I had just finished playing a show in Cork, Ireland, when I heard the news about Michael Jackson's death at the age of 50. I've been quite busy touring and without internet since this happened, so I haven't really been able to write anything about it, and now that I'm sitting here in front of a computer, I'm realizing there's not a whole lot I can say about it that hasn't been said already. His life and death are going to be endlessly analyzed and scrutinized over the next few months and years and I doubt there's much I can really add to the to the conversation. But I'll do my best.
Michael was a childhood hero of mine, I listened obsessively to records like Bad and Thriller when I was growing up in the 80s, and would amuse my family to no ends trying to mimic his legendary dance moves (I was especially fond of his famous crotch grab.) I loved Michael long before I really even started listening to or taking an active interest in other kinds of music, there was just something about it that absolutely captivated me even as a child with no knowledge or understanding of what exactly makes music great, or what makes a particular song a well-written one.
Of course, over the last 10 or 15 years, Michael has been far better known for his increasingly bizarre personal life and his legal troubles, but I don't think any of that will ever take away from the incredible musical legacy that he left behind. Update: I don't want to simply gloss over that part of his life and pretend that some of his extremely disturbing behaviour never happened, as so many have been willing to do over the last few days, so if you are interested you can find all the Vanity Fair articles that were published on Michael after his first court case in 1994 here. None of these Vanity Fair articles were ever challenged legally by Jackson or his team. So despite the overwhelming amount of praise and support that he has been shown since his death, no one can possibly deny that he was, at the very least, a deeply troubled man. If anything, his life will serve as a chilling reminder of what the highest levels of success and a lifetime of the decadent excess of celebrity culture in America can do to someone.
In any case, despite the controversy and terrible accusations that plagued him over the last 2 decades, I would like to believe that my love of Michael's music as a child played some part in my eventual decision to pursue my own career in the music industry and I am incredibly grateful for that, and for the happiness that I felt listening to his music when I was younger. Because when I think of Michael now, I don't picture the pale, skeletal looking-man with the strange, surgically altered face...I just think of an awkward white kid in Landsdowne, Ontario, standing on his bed and dancing like an idiot while that legendary voice played out of the cassette player in his room.