Flow of Ideas
MICHAEL JACKSON, 1958-2009: a musical genius
by Ruth Rikowski





1. Michael Jackson: the Musical Genius

Michael Jackson - what a musical genius he was; a complete one-off, the likes of which we will never see again. He lit a light throughout the world; he brought joy and love into so many peoples lives. His music was just so cheerful, so full of joy and so powerful, and he was such a musical perfectionist. He gave so much, and now that light has gone out. It has gone out forever. And society was largely to blame. We took all the joy and pleasure he gave us, and then helped to destroy him. Society also made just so much money out of him, and will continue to do so for many years and years to come. As my second cousin Marlene said:

“I do not know why we have to do this to our celebrities. They provide us with beautiful music, beautiful artwork or stage performance, and we hound them for every ounce of their privacy.”

Michael Jackson – what a light he has been throughout the whole of my adult life. Then, suddenly I was devastated. I took him too much for granted – even though I became really very concerned about him over more recent years (particularly following on from the Martin Bashir interview in 2003). I thought him and his music would basically always be around whilst I was around (as we were about the same age). I thought I could pick him up and put him down as the fancy took me, as it were. Now I keep asking myself why did I not openly tell my friends and associates just what a musical genius I was convinced he was many years ago? Basically, he was the modern equivalent of Mozart; no more, no less.

Throughout all my reading I have only come across one other person so far who actually holds this view, never-the-less I am certain that I am right. This is Francis Brown in London, who said in his letter in the Daily Telegraph of 27th June 2009

“So, the Mozart or Beethoven of the modern world has been…Michael Jackson. That about sums it up, really.” (Francis Brown’s letter to the Daily Telegraph , 27th June, p.21)

Absolutely.

Michael Jackson was completely unique; we will never see the likes of him again. I feel so very privileged, at least, that I was alive when he was; that I was part of his generation. But I feel very ashamed at how so many people treated him.

Madonna is another one of the greats; a legend, in my view. This is what she said after Michael Jackson died:

“I can’t stop crying over the sad news. I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on for ever. My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family. God bless.”

She also said:

“He was the King who inspired us all...[and] I am so terribly sad about Michael Jackson’s death. I don’t know what artist wasn’t inspired by him.” (Madonna in ‘Michael inspired us all…he was the King’ by Victoria Newton, 2009, p.6)


Here are some quotes from various people who truly recognised that Michael Jackson was a musical genius.

Singer and broadcaster Mica Paris says, for example:

“Michael Jackson completely changed music – we didn’t know what videos were until he came along. He had an amazing voice, he was an amazing dancer; he was an amazing writer – he had the whole package and had every part of it insanely well. This is why he was such a genius: he was excellent at every artistic aspect. And that’s how we have to remember him, that’s why he will always be the King of Pop.” (Paris, in ‘He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest’, 2009, p.3)

Whilst Politician Oona King says:

“Michael Jackson was a musical genius and a human tragedy. He redefined pop culture and performance art, and in the process traded normality for global fame…But his triumph is that history will remember a musical genius, not his glaring human frailty. I will always remember seeing him perform live – he was truly one in a billion.” (King in ‘He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest’, 2009, p.3)

Meanwhile, Boy George said:

“His records with Quincy Jones were the sort of records that as an artist made you want to give up.” (Boy George in O’Hagan in ‘Tragedy of the pop genius who never grew up’, 2009)

I do not think it is possible for a fellow artist to issue a statement much more powerful and honest than that and I think it is a great credit to Boy George for being big enough and brave enough to say this.

Whilst Debbie Rowe (his second wife) had this to say:

“Michael and I have always got on. I only divorced him because I wanted my life back. I couldn’t cope with the constant pressure of fame. He’s the genius, the famous one. Not me. I turned out two good-looking kids, but I can’t sing, I can’t dance.” (Rowe in Witheridge, ‘My life as the mother of Michael Jackson’s children’, 2008)

Of course, many, many others have recognised and appreciated the true genius of the man; but still not nearly enough people in my view. Far too many were jealous of his success and out to destroy him.




2. Michael Jackson’s Artistic Ability
Tons of others have recognised his artistic ability in more general terms. Here are a few quotes and examples.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Rajendra K. Aneja had this to say:

“Michael Jackson ignited the imagination of those who love music and dance across the world. He was a vibrant, creative personality, whose influence spanned continents, and will now span time. He had a profound impact on music in the last 35 years. It is immensely sad that such a vibrant personality passed away so soon, but he will continue living in his music.” (Rajendra K. Aneja, of Dubai, Letter in the Daily Telegraph, 27th June 2009, p. 21)

Whilst Germaine Greer says that:

“…Michael Jackson’s art was astonishingly innovative. No one could dance like him, until he showed them how, and then they were never as good as he was. His concept of the dance was utterly 20th century, extravagantly multi-dimensional, and not in the least middle class…The surprise is not that we have lost him, but that we ever had him at all.” (Greer, 2009, p.3)

In one sense that is right. How was it possible to have someone like him? The same applied to Mozart. How could people like this come into our midst? But once they were with us we should cherish and look after them as much as is humanly possible; but instead of which, we exploit them, hound them and then destroy them. Shame on society.

