A Black man with White skin: Michael Jackson lives on
The moment one thinks of Michael Jackson, the kind of imagery one conjures up is one of a pin-up boy complete with curly locks, top hat, white gloves, and tuxedo with an arm band. Celebrated as one of the greatest performer ever since Elvis Presley and Beatles, Michael Jackson (29 August 1958 – 25 June 2009) was an inimitable performer who enthralled the entire world with his exquisite music and transfixing dance sequences.
Indeed, Michael Jackson was a rare breed of entertainer, who conquered the music scene of 70s, 80s and 90s with his splendid chartbusters like ‘Thriller’, ‘Black or White’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Bad’, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘Jam’, ‘Remember The Time’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Earth Song’, ‘They Don`t Care About Us’, ‘Dirty Diana’. ‘Man in the Mirror’, ‘We Are the World’ and ‘Keep the Faith’ to name a few amongst many.
With hit phenomenal albums like ‘Got to Be There’, ‘Ben’, ‘Music and Me’, ‘Forever’, ‘Michael’, ‘Off the Wall’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Bad’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘HIStory’ and ‘Invincible’; Michael was not just any other artiste, but a cult figure who dominated the psyche of modern civilization.
Reminiscing my early schooldays, one thing is for sure, Michael had been a great influence on every kid during the 90s who was awestruck by his gravity defying dance moves, especially the ‘moonwalk’ and robot dance - a craft of sheer brilliance! Whether it was summer vacation shindig or Christmas vacation revelry, no celebration was complete until the frantic students boogied to Jacko’s numbers’ (you see, that was something quite common in a Christian school!).
I have some special memories of Jackson’s songs’ as they were an integral part of my growing up years. Something which was my first brush with western music, a prelude to a never ending journey! I still cherish some vivid memories of endless moonwalk practise sessions with school mates just before Teacher’s Day celebration, making girls swoon for their own desi Michaels (Well, let me tell you that I was blessed with a light frame, tolerable countenance, quite agreeable dancing abilities and an ear for music during my school years; something many chicks don’t get to see about me these days: courtesy quite a few extra pounds, horn rimmed glasses and a bohemian lifestyle!).
Inducing my earliest reaction of Jackson, something which was synonymous with MTV era, Jackson was quite unlike other entertainers. A Black man with white skin, effeminate looks, emaciated body, amazing dancing abilities (not to forget his signature crotch grabbing pelvic thrusts!) and androgynous falsetto; Jackson was a mystery to many, akin to mythical proportions (at least to me!).
His intricate dance moves and foot tapping numbers were ritualistic in nature, complete with wacky pyrotechnics, astounding stage props and equally improbable paraphernalia that made Michael Jackson unique phenomenon. A performer who enticed the global audience, Jackson’s artistry was cosmopolitan in nature, a star who overcame the barrier of race and cultural divide to carve his own niche in pop industry, thereby bestowed with the title of ‘King of the Pop’.
Born to a working class African-American family, Michael Jackson claim to fame was not something earned overnight. He sure paid for the price of achievement and in order to reach the pinnacle of success, he sacrificed his childhood, battled loneliness and a bullying father- that was enough to make his life hell thereby etching a terrible impact on his consciousness.
In spite of his mercurial rise to fame, Michael Jackson was controversy’s favourite child whose career was dogged by drug abuse, paedophile allegations, fetish for plasticity, troubled finances, weird antics (remember the episode where the pop star dangled his child through a balcony or the trial where he went in ‘blue pyjamas’ and who can forget his chimp and snake for pets!) and finally ending up as an emotional wreck who gratuitously took palliatives to seek tranquillity, something which was just a figment of reality!
For international music fraternity, Jackson may be a sacrosanct figure, even so, his stardom is Faustian in nature, with profligacy as its nucleus; Jackson was no longer an individual but a commodity. As the name of his ranch suggests, Neverland underscored a utopian world of fantasy where time stood still – mirroring the world of a self deluded artist who is cut-off from the outside world. Beyond the glittering world of grandeur, there is a pained face hiding under the dark sunglasses. In his Neverland Ranch, Jackson vainly tried to resurrect his lost childhood, something that was next to impossible as money alone cannot buy you happiness.
Incongruity lies in the fact that a man, who enjoyed thumping success early on, cuts a sorry figure at the fag end of his career. Well, I suppose that’s how life is at full circle!
Enjoying the pinnacle of success during the 80s and 90s, Jackson may never ever have thought in his wildest dreams of an end so unexpected. Leave alone Jackson, no one had ever thought of Jacko dying in debt and going through an excruciating struggle for resurrection, almost a second coming!
Today, Michael Jackson is no more between us, yet, his legacy continues. One should remember Jackson as the first Black cultural icon whose music bonded people beyond religion, caste and creed. Remember him for his umpteen humanitarian acts rather than dubious controversies. His death is a colossal loss to the music world, a pain that will heal only with time. ‘Wacko Jacko` for many, eventually, Michael Jackson was a rare musical prodigy who will keep inspiring generations till eternity!