Friday, June 26, 2009

Thanks, Michael

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“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club.”

—Wendy O’Connor (Kurt Cobain’s mother) after her son killed himself, joining Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, rock stars dead at 27.

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Okay, so we’ve been in a thankful mood recently (see “Thanks, Google” from June 15), and we’re going give thanks once more on these virtual pages.

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Not, however, to the Michael Jackson who married Elvis’ daughter, dangled his baby out a window, and re-jiggered his face into some sort of Dangers-of-Plastic-Surgery warning poster.

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The Michael Jackson who deserves thanking here is the genius who, when he was all of 23 years old, created a groove—the foundation of “Billie Jean”—that was as good as anything laid down on a record.

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That groove could put a crying baby to sleep—and in fact it did, many times.

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No matter how out of sorts she was, no matter how loud she was crying from that uncomfortable baby seat in the back of that tiny car, she stopped crying the second “Billy Jean” and its hypnotic base-line started to pulse.

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That crying baby is now a grown woman; Michael Jackson, dead and soon-to-be-buried—or whatever the hell his handlers decide to do. (Ashes buried on the moon? Body frozen alongside Ted Williams for a Second Coming? Corpse interred at a new Michael Jackson Morgue at Disneyland?)

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And although he was 50 when he died, way past the age of 27 when the likes of Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison had all killed themselves in one way or another—Cobain with a shotgun, all doped up on heroin and Valium—the reality is Michael Jackson joined “that stupid club” a long time ago.

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But that’s how it seems to be for rock stars.

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Elvis was done by 27, even though he lived to 42. In fact he never made a song John Lennon thought worth listening to after he hit the big-time on the Ed Sullivan Show at 21.

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And Lennon’s first musical partner, Paul McCartney, wrote his last good song—“Maybe I’m Amazed”—when he was 27.

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It was McCartney, of course, who helped plant the seeds of Michael Jackson’s own musical demise when the pair collaborated on two songs that deserve their own special category—what the Brits call “Cringe-Making”—on any list of all-time Bad Rock Songs: “Say Say Say” and The Girl is Mine.”

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But we won’t remember Michael Jackson for his collaborations with a 40-year old ex-Beatle, or the tabloid stuff that came later.

We’ll remember him for a particular groove he created when he was 23 years old and the world was his.

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Jeff Matthews

I Am Not Making This Up

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© 2009 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews.

Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will not be responded to. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

7 comments:

Doug said...

How can you possibly leave out "Ebony & Ivory" from worst McCartney/Jackson songs ever???

Kevin said...

Try thanking Quincy Jones instead. He produced the song Billie Jean, the Thriller album, as well as Off the Wall and Bad. He at least has gone on to live an exemplary life unlike "Michael" who drank Jesus juice and slept with young boys.

G said...

No matter how good the "grooves" were that he created, or the number of babies his bass lines help put to sleep, you cannot ignore the boys whose lives he ruined with his chronic pedophilia. Passing his behavior off as "joining the stupid club" or "tabloid stuff" is simply sweeping his criminality under the rug.

Aaron said...

Jeff: Thank you for taking the time to separate the legacy of Michael Jackson's musicianship from his non-artistic pursuits, which many in the mainstream media will forever define Mr. Jackson by.

P.S. - The other legacy I thought about in regards to Mr. Jackson's death was how he truly broke the "color barrier" in music videos. During the early 80's when MTV just played videos only (imagine that!), I remember when they balked at playing MJ's videos, despite his record album sales and popularity at the time. Thanks to both Walter Yetnikoff (at the time, the legendary head of CBS Records) and Quincy Jones, MTV was pressured into playing Michael Jackson's videos. The rest, as they say, was history.

In the spirit of your mantra, Jeff, I am not making this up. Your readers can see this for themselves by perusing Walter Yetnikoff's auto-biography, Howling At The Moon.

P.S.S. - My favorite MJ track is Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. I love the African-inspired chorus near the end of the song, "...ma ma se, Ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa". Makes me want to moonwalk right now (laughing).

John said...

alot of very strange people in the entertainment business and Wall street and Washington. Who has done more harm ?

Gerald said...

"Ebony and Ivory" was a Stevie Wonder/McCartney collaboration.

Anonymous said...

was going to post some corrections to your piece, but Kevin@11:29pm took matters to hand. Jackson: Miles Davis liked him. 'nuff said

CrocodileChuck