to be an adult, and behaved inappropriately with children because essentially, he was one. While his behavior was highly inappropriate (and of course illegal), I don’t think he should be condemned entirely for it. By all accounts, Jackson had a terribly sad childhood, and his actions later in life were a clear reflection of it. It is not an excuse, but it puts his behavior in a wider context.
We must have a wider recognition of who Michael Jackson was, because no one event can define a person.
His extraordinary talents as a singer, dancer and performer are perhaps unrivaled in the history of the music industry. You only had to watch his stunning rhythmic movements synced perfectly to the beats of the song he was performing to understand how great he was. It was an effortless talent, genetic in its origin, and amplified through hard work, determination and an aching human vulnerability. Jackson’s voice was fraught with emotion, born out of insecurity, shyness, and pain. But it touched something, and made him magnetic in his appeal.
And that is why Jackson will always be remembered for his talent, and not his flaws.
Jackson was a symbol of everything great and bad about America – a black kid from a poor family achieving the heights of success and artistic expression, and conversely, a tragic tale of a man destroyed by fame, riches and an insatiable desire to create his own reality.
Like many people born with onworldly talent, Michael Jackson was unable to handle it. The highs took him to places few will ever see, and the lows ultimately destroyed him. It was a tragic tale, but filled with wonder and an everlasting impact. Few can ask for more than that.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.