Like everyone else, I’m waking up to the news. I tuned into the BBC World service this morning. Usually, when someone famous has died, it’s the last item on the news. This time, not only was Michael’s death first, it took half the news programme. Next item after Michael’s death was the arguments between Ahmadinajad and Obama over the Iranian elections.
I suppose I’m just like the newshounds, lapping up all information. I’m curious, what happened here? What caused the cardiac arrest? Was he in the middle of rehearsals?
Everything in the public domain suggests that MJ was already quite frail. Someone had said that it would be unwise to book for the last of his promised 50 shows. Apparently, if the 12th show was fully booked, the advice was not to book for show 13. He hadn’t done this in a long time; he’d appeared in court on several occasions in his pajamas; he looked frail in court; we knew all that. A rabbi who was his close friend and adviser said that MJ had a lot of emotional pain, and he transferred it to physical pain.
All over the world, people are waking up, or if they haven’t slept, mourning the loss of MJ. The BBC World Service have been reporting from Mumbai, Africa and of course the States. Everyone’s talking, including Quincy Jones, who produced Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, Madona and one of his former wives, Lisa Marie Presley. The last time I was moved to blog on an event, we were all celebrating Obama. In a sense, all the worldwide traffic of information is suggesting an international event of similar proportions.
This morning, I heard Germain Jackson speak on behalf of the family. In an emotional voice, he narrated the official account and asked journalists to respect the family’s privacy. Will this happen? I remember there was an ABC helicopter over the hospital. I remember hearing on the BBC that Latoia was seen coming into the hospital in tears. Everyone is using words like iconic and phenomenal. Somehow I’m not sure that journalists will respect privacy. Ironic that all MJ wanted was his privacy. He even sang songs about it. Remember ‘leave me alone’ from the History album?
Akin always said he loved the fans but hated the press. He would know. You wouldn’t believe that he holds down a job as a lecturer in a top US university. He’s my source of all entertainment gossip, but when it came to MJ, he talked like he had personal knowledge. He talks about passing people to the back of Wembley, after they’d fainted; about the push to get into the stadium; about watching MJ perform some incredible moves, right in front of his eyes. He even talks about shows he hadn’t been to, in Tokyo, India, etc and how the fans gather when MJ is around. He talks about MJ’s house, friends, fan club, even about friends he’s made from the fan club. When he talks about perfectionism, he talks like it’s a personal thing. He’s explained to me why it takes 4 or 5 years for Michael to release a record; how many songs are discarded in the process; how his shows are designed to achieve the spectacular.
I thought I’d give him some time before ringing him for the full low down. It would be a long conversation, and I’m sure I need some skills in consolation. I won’t be surprised if he’s designated to day as a holiday.
My niece is in Manchester. She sent me an email to say MJ’s dead. I called the family she’s staying with. They report that everyone suddenly rushed to the telly when the news broke. My niece always fancied herself as some media figure and was heard to say that she had wanted to interview Michael. She’s only 13. MJ’s greatest hits were released long before she was born.
Now, they’re playing ‘She’s out of my life’. Akin tells me that every time he performed the song, MJ would break down in tears. You can almost hear his voice shaking as he sings the ending, ‘she’s out of my life’. He’s out of our lives now. Or is he?
You see, I too love to hear about celebrities. Two things strike me here; behind every public personality is a private life. Pity that MJ’s private life was so bound up in his public persona that Akin can tell me so much about it. After all is said and done, and despite the public persona, MJ is just a man. But the second thing I’ve learned is that when you really love someone, it’s warts and all. All those fans gathering and mourning have heard all the stories, but the real fanatics will defend, or at the very least justify MJ’s actions. They replayed his announcement of the 50 O2 shows. You know what he said to his fans at the end? ‘I love you’. People say it was for the money, but I think that’s not entirely true. I think that like you and me, MJ craved the love. I think he wanted to put up the perfect show, release the perfect album, etc as gratitude for the unquestioning love that people showed to him. Whenever I have come across that kind of unquestioning love, I’ve also seen the reciprocity, the gratitude, the willingness to do everything for the lover. I know that this is my own ideal too.