Russell Grant, the TV astrologer said that he was saddened but not surprised, and that:

“It’s sad because he was such a massive, massive talent.” (Russell in ‘Twitter goes into overdrive as the fans begin their mourning’ by Moran, 2009)

Meanwhile, Politician Diane Abbott said:

“What made him unique was the energy he brought to his amazing live performances. I can’t think of anyone who can recreate that.” (Abbott in ‘Magic is easy – if you put your heart into it’ by Simmons, 2009, p. 6-7)




3. My Discovery of the Genius Quality of Michael Jackson

Alright, so far, I am not saying anything all that original. His artistic brilliance has been appreciated throughout the world (although personally I know of many people that have not held that view). Now, though the tempo changes. Bear with me.

I realised that he was really something right from the beginning of his solo career. However, I should have been bolder and expressed my views before now; for my own sake; for the sake of Michael Jackson and for the good of society at large. I deeply regret that I did not do that, but nothing can be done about now. I can, at least though, write it all down now and put it on our family website, and in this way I can let my thoughts and feelings about it be known to the world. So, here goes.

I can remember the time, very clearly, when I first ‘discovered’ Michael Jackson. I was sitting in the sixth form common room at school, Lister Comprehensive School in East London – I must have been about 16 years old. They played lots of music in the common room. Suddenly, I heard Michael Jackson’s singing wafting across the common room, singing on his own, as opposed to with the ‘Jackson Five’. Prior to this I only knew him as one of the Jackson Five and they seemed like quite an average band to me at the time. And of course there were many other average bands around; the Osmond Brothers being one such group that springs to mind. I also remember going to see David Cassidy at around that time.

I knew all this instinctively, as soon as I heard Michael Jackson. I sensed and knew that he was a musical legend. But I kept the thoughts totally to myself. I instinctively felt that no-one else around me would agree with me and really appreciate his music.

I found the same situation at university (University of East Anglia) – in that people were not raving about Michael Jackson at all at UEA; he was never really mentioned much; his music was not played in the campus discos, his music did not waft across the campus etc, or anything. It was hip and cool to be in raptures about ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘The Who’, ‘Led Zeppelin’ etc etc, but not about Michael Jackson.

It seemed to me that he appealed more to those from the working class; people that I had largely been trying to escape from, especially as a teenager (see Rikowksi, 2008). So, this was a problem for me. Thinking about it now, I realise that Michael Jackson also clearly had this problem himself, and is one of the ways in which I identified with him. He came from the working class, so in one sense really identified with these people. But of course, his phenomenal success also meant that he moved far away from his working class roots. This can also explain to some extent why he was not closer to more stable, successful people in his life; some people that could perhaps have helped him more. Elizabeth Taylor, for example, wonderful though she is, is not all that stable, in many ways of course, so it would have been limited, the extent to which she could have helped and guided him.

However, he would no doubt have found it difficult to have mixed and identified with more solid middle class people, or at least, with more stable people. Why was he not closer to someone like Paul McCartney, for example, one might ask? A lot of the time, he was singing and dancing more for the working class than the middle class, I think. He wanted to reach out to ordinary people, and try to make their lives better for them in various ways, through his music (this was probably also an offshoot from his religious upbringing, and is another area in which I could identify with him). But many did not value his music enough and, worse still, many tried to bring him down, through accusations of child abuse etc. So, Michael Jackson got it from all angles.

Similarly, I cross the divide between the working class and the middle class. My mother’s family, the Vickery’s were quite middle class, and indeed, my great grandparents run schools in Cornwall and Essex. But on the other hand, my father was more working class, and I lived and went to a school in East London as a child. Then, I went to university, became a professional librarian/information professional – all very middle class. This has meant that, to some extent, I can identify with both classes, but in another way, I can identify with neither very well!

So, I felt inhibited from telling more people about my views in regard to him. And it must have lead to many disparaging remarks being made about him by the educated middle class, who thought they were appreciating a higher form of music than that offered by Michael Jackson!

Reading the newspapers, I realise now that I did indeed instinctively ‘discover’ the pure talent and genius of Michael Jackson when I was 16 years old. He started his solo career when he was 14 years old, in 1972, when Motown signed him up to release solo material as well as his group work. He was 2 years younger than me, so I was right there appreciating his talent, from the very beginning of his solo career.

I thought he was going to have a really successful life in a total way. I got that bit wrong. I knew that he was a musical genius; composing, singing, dancing etc - he did, indeed, have it all. But I naively thought that because of this everything else would also somehow fall into place for him. I was not able to make it with a novel at a young age (see Rikowski, 2008) in the way that he was able to in music. But I was so excited to know that someone had been able to achieve this level of success through their talent. I thought he had everything going for him and nothing to lose. I thought he would have a successful relationship(s), a big house, lots of money, people adoring him etc. etc., and that everything would be fine for him. I knew that he peeked too young really; that he had to mature and sort various issues out, but I was certain that he would achieve all that. I felt sure that he would come through, and prove that talented and creative people can express their creativity; give pleasure to others; make money out of it; become successful and also have a happy and fulfilled life. Well, he achieved the first four things, but not the last three. So, this shock, this realisation that everything did not fall into place for him, that he could not find ultimate happiness, that no-one cared enough about him, or at least were not able to do anything about it, that he mixed with the wrong sort of people, that there were too many greedy people out there trying to take advantage of him and exploit him etc., is all quite dreadful. As J. Randy Taraborrelli said about Michael Jackson way back in 1992:

“It’s sad – tragic, even. He’s such a privileged person, a man heaped with every blessing of fame, fortune and family. One wonders why there seems no way then, no way at all, for Michael Jackson to lead a good and dignified – and happy life.” (Taraborrelli, 1992, p.665)

Yes, tragic indeed.




