Monday, June 29, 2009

For Michael Jackson, Vindicating Remembrances and an Approaching Storm

By Evan Rytlewski
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Michael Jackson music videos ran on a constant loop on cable this weekend, while radio recommitted itself to his songbook—at one point I caught three Milwaukee radio stations all playing different Jackson songs at the same time.

Although there had been some initial doubt about how Michael Jackson might be remembered, as either the King of Pop or a tabloid freak show, in the end, fans chose to celebrate him the way he would have preferred, as a one of the world's greatest entertainers. The response has been genuinely touching, and it's been pleasure seeing his music return to ubiquity, if only for a short period.

No doubt the honeymoon will wear off. As the shock of his death dissipates, tasteful remembrances will give way to creepy revelations and, in some cases, outright lies. We've seen it already, in British reports about the grotesque condition of Jackson's corpse that, though not grounded in any semblance of truth, played into the public perception of Jackson as a leper. Gawker speculates we'll see more reports like this in coming weeks, since now that Jackson is dead he won't be able to sue for libel.

So prepare to hear claim after claim about drug addiction, suicide attempts, affairs, fetishes, surgeries and neuroses, some of which may be true, most of which won't. My hope is that all these reports cancel out each other, becoming little more than background noise—background noise that will hopefully be drowned by Jackson's own hits.

There is one far-fetched report that I do hope pans out, though: Claims that Jackson left behind as many as 200 unpublished songs to ensure his children's financial security, a touching legacy that proves his love for his children while keeping him on the radio, in some form or another, for years to come.

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