It's not hard to understand why the death of international icon Michael Jackson is such a significant event. Michael had a massive generational impact globally. His public personality and reach was bigger than life. His music managed to reach the tiniest of villages in the most remote and impoverished parts of the world.
I can't explain the shock I felt when I was traveling in India for the first time and I saw posters of Michael Jackson in a chai stop. It was even stranger when I happened to be in Germany and heard a crowd screaming as we strolling through the city. When I reached the noise, a group of around 50 adults and few children outfitted in Michael Jackson paraphernalia were huddled at the steps of his hotel. Holding placards, CDs and posters the crowd had been waiting for hours. A woman next to me was screaming Michael and crying, begging him to come out and show his face. She had traveled from London and vowed to follow him anywhere. Another couple told me they often tracked Michael and just wanted to catch a glimpse of him. We joined the small hysterical crowd, a little for observation and little for our own desire to catch a glimpse of the pop star as well. An hour later, Michael appeared under his umbrella and walked around shaking hands and greeting his fans. He had several bodyguards and by this point police had barricaded the perimeter where he walked. Unfortunately an overzealous fan cut through the barricade ran up to Michael and jumped on his back. It was a strange thing to see. She gripped on so hard; the bodyguards ripped her off and ushered Michael back into the hotel. A disappointed crowd started the hysteria once again, crying and screaming his name.
I was amazed how obsessively and incessantly people were searching for something deeper through Michael Jackson, in fact its hard to understand how anyone can handle that kind of projection. Our collective rationalization of gathering to "catch a glimpse" is what induced Michael to become a recluse as the years went on. Now another kind of media frenzy has begun. Speculation. Hypothesis. Conclusions. Our desire to know, doesn't just exist in life, it carries beyond death. Turning on the news this morning I noticed CNN was tracking the corpse. Is that really necessary?
I never imagined I would come closer to Michael than that day in Germany but just before his trial broke, I was invited to Neverland. I performed for a private benefit concert; we were invited to spend the day at Neverland before the show. We walked through the grounds and saw giraffes and various animals, played video games, won some stuffed animals and shook hands with Michael. It was a surreal day for me. There was no hysteria, no noise, just a calm beautiful home. I had another image of Michael that day. I understood his life a little better. He seemed so distant from the things we take for granted. Sitting in his movie theatre, I was saddened that he had to create a fantasy for himself because he couldn't move through the world like a normal human being. It was at that moment that I pondered the fate of celebrity.
It's not shocking to see the outpouring of grief and sorrow. The only other time I remember this kind of global grief is when Princess Diana died. There are not many people in this world whose impact in life is a big as their impact in death. Michael is one of those rare few. His music was a soundtrack to precious moments in life. As odd and unsocialized as he was, he managed to touch the world in some way. It's not sad that he is gone, everyone has to go, what is sad that is that he gone too soon. His departure was so abrupt; many of us are still in disbelief. I texted a girlfriend yesterday when I found out, she was angry and told me to not be "the bearer of bad news" and that she believed in Jesus Christ and hoped it was a rumor. I think that was the sentiment all throughout the globe yesterday. We all were mad at the messenger and the cursed the sky for taking something we had forgotten we valued.
This is and End of an Era. The King of Pop is gone. Michael, you shall be missed.