4. Comparisons between Mozart and Jackson In time, I feel sure that it will be realised that Michael Jackson was the modern equivalent of Mozart. Mozart, by strange coincidence, is also my favourite classical composer. And ironically, there are also so many other similarities between Mozart and Michael Jackson. Both were child prodigies and both were purely and instinctively musical geniuses. They could produce great musical works in a very short space of time. Witness how much they both produced in their lives; it is astonishing.

Furthermore, they broke new grounds in music; Michael Jackson being there right from the beginning in regard to music videos and changing dance music, for example. In addition, they were both treated very shabbily by society and died before they were old. At the same time, they also became successful to begin with, because their fathers nurtured and encouraged them from a very young age; 3-5 years. But Mozart’s father was a lot kinder than Michael Jackson’s, I think. That was one big difference. Mozart’s father had his faults; he certainly was not kind to Mozart’s wife, Constanza, but he did not hit Mozart like Michael Jackson’s father did. They also both died in a dramatic way, through their passion for music, working very hard on musical assignments, also with the need to earn money. They both overworked themselves and did not take enough care of their health, and all that led to their early demise.

This has also brought home a hard lesson to me that one needs to learn. That is, the importance of being very careful with how one uses ones creative energy. I was overdoing it on the writing front a couple of years ago, for example. When I started to become successful in the writing and publishing world, I got many offers to write, and I found myself taking on too many projects. So, I had to regroup.

In regard to discovering more about Mozart’s life, the film ‘Amadeus’ and Charles Hazlewood’s BBC documentary about Mozart were both excellent productions, in my view, and they both had a profound effect on me.

Focusing on the way in which the genius within both Mozart and Michael Jackson is interesting, and also brings out some of the differences between them. Charles Hazlewood in the BBC 3 part Drama Documentary The Genius of Mozart: a personal exploration argues that Mozart’s genius grew and developed from the ‘loves and losses’ in his short life and he says that:

"I believe Mozart was the greatest composer of all time. The popular view was that he was born a genius straight from his mother’s womb. But in my opinion his brilliance grew and developed from the loves and losses during his brief 35 years. Life was the driving force of his genius." (Hazlewood, BBC Drama Documentary, The Genius of Mozart, Part 1, 2004)

Also, Mozart composed ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ after his father died in 1787, for example. And his ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ opera is all about the overwhelming power of our passions and emotions – particularly when faced with very extreme situations.

So, the experiences that Mozart had in his life helped him to develop and perfect his genius quality into many fine works. It was not quite that straightforward for Michael Jackson though. Clearly, his music greatly matured and developed from when he was a boy; but some of the experiences in his life hindered rather than helped him, I think. He lived longer than Mozart, of course, so there was more time for things to ‘go wrong’, and indeed, it was in those key years 35-50 years that many things did go wrong for him and when others became just so jealous of his success and wanted a piece of it. Also, the difficulties he had in realising that really he was very much trapped in a man’s body and the associated problems he had in adjusting to adulthood.

Perhaps, if Mozart had lived longer the same fate would have befallen him. Who knows! But in those years (35-50 years), it became more difficult for Jackson to compose and perform. On the other hand, I am sure that some of Jackson’s later experiences inspired him and helped him to produce some of his great music. He was certainly and clearly very inspired by children and by being with children.

They also both had people being jealous of them, although Jackson probably had a lot more of it than Mozart in terms of numbers (although also communication is so much easier today of course). But then again, the jealousy of Antonio Salieri towards Mozart was so intense that it seems that it caused Mozart’s premature death. That is certainly the message that is portrayed in the fantastic film ‘Amadeus’. It says on the back of the DVD case for ‘Amedeus’:

“In 1781 Vienna, court composer Antonio Salieri (Abraham) is maddened with envy after discovering that the divine musical gifts he desires for himself have been bestowed on the bawdy, impish Mozart (Tom Hulce), whom he plots to destroy by any means necessary. And by means of cinematic craft and sublime music, we watch spellbound.”

Another all-important similarity between them is that neither Mozart nor Michael Jackson were able to and allowed to mature properly. They became successful at such young ages, and were admired and respected by so many adults as children, and were thrown into the adult world before they were ready for it, in many ways. On one video clip on YouTube Michael Jackson says how much he really wanted to play with other children sometimes when he was around 11 years old, but that he had to go and fulfil a recording contract instead. So, for both of them their musical genius sprang from their childlike love of life. In many ways, they always looked at life through the eyes of a child. Now, to transfer this into an adult world is not easy. It requires one to think and take time out really. But of course, because they were so successful, no-one wanted to give them that ‘time out’. So, as adults they still behaved like children in many ways. Mozart giggling and making silly and crude jokes and Michael Jackson with his Neverland. Jackson himself in a video clip on YouTube said that he created Neverland in order to help to compensate for his missed childhood. I think that if you are a particularly creative person, then being able to play a lot as a child, and being able to use ones imagination freely, is even more important. Our middle son, Victor Rikowski is extremely creative and artistic, for example, and played for hours and hours as a child. He also came up with new and original ideas whilst playing, such as creating complicated board games and complex stories. This was all incredibly important to him and really helped him to develop. In regard to Michael Jackson, he also said that he was Peter Pan in his interview with Martin Bashir. Perhaps, that also helps to partly explain why he seemed to slip into prescription drugs easily, wanting somehow perhaps to keep in this fairyland, as well as the drugs alleviating pain, of course. Whilst Mozart wrote ‘The Magic Flute’ at the same time as he wrote his Requiem. He did this because he needed money, and the Requiem was lucrative, but he also needed something to cheer him up. So, he wrote ‘The Magic Flute’ at the same time, which was full of fun, but it was all too much for him, and all that helped to cause his premature death. Neither of them were very good at handling money either – again, a sign of immaturity. Michael Jackson was obviously better than Mozart on this point – after all, Mozart died in a paupers grave. But on the other hand, Michael Jackson could clearly have invested his money somewhat more wisely, rather than throwing so much into Neverlands, for example, and going on some very expensive shopping expeditions. But then again, these things were important to help to ‘keep him together’, as it were.

