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Cool it with beat it

POSTED July 31, 2009 11:11 p.m.
On June 25, the world changed forever.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month now. You know, since Michael Jackson died.
He was the King of Pop. He was Captain EO. He showed us how to moon walk, for goodness’ sake.
The first album I ever bought was “Bad.” While growing up, I incessantly listened to “Thriller,” “Dangerous,” heck, anything the man put out.
And, yet, in just a month, I’ve grown sick to death of his music. I’ve turned to mix tapes and talk radio just to avoid being subjected to one more “Billy Jean” performance.
I realize I’m likely in the minority here, but I really can’t stand the way the nation has handled Michael Jackson’s death.
Like every year, a lot of people have died in 2009.
Ranging from news anchor Walter Cronkite to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and NFL Quarterback Steve McNair, the world has lost all sorts of famous and important folks. Television Host Ed McMahon, author John Updike, and even Socks, Bill Clinton’s cat, have said good-bye this year.
But no one seems to care about any of these deaths.
For some reason, Jackson’s death has captured the nation’s attention in a way his life could not in recent years. I haven’t seen this sort of national hysteria over the passing of a star since Princess Diana’s tragic car crash in 1997.
I thought, sure, America might spend a week or two mourning the man. I’ll admit to being shocked at news of his death myself.
But I really wasn’t surprised.
“Invincible,” Jackson’s last album, was released in 2001. He’s been nothing but a sad reminder of his one time greatness — little more than a source of tabloid fodder — since that date. Many of us had already written him off as dead.
And perhaps that’s why Jackson’s sudden death has resonated so strongly with America.
Jackson’s “Thriller” is the best selling album ever. His catchy, infectious brand of pop is appealing to almost everyone in the world. And we, as a nation, quite simply abandoned him.
So, in a self-indulgent show of respect for a man who we have labeled a plastic surgery addict, a pedophile, and a general weirdo, we feel almost obligated to play Jackson’s music. Not for his own good, but for ours.
If the media mavens responsible for the airwaves — and we in charge of our iTunes playlists — stop to reflect, to decide whether we’re listening to Jackson out of guilt or love for the man’s music, what would be our answers? If we have all truly loved Jackson’s music this much for all this time, then why weren’t we playing it before?
I suppose I’ll endure this short-term overplaying of the King of Pop as America apologizes for villainizing a man who, despite his oddities, produced some of the best music in history.
But if we as a nation really adore Jackson, if we love his music the way we’ve claimed to over the past few weeks, then we’ll be listening to “Man In The Mirror,” “Rock With You,” and “Beat It,” for the next 40 years or more.
And I look forward to that. I look forward to being old and grey, strolling by a future radio, when “The Way You Make Me Feel” comes on.
I can see the smile crossing my face. I can see myself singing along goofily while my children look at me like I’m an idiot, asking, “What song IS this?”
“That’s Michael Jackson,” I’ll say. “He was the King of Pop.”
And that simple show of respect, to me, would mean much more than this shallow posthumous outpouring of affection.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com, call 634-9141 ext. 2005, or join the Michael Jackson Fan Club on Facebook.

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