King of Pop is dead; long live that little kid from Gary

Michael Jackson
REUTERS/Gene Blevins
On June 13, 2005, Michael Jackson waves to supporters after leaving the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where he was cleared of all charges of child sexual abuse.

I don’t have much to say about the passing of Michael Jackson, other than if you ever put one of his songs on a mix tape, sang one of his songs at a Korean karaoke bar in Manhattan or a VFW in Minneapolis, made-out to the sound of his plush voice, danced at a club to one of his thrusters, or supply your own intimate detail here, then a little-big something died with you Thursday, when Michael Jackson, 50, went to the great Neverland in the sky. 

The King of Pop is dead, and I am sad.

Not because I loved his music, which I did, especially the Jackson Five, whom I always think of whenever I drive 90 East over Gary, Ind. It’s a good stretch, and I try to take it slowly so as to take in the sight of the factory smokestacks on the horizon. Sometimes I wonder how many others do the same as they blow their way past to Chicago or Minneapolis or Indianapolis; point and say:

That’s the place where, once upon a time, a kid named Michael Jackson and his brothers set the world on its ear. They were poor, their father drove them like a team of Iditarod dogs, and they became America’s Black Beatles. See, kid? This is America. Anything’s possible.

That, yes.

Michael Jackson, June 1974
REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson
Michael Jackson, June 1974

But more than anything, I’m sad because it was nice living in a world that had a King of Pop. This can be a dry, black-and-white planet, but with the King Of Pop around, we had someone representing freaks of all stripes and pop music/art/life of all strains. I’m sad because somewhere deep down, I think everyone was rooting for him, even if they wouldn’t admit it. And in the back of our minds, we hoped that one day Michael Jackson would get up off the mat, and headlines across the world would bleat, “King of Pop Reclaims Crown.”

Instead, he was a naïve, loving, benevolent, eaten-from-inside dark king who looked like an alien by the end.

Once when we were talking about fame, a famous friend of mine said, “I know it sounds like cliché bull—-, but it’s like Michael Jackson or something. You don’t know why people like you.” And so like so many kings, you retreat and get lonely and desperate and the world closes in on you. But let’s not go there, not tonight, especially since Mark Eitzel is singing in my headphones about the importance of proclaiming my joy.

Shout it:

The King of Pop is dead. Long live that shiny little kid from Gary, Ind., who sang his heart out for us.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Brad Lundell on 06/26/2009 - 10:47 am.

    Well said Jim.

    When one drops all of their artistic prejudices and simply sits back and recognizes talent and talent alone, there is little question that Michael Jackson was one of, arguably the most, talented performers in the second half of the 20th century.

    I remember seeing the Jackson 5 on American Bandstand way back when and they had just finished lip-synching “ABC” or “The Love You Save” or something like that and Dick asked Michael if he would riff a little. Michael was about 8 or so (making me all of 13) and he obliged Dick. He jumped off his stool and let it rip. Here’s this 8-year-old kid with unbelievable pipes just blowing the audience (and the roof) away with just this little live riff. It was simply phenomenal. I always wonder what would have happened with Jackson if other musical paths had been explored.

    It is a sad day.

  2. Submitted by Brian Marshall on 06/26/2009 - 12:29 pm.

    I always thought MinnPost was a serious news website. I guess I was wrong.

  3. Submitted by Mike Hanson on 06/26/2009 - 01:21 pm.

    In what way is the death of Michael Jackson not serious news? He is one of the most recognized musicians on the planet, perhaps beyond.

  4. Submitted by Mike Finley on 06/26/2009 - 03:06 pm.

    I don’t think it’s such a good thing to have a King of Pop. It’s awfully hard on the kings.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/26/2009 - 05:31 pm.

    We will miss such a man who always put children first.

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