Again, society was not there for either of them. It should have helped both Mozart and Michael Jackson to mature, instead of which it exploited them and took advantage of them. Certainly, everyone seemed, somehow or other, to want a piece of Michael Jackson. Also, why do we ask so very much from such talented and creative people? If, in some ways, they are not able to mature, should it really matter? Well, not if they had had kind and understanding people around them, that had their best interests at heart. Perhaps, both Mozart and Michael Jackson feared that they would have found it difficult to produce their great works if they had matured – maturity can inhibit creative flair if it is not handled in the right way. It is debatable anyway. But we do not ask great financiers why are they not more creative, in the way that we somehow expect creative people to have their ‘heads screwed on’ when it comes to these more practical matters as well. This is why Michael Jackson was called ‘Wacko Jacko’. He has produced all this wonderful music, so why is he suddenly having plastic surgery and doing other daft things, people asked? But why on earth is it that society cannot realise that this is just because he did not grow up in some ways, and needed some help here? Honestly. We ask too much. But of course this is all tied up with capitalism and the need to be forever creating value and making profit.



5. Michael Jackson’s Vulnerability and Sensitivity

It is also really important of course to fully realise and appreciate just how vulnerable and sensitive Michael Jackson was. This came across very clearly in the Martin Bashir interview. He broke down and cried several times; still, Bashir continued – he did not let that phase him, and his chance to significantly improve his own career!

Creative, artistic and intelligent people can often be very vulnerable and sensitive, I think. In one sense, it very much goes together. In order to produce artistic works, it helps if one is really in touch with ones feelings, sensitivities and emotions. At the same time, though, this can make one vulnerable. As singer and broadcaster Mica Paris said regard to Michael Jackson:

“But he was very naïve, vulnerable. He had a sincere belief that children were pure; he wanted to look after and care for everyone.” (Paris in ‘He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest’2009, p.3)

Mica Paris also said:

“I’ve been crying all night. It’s a very sad day, traumatic. I’m destroyed…But he was very naïve, vulnerable. He had a sincere belief that children were pure; he wanted to look after and care for everyone, but to cynical people, that looked weird. In the legal world, the first thing the lawyers tell you to do is to settle, but that made him look suspicious. He was so clean and too sweet, and when you’re like that you’re open to attack.” (Paris, in ‘He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest’, 2009, p.3).

Madonna also said he was very shy; they went to a party together once but he did not talk to anyone much.

Meanwhile, the singer and broadcaster Sinitta had this to say:

“He was a real pioneer, yet he had that boy-next-door quality. Later on, I became more concerned about him, but I never believed any of the stuff against him – it just made me upset, angry and sad. Basically, he hadn’t had a childhood, so he was just more comfortable in the company of children. I can relate to that. Children made him feel safe; they didn’t judge him. I think he was a genius – a complete one-off. No one will compare.” (Sinitta in ‘He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest’, 2009)

Yes, the basic point was that he had not had a childhood, so he tried to get it in later life. Also, do not forget that he was singing like an adult man (singing about love and relationships) when he was only a boy of 11 years old. Smokey Robinson made this point at Michael Jackson’s Memorial Service, saying that he sang one of Smokey’s songs better than he sung it himself! Obviously he did not know, had no experience of such things, but he was just so bright, that he could work it out; he knew instinctively how he should perform (and do not forget that he knew that if he did not perform like that, that he would suffer the belt from his father). But of course, to be able to express such things as a child takes its toll on one, and probably made it even more difficult for him to enter the adult world smoothly later on.




6. The Martin Bashir interview in brief – leading to Michael Jackson’s Downfall and Destruction

In my own mind, I am absolutely certain that it was the interview with Martin Bashir in 2003 that directly led to Michael Jackson’s downfall and destruction. Bashir grossly exploited his vulnerability. As Halpern said in regard to Michael Jackson agreeing to do the programme and allowing Bashir into his home and into his life for 8 months, prior to the making and broadcasting of the programme:

“Jackson fell for the bait. The beleaguered singer didn’t know who he could trust anymore. He had been betrayed repeatedly by those around him...” (Halpern, 2009, p. 155)

Michael Jackson obviously thought that Bashir would portray him in a sympathetic and a worthy light, and in this way, help to put the record straight. And for some reason, at the time he obviously felt a real need to do this, to open up in this way. But of course, none of that transpired. Instead, Bashir’s main aim was just to look after himself! He went to great efforts to put himself across as the worthy, family man when interviewing Michael Jackson.

