Friday, 26 June 2009

The Child King

I couldn't quite believe the news I heard last night, as I got ready for bed. I'm sure many were in a similar situation, he couldn't be, could he? It was quickly confirmed, that the great Michael Jackson had died. Shocking. I ended up listening to the radio for 3 hours, not able to sleep and waiting for more news.

I think words like legend, can be thrown around a lot these days. In his case though, it was true, he was a living legend, a King. I keep hearing people saying 'he was the king of pop for our generation'. Personally, I think he was more than that. Even although, I wouldn't consider myself a fan, he didn't just appeal to one generation and given that his career has spanned decades, he's probably the greatest and most controversial thing in music since Elvis. He shaped music, there was nothing like him, his clothes, his style, the moonwalk, everything. I'm sure he had no idea how many people he inspired or influenced. I remember as a young child thinking there were celebrities, then there were those that were sooo famous, they couldn't do normal things, like go out of their house without being mobbed. They needed bodyguards for the simplest of tasks and you'd certainly never see them buying bread down their local supermarket. The three people I considered 'so famous' were Madonna, Brad Pitt and Michael Jackson. Now that I've grown up, I don't think of Brad like that at all, Madonna maybe sometimes, but for some reason MJ was still that unattainable, larger than life, global phenonomen.

His fans are just that, fanatics, absolutely obsessed, perhaps even posessed. They have followed him through the amazing highs and lately the lows. I don't claim to know the ins and outs of all that happened, but to me, he seemed like he had a good heart. Yes he was troubled and eccentric. However, he cared about his fans, he knew they made him and in return they were so loyal to him, true fans. It's all too easy nowadays to sit in our glass houses gossiping about Michael Jackson dangling his child over a balcony or his ever changing skin colour and appearance, Lindsay Lohan drink driving or losing too much weight and Britney shaving her head, going to rehab and everything else that's happened lately. What we don't or can't talk about is what would we do if it happened to us. Most of us were lucky enough to have happy and 'normal' childhoods. We didn't now what it was like to travel around the country or the world auditioning for jobs and dealing with all that comes with that. The rejection, the nerves, the feeling that you are never quite good enough, the sheer pressure on you to provide for not just yourself, but your whole family, afterall they had put their life on hold to follow your dreams. Then there's the opposite, the elation, the success and the worst of all, the fame. We can never begin to comprehend just what it feels like to know millions of people in the world are looking up to you. They are waiting to see your film or hear your song or see you dance and you can't disappoint.

We can't understand what it would feel like to go to Starbucks for our coffee and be followed by cars filled with paparazzi fighting to get a picture of what we are wearing/what we look like/what we say. If you've ever seen a pap video of photographers trying to get exclusive images of Britney/Paris et al, it's brutal. It's a modern day hunt, the shouting, the jostling. I've seen it first hand when Prince William came to our seaside town to study at University. The day he arrived, the town was filled with journalists. I remember a photographer rushing past me with his camera and steps, he was so desperate for a picture, that he swung the ladder around until it smashed into my legs-just to get past me. He didn't even blink or care as I winced in pain and to be honest this was tame and controlled in comparison to the media circus surrounding the aforementioned.

Of course such pressure and obscure lifestyle will affect you. It was obvious that Michael was constantly trying to recapture the childhood he never had. He tried to buy the life he wanted, to try and be happy and who were we to criticise? I've always spoken of my hatred for the current obsession with celebrity life. It's not that I don't want to see what Rihanna wore to the Grammys or the amazing dresses at the Oscars. I love seeing that. It's the sleazy gossip, the lack of journalism, what ever happened to knowing the facts? A woman with a rounded tummy is pregnant, a bit of cellulite is 'letting it all go', no makeup is shocking. Jennifer is in love with Brad/in love with John/dating other people/back with Brad/hating Brad/phoning Brad, it's hard to keep up and it's all just rumours and gossip, with no real facts. I digress slightly, but that constant obsession and building people up, just to knock them down is tiring and it's ruining peoples lives.

I don't know if Michael ever knew just what his presence meant to the world. Actually, I hope he didn't, because no man can deal with that. Many will say that the celebrity lifestyle is chosen and so they go into it with eyes open. But can you ever really prepare yourself for people keeping and selling your used cup or left over sandwich? Or people going through your trash to find something incriminating to sell a story? Should someone with a talent as big as Michael Jackson, simply be content with singing in his local pub or in front of friends and family and ever really have the option of not choosing fame? What would our world be without entertainers, movie stars and singers. Michael brought so much joy to so many people and from such a young age and that should be shared with everyone. However, you only need to look at Susan Boyle and see her transformation from having the world at her feet and possible million dollar career to strange mutterings and a visit to rehab all within a few weeks. Something that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Michael Jackson was lucky in the respect that his fans stood by him, no matter what.

Unfortunately I can predict exactly what will happen now. The same that has happened with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Heath Ledger and anyone else taken too young. The autopsy, the will, the custody of his children, the rumours surrounding his health and death. The media circus is just beginning, we're already seeing helicopter footage of his dead body, covered on the ambulance stretcher. That's a way of life these days and I think it sucks. I don't want to see that. I don't want his kids and family to see that. We have to remember that although he was this magical and mysterious talent to us, he was just a little boy, a brother, a father and a friend.

No one will ever forget him, like Elvis, he will live on. He has to, with the outstanding career, the sheer number of people and things he inspired, there will never be an end to Michael Jackson. He left an amazing legacy and time will prove his worth. I just hope the media will allow him to rest in peace now.

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