Remembering Michael Jackson

michael-jackson-silhouetteThe death of Michael Jackson caught me off-guard, as I’m sure it did everyone.  I was in a restaurant when the reports began playing on televisions all around.  Texts and phone calls immediately started coming in from family members who knew how I usually stuck up for him whenever I got trapped into one of those awkward conversations about Michael Jackson where everyone tried to offer the funniest put-down.  I didn’t find an ounce of joy in criticizing such a fragile soul.  I know he was far from perfect, and I know all the allegations that swarmed around him.  We will never truly know the state of his soul, but the  truth is, we don’t get a vote.

This is what I DO know.  Being an original is really, really hard.  And being an original who is also in the public eye, is even harder.  Michael did it anyway, and I respect that.  His work was, and is, a brilliant example of courageous artistry. Did I agree with everything he said or every song he sang?  No, but that’s immaterial.

I’m sad he passed away, and I will always believe that his life was filled with purpose, and giftedness, and a need to say some things that were important to him.  He chased that purpose with gusto.  I, for one, am especially sad that we will never hear whatever new idea was stirring around in his mind before his heart stopped beating today.

I work with artists and have for some time, and I’ve seen over and over again how those with the most natural talent are so often the most tortured souls around.   I don’t understand it entirely, but I do know that the greatest artistry of which mankind is capable is often born out of  pain, fear, insecurity, or all of the above.  Art has a way of bringing clarity to a frazzled soul.  That is the beautiful mystery of creative arts.   But because musical gifts must be shared to be enjoyed, a tortured soul is set up for criticism the moment his gift is put on display at any level.  Suddenly, when the world knows his name, he is perceived to be “public property”.   The way constant scrutiny tears away at an already-fragile soul is indescribably sad and destructive.

I hope, as we remember Michael Jackson, that we will offer him the same dignity we would desire if our own lives, from early childhood until now, were documented by the international media for the world to see and comment on.  Most of us have the privilege of making our mistakes and failures privately.  The trade-off for that is… most of us will never be a household name.

For the man who dared to be over-the-top remarkable on-stage, I applaud.  But for the human being behind those dark glasses who spent his off-stage time trying to find that guy everyone loved so much, I grieve.

16 thoughts on “Remembering Michael Jackson

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  1. Beautiful, Em! So well said. My son, when he was 4 yrs. old, enlightened me to the “World of MJ”. He knew every word to every song and of course, at 4 yrs. old–every dance move. I, too, saw an artistic genius who also was like a fragile little child when he was not performing. To me, it was such a sad sad existence. I pray he has found some sort of peace and that his heart was prepared to meet our Lord.


  2. Emily I am with you l loved him and always defended him. He was a remarkable entertainer who obviousley had some issues but don’t we all.


  3. “I don’t understand it entirely, but I do know that the greatest artistry of which mankind is capable is often born out of pain, fear, insecurity, or all of the above.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Honest, heartfelt, and transparent art is the best that art can aspire to.


  4. Emily, You have, again, expressed so much of what is on my heart. It would be wonderful if we could offer this kind of grace to all those around us who seem so “different” (even the ones who aren’t artsy). I am sure we each seem awfully “different” to someone. And you are so correct – we don’t “get a vote”… only an opportunity to love the “whoevers” in Jesus name.


  5. Beautifully said, Emily. Unfortunately, there are some who reach for superiority by putting others down. Never understood the appeal of this, myself. Personally, I think the world will be an emptier place without him and his remarkable talent. RIP, MJ.


  6. Amen, sister Sutherland!

    This world was made a great deal better by the music, productions, and benevolent services he provided to so many.

    And, while many of us have the luxury of sitting back and playing armchair prosecutor (with even less evidence to convict, no less), we forget we have the responsibility to look for the good in our fellow men, ordinary and extraordinary!


  7. Well said, I can’t add anything else. I wish people would understand that deep down somewhere in all of us is a piece of MJ. How could there not be? Most of use grew up listening to him, the world is a sadder place, no one could be that original again.


  8. I’m reading your post for the first time…7 months after its original posting. I would like to echo your thoughts and those that left comments here. Thank you, Emily and others, for your thoughtful and hearfelt comments. Very well said. Michael was indead an incredibly unique, gifted yet troubled talent and like you said, much of the most meaningful and memorable art tends to come from a place of great pain and searching. Although, despite the darkness and sadness Michael endured, he brought a great deal of light, joy and electricity to the lives of so many in his ability to entertain and his desire to serve. Well done Michael. God bless you and I pray that you are at peace.


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