Having said all this though, if it had not been Bashir, someone else might well have come along. But then again, it would have been quite feasible for some good people or person to come along, and try to guide him in the right direction. However, people were too greedy and selfish and/or just did not understand him, or simply found it too much.

Now, of course, Martin Bashir is talking differently, saying that Michael Jackson was the best singer and dancer ever. Talk about hypocritical!

In regard to the Martin Bashir interview, Michael Jackson had this to say afterwards:

“Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before – that someone, who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair programme.”

Meanwhile, Bashir’s career boomed as a result of it all. On the back of it he took up a deal with ABC, which was said to be worth $1 million to become an anchor on 20/20, the American equivalent of Newsnight.



7. Misunderstood person; no-one seemed able to ‘be there’ for Michael Jackson, to help him to mature, so that he could have had a long and successful life

As well as probably not understanding himself properly, Michael Jackson was grossly misunderstood by many others. This came out very clearly in the Memorial Service they had for him. They thought, in many ways, that he was different to how he was and/or they wanted him to be different to how he was. But if he had been different, he would not have produced the wonderful creative work that he did.

However, Lisa Marie Presley’s words are particularly revealing and perhaps can help to lessen the sorrow in one sense, although not in another. She said that he knew that his life was going to be cut short. So, in one sense one could say that it was inevitable; but on the other hand, how tragic it was that he knew this, but that he felt that nothing could/would be done about it, and that he would die relatively young and that all this proved to be the case.

Lisa Marie Presley was married to Michael Jackson for about 2 years. After his death she was so shocked that she published a piece about it on her MySpace blog on 27th June 2009. I am going to quote from this piece extensively; it is just so important.

In this piece, she recalled the fact that her and Michael Jackson were talking about her father, Elvis Presley’s death at one point in their marriage, when he stared at her quite intensively and said with almost calm certainty:

“I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did.”

Lisa Marie Presley also said that their relationship was not a ‘sham’ as it was reported in the press. Rather, it was an unusual relationship where two unusual people did not know a normal life but she said

“…I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much.”

She continued, making it clear that she wanted to help him but that the task was just too big for her.

“I wanted to ‘save him’ I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened.”

But:

“At that time, in trying to save him, I almost lost myself.”

Obviously, then, this was a real problem for them; she could not save him, if in the process she lost and perhaps destroyed herself.

She continued:

“He was an incredibly dynamic force and power that was not to be underestimated. When he used it for something good, it was the best and when he used it for something bad, it was really, REALLY bad. Mediocrity was not a concept that would even for a second enter Michael Jackson’s being or actions.”

She explains further, how in the process of trying to save him she became very ill. Also, how difficult it was to stop him from certain self-destructive behaviour and the desire to self-harm. Furthermore, that he attracted just so many leeches and hangers-on. Obviously, being so famous and successful, he was bound to attract such people. But of course he had all these insecurities and there was also of course the great discontentment that he had with his own appearance. But Lisa Marie Presley then became worried that she would ‘go under’. As she says:

“I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain self-destructive behaviour and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him. I was in over my head while trying. I had my children to care for, I had to make a decision. The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.”

She continues saying that:

“After the divorce, I spent a few years obsessing about him and what I could have done different, in regret. Then I spent some angry years at the whole situation. At some point, I truly became indifferent, until now.”

And now, following on from his tragic, early demise, she says:

“As I sit overwhelmed with sadness, reflection and confusion at what was my biggest failure to date…I am truly, truly gutted. Any ill experience or words I have felt towards him in the past has just died inside of me along with him. He was an amazing person and I am lucky to have gotten as close to him as I did and to have had the many experiences and years that we had together.”

In closing, she says:

“The World is in shock but somehow he knew exactly how his fate would be played out some day more than anyone else knew, and he was right.”


Meanwhile, Boy George said that he wondered whether he was really happy and whether anyone was really looking after him (in ’Tragedy of the pop genius who never grew up’ by O’Hagan, 2009)

Lisa Maria Presley could have helped him, and indeed, did help him; she loved him. But it was just too much for her; too much for one person, so she walked away. Where were his friends when he really needed them, one wonders? Was there no-one else out there to help Lisa to help him, as it were? And where was his family? Well, we know that his family was somewhat dysfunctional, but even so… Could they not have been there for him when he really needed them? It seems that they did not understand him; perhaps they did not make enough effort to help him; they wanted to control him too much. And then perhaps, also, they saw him as a person that was helping all the family, through his fame and money. It must partly have been though, the fact that he became successful when he was so young; it was probably difficult to get through to him, especially when one can buy oneself what one wants (e.g. plastic surgery). Janet Jackson, for example, was very concerned about his drug taking. To such an extent, that he would not talk to her for 2 years apparently. So, the problem was also partly that he was not an easy person to help, it seems. This was probably partly because he got used to the fact that, throughout his life, he had to be in charge of situations in various ways, in order to cope.

After the Martin Bashir interview I thought Michael Jackson might well become a recluse and never compose and perform again. But I did not think he would die. However, in the end, there were just too many vultures around him; too many people wanting to make money out of him, to have a piece of him, and encouraging him to work when he should have been resting and regrouping.




