By now, we’ve all heard the news of Michael Jackson’s death at only 50 years of age. (Having the best-selling album in history with more than twice the sales of the second best-selling album will do that for an artist.) Needless to say, his family, close friends, and those that were huge fans and admirers of his today are heartbroken. My heart goes out to them.
Michael Jackson will be remembered, most likely, as a shattered icon, a pop genius who wound up a mutant of fame. That’s not who I will remember, however. His mixture of mystery, isolation, indulgence, overwhelming global fame, and personal loneliness was intimately known to me. For twenty years I observed every aspect, and as easy as it was to love Michael — and to want to protect him — his sudden death yesterday seemed almost fated.
Two days previously he had called one of my known’s in an upbeat, excited mood. The voice message said, “I’ve got somereally good news to share with you.” He was writing a song about the environment, and he wanted me to help informally with the lyrics, as we had done several times before. When I tried to return his call, however, the number was disconnected. (Terminally spooked by his treatment in the press, he changed his phone number often.) So I never got to talk to him, and the music demo he sent me lies on my bedside table as a poignant symbol of an unfinished life.
One of the hardest things to me about getting older is losing the people who inspired me and those I truly loved and cherished. A colleague of mine asked me who I remember and think about the most in the rock community that passed too early, and I told him there were several. Let me take a moment to remember some musicians that left us way too soon.
MJ was the one who showed the industry how Pop works. He defined and evolved Pop.
I could go on and on with musicians that are missed today… Metallica, Brad Nowell, Kurt Cobain, “Mama” Cass Elliot, John Lennon, Shannon Hoon, Johnny Thunders, Duane Allman, Andrew Wood, Tom Fogerty, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, and Sid Vicious, but for the sake of time and space, this is a short rememberance of those whose music I truly enjoyed, and still do today.
I will miss MJ more than I ever did any musicians in my life.