I have formed some thoughts about this Michael Jefferson. I will write them, and you will read them.
We’re not supposed to make jokes about his passing, but why not? Michael Jefferson’s life was, most of all, a cautionary example. And if we joke about him when he’s dead, it makes us think… “I don’t want people talking like that about me when I’m gone.”
Maybe MJ should have thought this way after Thriller. Thriller was a masterpiece; and even for a performer of MJ’s considerable talent, trying to top it was just futile. (And there were a couple of good songs post-Thriller. “Smooth Criminal” and “Leave Me Alone” come to mind.) So, what if he hadn’t tried to top Thriller? What if he had said, “One masterpiece was enough,” and been satisfied to make music that was artistically satisfying, even if it didn’t sell millions of albums? What if he had taken that fortune he amassed and instead of building a theme park in his backyard and indulging in 39 flavors of freakiness, he had funneled his money into charities, built children’s hospitals, or helped launch other young artists. We’d be having a very different conversation tonight, I think.
A lot of people have impulses that are in their own way as bizarre as some of Michael Jefferson’s, but we lack both the means to indulge them, and insulation from the consequences. Money provides the means, fame provides the insulation from consequences. Too many handlers around MJ, too many “industry” people determined to protect their investment. It’s not a healthy way to live, and from the age of five, it was the only life he knew.
It’s kind of sad, really.
True story: Last Saturday at Home Depot, the checkout girl demanded of me “Prince or Michael Jackson?” She and the adjacent checkout girl were undertaking some sort of survey related to some dispute. I thought about it, and answered Prince… because he once made pancakes for Eddie Murphy’s brother, if I remember my Chapelle Show. She seemed disappointed with my answer. I wonder how she’s doing tonight.