8. Patriarchy

One important question which we need to ask, in my opinion, is just exactly how powerful was the patriarchical family that he was brought up in? I mean, he made his views about his father quite well known. His father used to hit them all as children when they were in the Jackson Five if they did not perform as he thought and expected them to. Although Michael did not get it as bad as the others, as he was such a gifted performer. We also know that his father said he was ugly and had a big nose, and these facts must have had a big influence on him wanting to have plastic surgery and change his appearance. In one newspaper article it said that he wanted to be as different from his father appearance-wise as it was possible to be. Also, the day after he died (26th June 2009) his father appeared on the TV news, and did not seem all that upset about his son’s death at all. He said that he would be even bigger in death than he was in life. He also used the TV slot as an opportunity to promote his own recording company.

Perhaps, Jo Jackson did not like the fact that probably the least ultra-masculine of his sons was the one that had become the most famous and was the most talented. Why was it that Michael did not feel able to thank his dad for helping to make him so big in the Bashir interview, one wonders? Was it because part of him regretted becoming famous altogether and not being able to live a ‘normal’ life; was it because his dad was still controlling him and he resented it; was it him just not being grateful, was it because he thought that by that method he could make his dad change towards him, exposing his faults etc, or what? But of course, we will now never really know the truth.




9. People wanting to break Michael Jackson and make him fail

Obviously, many people tried to break Michael Jackson in various ways.

Among the crowd on Hollywood Boulevard was Latonya Holsome, for example, who when she was asked what she thought about the controversies that stalked Jackson, including the 2005 trial she said:

“They were trying to break him down. He’s an African-American, of a stature like Gandhi or the pope. When he has all this power, why wouldn’t they want to tear him down.” (in Pilkington, 2009)

Allison Boshoff said that:

“…Jackson was destroyed emotionally and physically by his trial on charges of sex abuse in 2005 (a trial incidentally during which he spent much of the time in a wheelchair, claiming to be in serious pain from a broken vertebra in his back.)” (Boshoff, 2009, p.4)

Furthermore, Sean O’Hagan had this to say:

“When the news broke of Michael Jackson’s, it seemed, though it pains me to say it, unsurprising. The postponed shows, the disintegration of his financial empire, the strange muted hysteria that attends his every appearance, all betokened some kind of dreadful denouncement of the most epically tragic contemporary pop rags-to-riches fable. I turned first to the music, and marvelled once again at its unbridled joy, its jouissance, it’s sheer exuberant energy. At its best, it is the sound of a precociously gifted child having fun, stretching out to the full measure of its possibility.” (O’Hagan, 2009)

Once again, this can be related to Mozart. Both Mozart and Michael Jackson were childlike and wanted to have fun, and their great music was produced out of this. What an absolute tragedy it is that they both died quite young.




10. Michael Jackson – the intelligent/thinking man

David Gest, the fourth husband of Lisa Minnelli (and Michael Jackson was the best man at their wedding at David Gest’s request) pointed out that Michael Jackson was a very intelligent man and that he read widely.

“…he was always reading. He was an intelligent man. His favourite poet was Robert Burns and he was obsessed with the novels of Charles Dickens. He would scour antique bookshops looking for first editions of his work. He loved Shakespeare…He was also fascinated by English history, especially Henry VIII, and loved collecting costumes from that period.” (Gest in Iggulden, 2009, p.29)

And we must not forget that Michael Jackson did not have a proper, formal education, as he was always on the road as a child; so this would all have been more or less self-taught.

David Gest thinks that Michael Jackson never recovered from the emotional and financial strain of the 2005 court case. He said:

“Michael was never the same afterwards. It was a terrible thing to be accused of…” (Gest in Iggulden, 2009, p. 29)

He said that, at that time, various people abandoned Michael Jackson, but that he stood by him.

I think we should be grateful to David Gest for providing this information.




11. Some of the ways in which I personally identified with Michael Jackson

I can identify with Michael Jackson in so very many different ways and on so many different levels. I am sure that many people were able to identify with him. But when I really thought about it and wrote it all down, I was stunned to see the extent of it all!

Here is the list that I came up with:


a. Not being allowed to have a proper childhood
b. Being aware, as children, of our talent
c. Aiming to produce top quality work, working hard and being perfectionists
d. Trying to recapture some of our childhood as adults and wanting to hold on to the idea that the world is magical
e. Being about the same age
f. Vulnerability, sensitivity and shyness (although the shyness was largely confined to my childhood and public speaking as certainly helped me still further in this regard)
g. Crying easily
h. Wanting somehow to ‘save the world’, help everyone and to make the world a better place
i. Issues with our appearance as children
j. Self-harming
k. Middle class/working class divide
l. Religious upbringings
m. Having to deal with patriarchical issues
n. Coming from dysfunctional families in various ways
o. Having to take charge of various situations from a young age
p. Risk-takers
q. In our fantasy (at least) wanting to live a full life and to rise above many of the less savoury aspects of life!
r. When in right frame of mind, and feeling inspired etc, being able to produce creative work quickly and easily.



Indeed, I have never identified with a famous person in the way that I could and did identify with Michael Jackson!




12. Concluding Thoughts

How on earth can this be concluded? Well, all I can really do is to leave readers with a few thoughts.

