A diversion from the usual topics -- because Saturday we had the privilege again to hear the exquisite Diana Krall in live performance – maturing and better with each tour.
Unannounced, in the middle of the set, came a sonorous and dirge-like instrumental of “I’ll Be There” – a touching tribute to the late Michael Jackson, and a rare example of taste and restraint in this post-death period of media-driven frenzy.
It may be churlish to suggest – in a time when the world’s adult challenges include on-going violence and epochal turmoil in the Middle East, financial dislocation around the globe, and political opportunities not seen for a generation in America – that the editors and producers of the channels of news should get over and beyond their voyeuristic fixation with Jackson, and get back to serious business.
All this is for what? The Neverland comparison does a disservice to Peter Pan – who exercised leadership and earned loyalty from his band of boys without drugs, inducements or molestation charges – and who faced pirates as adversaries rather than hiring them as a squad of goons and hangers-on.
The better comparison is with Benjamin Button, the eponymous, reverse-aging hero in Scott Fitzgerald’s story: Brad Pitt in the movie – manifest by Jackson in life, first as the boychild performing grown-up choreography and adult lyrics, who then did not mature but aged instead into adolescent behavior and infantile judgments.
And if there were virtue or ennobling in the pitiable story's end, wrought by physical and emotional family violence and indulgently enabled substance abuse, it would be no more for a talented escapee from the underclass shacks of Gary, Indiana, than for the less fortunate multitudes who suffer and die of the same causes without escaping those oppressive venues.
As for the career. Somewhere at least, there was surely business genius in securing control over the Beatles’ songbook. Less clear is the weight of all that against decades of profligacy and waste.
I plead a generational gap that impedes my “getting it” on Jackson’s music. Under the blazing arc at the end of the ‘60’s that extended from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones across the Atlantic to the post-Woodstock generation, the Jackson Five looked to be a bubble-gum machine, engineered to prop up Berry Gordy’s Motown after the best years of Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
In that context, even “Thriller” had its weirder side, foreshadowing – but who knew – the Wacko Jacko to come.
Members of a news-deprived minority who would plead “enough” will have their own candidates for the moments of gag-me excess in this week’s saturation coverage. My own -- so far -- is the self-promoting sycophancy of Larry King’s photo op with Jackson – reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s nausea-inducing drape over the slight but accommodating shoulders of Sammy Davis, Jr.
Relief, for God’s sake! There are serious and real subjects to address. This is, not least, the week we are to learn the sentence to be given to Bernie Madoff. Let’s keep things in perspective.
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