Should we celebrate the 10 Year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death?

Reflections

I honestly cannot believe that it’s been 10 years since Michael Jackson passed away. I remember exactly where I was when I found out that he’d died.

It was such a horrible day.

My 12 year old self was distraught. I’d been so inspired by his music. I identified with him being a “weirdo” because I too felt weird and misunderstood. His death literally was one of the worst days for me at that point in my life. I fell to the floor. I was in floods of tears. I even went to school late because I did not think I could make it through the day.

All of this for a celebrity I’d never even met? It’s sounds crazy when I think back on it. A part of me felt stupid, but my heart was truly aching. I felt as if I’d lost one of my greatest motivations and inspirations. It was a shock reminder that even our favourite stars are human just like us and are mere mortals.

I’m 10 years older now and still just as inspired by Michael Jackson’s music and artistic legacy as I was when I was younger.

Over the years, it’s been conflicting being a fan of Michael Jackson at times.

However, to this day, I still cite MJ as my biggest musical inspiration. Watching and listening to him made me feel as though I could do and accomplish anything in this world. I made sure to practise my instrument ten times harder, so I could be amazing at my gift, just like MJ was at his. The times I felt lonely and had no friends, MJ’s music made me happy.

This all sounds so corny and sappy.

But it’s crazy when I think back to who I was as at aged 12, addicted to his music and to look at where I am now and how much MJ’s artistry has contributed to my growth.

The issue of celebrating the anniversary of MJ’s death

I think a lot of MJ fans, like myself, can’t reconcile with the thought that such a talented person, who inspired feelings of awe in so many, and was a philanthropist, could equally do such horrific things.

I’ve read all sorts of opinions from opposing sides:

“MJ could never do such a thing – his accusers were just money grabbers”

“MJ was acquitted and found “not guilty”, so that means that he didn’t do it”

“You can’t separate an artist from their music – they’re one in the same. To consume their music is to support THEM”

“MJ was troubled and to support his music is to cosign him molesting children”

“MJ was just misunderstood – he was an angel and any MJ slander won’t be tolerated because he was perfect”

Image of MJ as an angel from ‘Off The Wall’ Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery, 2018

I don’t agree with the view that you can’t separate the artist from their music. I believe that you can. And I believe that we do this every single day.

Why do I hold this view?

I think people that believe this is possible, aim to do so as a means of outwardly asserting that they do not agree with an artists’ way of life, behaviour or morality, to appease their own conscience.

These people believe that by no longer actively consuming the music of such artists and by outwardly expressing that they no longer support said artist, they have taken the moral high ground and rebalanced the scales of injustice.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone should do what they believe is the right thing for them on matters such as this. If an individual feels different and no longer feels comfortable, then I completely understand.

However, although all of us could burn our Michael Jackson CD’s & Vinyls, no longer stream his music, actively sit down when we hear his music played at parties – what purpose does this serve and how does it change anything?

As a mega-fan, I’d say I know at least 95% of MJs discography.

There’s plenty of times I’ve had to ask myself , how can I “undo” his music when I know it like the back of my hand?

If I decide to cease listening to his music, can I really deny myself of such musical pleasure for the rest of my life?

And if I continue to listen to and support his music, does that not mean that I endorse and support a child molestor ? Does my inability to take a stand but sit on the fence, not mean that I cosign MJ as a person?

To this I still have no concrete answer.

Conclusions

Fact of the matter is, MJ is still raking in around 22 million monthly listeners on Spotify and is ranked 85th in the world. This is interesting to consider given the controversy surrounding his personal life especially after the 2019 documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ as well as the fact that he’s been gone for 10 years. What does this say about us as a society? Do we actually care about such moral issues prevalent in the music industry and the artists they endorse, when we continue to listen to and buy their music? Are we expecting too much of ourselves or not enough?

Nonetheless, I still want to pay homage to to the artist MJ for gracing this earth and sharing with us with his musical gifts, for shaking up the industry and for being one of the greatest stars this era has ever seen.

His contribution to music and the arts is undeniable.

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