After Michael Jackson died, I became very concerned that next, we would see still further exploitation of him, with indeed, the commercialisation and capitalisation of Michael Jackson. The Memorial Service for him concerned me in this way. There seemed to be a desire to portray Michael Jackson as a certain type of person; the person that they seemed to want/wish him to have been rather than the person that he actually was. But if he had been the former rather than the latter person, then of course he would not have become so wonderfully successful. It was because he had the guts and determination as a child to display his talent and his creativity so clearly and confidently that he stood out as something so very different from his brothers. Incidentally, it was also noticeable, I think, that none of those that were closest to him were at his Memorial Service. This included. Elizabeth Taylor, Lisa Minnelli, David Gest, Uri Geller, Lisa Maria Presley, and Quincy Jones.

The exploitation has indeed happened to some extent. This is why I have not gone to see the ‘This Is It’ film, for example – which consists of the recordings of the rehearsals for the ‘This Is It’ concerts, of course. Making money out of all of this is quite sickening in my view. But on another level, perhaps it has not been as extreme as I feared it might be. There is also the concern about the possibility of his children being exploited and exposed to the world at too young an age and perhaps being forced to be singers and dancers. Only time will tell how all of this will transpire. For the time-being, it does seem that the Jacksons want to keep a relatively low profile.

It is definitely the case that Michael Jackson helped, cheered up and brought joy to just so many people throughout his life, all around the world. He was able to reach out to just so many people in some many different walks of life, and with such varying characters, views and perspectives. He must also have helped many people to overcome their various hang-ups and problems. He also, of course, inspired just so many people to produce and develop their own worthy works.

He brightened up so many of my days throughout my life; I used to love to sing and dance to his music. Sadly, though, I never saw him in concert. My son Gregory and I, had tickets for the ‘This Is It’ concert but of course, that was all too late. And this year he helped me, Gregory and Alexander Rikowski to get over my father-in-law’s (and their grandfather’s) death. Also, after my father-in-law died in February 2009, and before Michael Jackson died, Michael Jackson inspired me to set up my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog – see [linkhttp://ruthrikowskiim.blogspot.com/"> Ruth Rikowski’s ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog . He also helped to give me more confidence in my own thought processes and creativity.

If all those that he helped and gave such pleasure to had been able to find a way to help him and to give something back, perhaps he would not have died at 50 years of age. It is easy to say this in hindsight of course; it would have been difficult to see how this could/would have been done. But it is something to think about in case anyone remotely similar appears amongst us. But that is not likely – he was one in a million.

It is indeed sad, though, how it was allowed to happen. It all seemed to go really downhill big time after the court case in 2005. But of course, it should never have got to that stage in the first place. Really, society just let it happen – let Michael Jackson get pulled through the coals like that, without people really standing up for him, saying that it is just totally unacceptable to treat him like that. Rather, society should have looked after him and cherished him. One wonders, for example, why he wanted to change his appearance so very much. Was it in order to become somehow more angelic-like in his appearance, and at the same time, as little like his father as was possible? In his Bucharest concert in 1992 (as part of the ‘Dangerous’ tour) he went up in a rocket at the end of the concert; he seemed to want to go somewhere else, to a better world. He needed at least one stable relationship, someone that he could trust, but he had difficulty in trusting people, which given what happened to him in his life, was not surprising. It is a shame, I think, that he was not able to achieve that with Lisa Marie Presley. But that’s how it was.

I think it is also clear that he composed, sang and danced to overcome his troubles; and that he was never happier than when he was on stage. He sang and danced his way out of things. And of course, that is the same way in which Mozart died – working through his music; composing music.

In addition, Michael Jackson tried all his life so very hard to rise above corruption and low life – but sadly he was never really able to, in a complete way. When he was little, he heard his brothers having sex with girls, for example, and saw his brothers going to adult clubs. He also had some prostitutes foisted on him in his teens, but he just spoke to them rather than engage in sexual activities. So, he witnessed all this corruption in various ways and his solution was to rise above it all, and to compose, sing and dance to perfection. But the low life people kept coming back – we might be able to rise above it all ourselves, but unfortunately, these low life people are still carrying on in their low life way. One cannot force people to adopt higher standards. This is what I think is so shocking about the child abuse accusations. He wanted to remain childlike and to be with innocent children; but they got him in another way and lowered even that. It must have been dreadful, to have to sit in court and hear all those awful things being said about one. Every time he tried to rise above things, society seemed to seek to bring him down again. The concerts were a final attempt; his girlfriend Grace thought he could claim his title ‘King of Pop’ through it again. So many people were out to make money out of him. He said on a video clip on YouTube that when he broke through on a new level of success in regard to record sales etc, then all the gossip about him increased. And of course, it was so intense.

In 100 years or so time I think he will be recognised in a similar way in which Mozart is recognised today. It should be remembered that Mozart’s operas were not performed many times in his lifetime; he did not become the court composer; he had to teach to make money and really struggled financially. His great success came after he died. But why do we have to wait until people die before we can fully appreciate and recognise the true genius of them? Crazy.

Some journalists struggled to understand why Michael Jackson’s fans were so loyal. But as far as I was concerned, this was simply because his music was so brilliant. This happened to me. The media made me doubt him; then I listened to his music and once again, realised and remembered how good he was.

