In the several days since Michael Jackson died, one of the constant refrains of the relentless media coverage of his death is how we've tragically lost such a brilliant, talented, iconic entertainer.
This isn't entirely true. That brilliant, talented, iconic entertainer - the Michael Jackson who fronted the Jackson 5 as a child, who created two of the greatest pop albums of all time in Off the Wall and Thriller (the second of which is the biggest-selling album in history), who invented the moonwalk, whose contributions to early MTV programing, including the groundbreaking mini-movie for "Thriller," essentially defined the music video genre - died a long time ago. In his place emerged a frail, bleached, plastic freak who insisted that there was nothing wrong with sleeping in the same bed with young boys, who dangled babies from hotel windows, who showed up to courtrooms in pajamas, who, in spite of amassing unbelievable wealth in his lifetime, died hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. That pitiable Michael Jackson, not the early '80s superstar, is who passed away last week.
There's no question that Michael Jackson created some great music. That's reflected in the fact that, at one point earlier this week, sixteen of the top 25 downloads on iTunes were his songs. His best song, in my opinion, is "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." The fact that it was released towards the end of the disco era doesn't matter: if this whirlwind of a song didn't get you and your leisure suit off the suede couch and onto the plexiglass dance floor with the blinking lights underneath and the mirror ball overhead, you simply didn't have a pulse. "Man in the Mirror" is another one of my favorites; while Jackson would never be able to replicate the success of Thriller, he still had enough drive and talent left in him to make Bad a decent album. After that, however, it was all downhill for the man who would eventually be known as "Wacko Jacko."
The story of Michael Jackson will not end with his memorial services next week; the true circumstances of his death, the future of his children and the disposition of his estate will continue to be played out in the media as well as in the courtrooms for months, if not years, to come. And it's only a matter of time before the nutty, Elvis-esque "Michael Jackson faked his own death" conspiracy theories arise. I'm going to do my best to ignore all of that. As I said, the Michael Jackson I want to remember was gone a long time ago.