Eric Karjaluoto writes at Ideas on Ideas, about "Epitaph for a plastic man", on the death of Michael Jackson.
Like many of the summaries of the life that Michael Jackson lived, Mr. Karjaluoto points out the revered music Jackson performed, and the alleged misdeeds.
The summary of how Jackson progressed from the first appearances I recall on the Andy Williams show - as a child, with the Jackson Five - to his death, is blamed mostly on the "toxic" nature of fame and media attention.
I think it is the other way around. People with no character, no ethics, willing to do and be anything to anyone - find a refuge in public performance. Musicians that know music and aren't drawn to a place of responsibility in their community will deceive themselves, telling themselves that the show is for the fans. The reality is that they only live vicariously.
The other significant memories of Michael Jackson that I carry with me are second hand, both of them satires.
Berkeley Breathed did a comic strip in the '80s called "Bloom County". In one episode a no-morals character is doing a Pepsi commercial as a musician, when he catches fire - too much mascara on his chest hairs. This lampooned a commercial that caught fire on Jackson - I never saw the commercial, only news reports. I loved the several days that the topic played on Bloom County.
The other legacy is enduring. "Weird" Al Yankovic writes and records parody songs. I can never hear the strains of "Beat It" without thinking the song that I recall from the Dr. Demento (Funny songs for fun people!) radio show - "Eat it!" will always be the hallmark for me, and Jackson's version just doesn't measure up.
Michael Jackson was younger than I am, by about seven (7) years. I always thought of him as closer to my age. But his music? That was a world away from mine. "Ben", the movie and song of a pet rat, are excellent performances. I could almost "Thriller", "Beat it", etc. variations on that ballad made for Jackson's voice - with little value added in meaning, in maturity, in soul, for all the years between.
Michael Jackson had brothers - four of them appeared with Michael on those long-ago Andy Williams shows, and recorded some really fine music. Jermain tried to care for Michael - and likely helped cover up some of the deviant stuff that came about in recent (and not-so-recent) years. I haven't kept up with them, but the other Jackson's haven't been making headlines and police blotters. With the same initial TV and other media exposure, we have four shining examples of citizenship and personal integrity greater than the late Michael Jackson.
Mr Karjaluoto in his article examines the forgiveness that a tainted icon receives, like Michael Jackson, on his death. Much of the predation is forgiven and glossed over, the accomplishments (recorded music and videos, and "Ben", of course) are sung widely.
I think much of this is something that also occurs in the justice system. A criminal act, a despicable act, an act of disrespect, is abhorred and reviled mostly - because we fear a repeat, fear another will be injured or harmed. On his death, Michael Jackson is no longer capable of harming the growth of another young man, of twisting another primate from healthy attitudes and behavior. We can replay his music and enjoy the vicarious performance without worrying that a new record release means another accusation of child molestation - the two events were paired, recently, almost as publicity ploys or distractions from prosecution, whichever.
Without Jackson's music I would be bereft of several "Weird" Al Yankovic parodies. And that feels like a pretty lame epitaph, for a plastic man.