As Lisa Marie Presley said, he somehow knew that his life would be cut short. And that is one reason why be became friendly with Uri Geller, it seems. He was looking into the possibility of being cloned. What a shame it was that he was not properly able to see this through. Still, perhaps this is a possibility for the future – a way in which talent, creativity and genius can more effectively be preserved. Who knows what lies around the corner in this way.

This letter in The Guardian is tragic, but captures something about the whole thing, I think. Giles Swayne says:

“That he was doomed has been obvious for years…His life story is a tragedy, and a reminder of the destructive effect of heartless commercial exploitation. Jackson was destroyed by the capitalist juggernaut – with which (understandably, given his background) he colluded, but which derailed him. His commercial success was not what made him a ‘genius’: it was what destroyed him. Had he been less commercially successful, he might have developed more fully; as it was, he flowered spookily young, failed entirely to develop, and was too smart to kid himself otherwise – hence the freak-show of recent years.” (Giles Swayne, letter to The Guardian, ‘Doomed talent who paid the price of fame’, published on 29th June 2009).


Finally, although once again, I think we know most of this well enough, here are a few other facts, demonstrating Michael Jackson’s huge level of success.


• Michael Jackson’s No. 1 album, featuring many of his biggest hits, reached the top spot in the UK chart, and four of others made it into top 20 (29/06/09)

• HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo said, shortly after he died:

“We’ve never seen anything like it. The demand for Michael Jackson hits has just been phenomenal – even more than when Elvis, John Lennon and Freddie Mercury died. It’s the greatest one-day sales for any artistst’s album ever.” (In Tetteh, 2009)

• Michael Jackson recorded unreleased songs in the 1980s with Freddie Mercury

• Michael Jacskon left his 3 children £60 million secret treasure chest of 200 unpublished songs



Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson
You will remain in our hearts and thoughts forever


References
Boshoff, Allison (2009) Medics found him in a coma, Daily Mail, 26th June, pp. 4-5

Greer, Germaine (2009) The surprise is not that we have lost him, but that we ever had him at all, The Guardian, 27th June, p. 3

Halpern, Ian (2009) Unmasked: the final years of Michael Jackson, Simon and Schuster, London

Hazlewood, Charles (2004) The Genius of Mozart: a personal exploration by Charles Hazlewood. A 3-part BBC Drama Documentary on the life of Mozart. First broadcast between 19th March-2nd April 2004, on BBC2, Friday pm. Written and Directed by Andy King-Dabbs. See The Genius of Mozart

He died with 1,000 arrows in his chest: Black Britain (2009), The Guardian, 27th June, p. 3

Iggulden, Caroline (2009) A manly handshake, burning toast, filling up my car with petrol, reading Dickens…my pal Jacko was just a normal guy – David Gest talking about his friend, Michael Jackson, The Sun, 30th June, p. 29 David Gest talking about his friend, Michael Jackson

Jackson interview seen by 14m (2003), 4th February, BBC News (report on the Martin Bashir interview with Michael Jackson) Report on the Martin Bashir interview with Michael Jackson

Low, Valentine (2009) Michael Jackson: Martin Bashir interview damaged him deeply, Times Online, 26th JuneMichael Jackson: Martin Bashire interview damaged him deeply by Valentine Low

McGreal, Chris and Gumbel, Andrew (2009) Sharpton flies in as battle joined over singer’s death and legacy, The Guardian, pp.6-7

Macintyre, Ben (2009) From the moment that he found fame, he was slowly dying before the public eye, The Times, 26th June, p. 9

Moran, Caitlin (2009) Twitter goes into overdrive as the fans begin their mourning, The Guardian, 26th June

Newton, Victoria (2009) Michael inspired us all…he was the King (Madonna on Jacko: World Exclusive), The Sun, 4th July, pp.6-7

O’Hagan, Sean (2009) Tragedy of the pop genius who never grew up, Sunday Observer Review

Pilkington, Ed (2009) He gave his life to entertain us: emotions run high as crowds and TV crews throng at LAs walk of fame, The Guardian, 27th June, p. 2

Presley, Lisa Marie (2009) Michael Jackson knew he would die like this, Lisa Maria Presley’s MySpace blog, 27th June 2009 Michael Jackson knew he would die like this – Lisa Maria Presley

Rikowski, Ruth (2008) Michéle Roberts: novelist and radical feminist; comparisons with Michéle Roberts and Ruth Rikowski, writers, book lovers, feminists, radicals, librarians and pro-activists Michéle Roberts by Ruth Rikowski

Simmons, Sylvie (2009) Magic is easy – if you put your heart into it, Sunday Observer Review, 28th June, p. 6-7

Taraborrelli, J. Randy (1992) Michael Jackson: the magic and the madness, Headline, London

Tetteh, Sarah (2009) After-death sales record puts Jacko back at No 1, Daily Mirror, 29th June, p. 5

Witheridge, Annette (2008) My life as the mother of Michael Jackson’s children, by Debbie Rowe, Daily Mai Younge, Gary (2009) We span, shuffled and combed our hair up high – to be like the boy on Bandstand, The Guardian, 27th June, p. 3


DVDs
Amadeus -- Director's Cut 2-Disc Special Edition [DVD] [1985] DVD. Directed by Milos Forman; Written by Peter Shaffer Amadeus

Jackson, Michael (1992) Live in Bucharest: the dangerous tour (DVD)


Draft written in July 2009 and completed in December 2009
© Copyright, Ruth Rikowski, 2nd December 2009





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