Columnist Ron Hart writes on Michael Jackson's death:
Since he morphed before our eyes from a black male into a white woman, I did not realize that many consider Michael Jackson a person who broke racial barriers. Maybe they mean that he started off black and worked his way toward becoming white. He clearly was a talented guy with deep-seated personal issues, but Rosa Parks he was not. Even rival attention junkies Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton could not sell that one to the American people. Perhaps their last chance at selling that particular myth died with Billy Mays….
The cautionary tale that was the life of Michael Jackson is one that we learn over and over. Never surround yourself with "yes men" who will only feed your demons instead of telling you "no" when they know they should. We have lost a talented performer who lived a tragic life. I hope his death will teach us to avoid drug addiction, false friends, and living for too long in Neverland.
I found the Jackson memorial service today pretty awful in terms of paying the musician his due as an artist and a cultural figure and many of the send-offs simply bizarre and self-serving, to say the least. It's impossible to bracket the charges of child molestation from any discussion of the guy, even when it gets super-jokey.
But to the extent that America is any way post-racial or at least less racially cleaved or more individualized, there's little doubt that Jackson, despite a seemingly bottomless well of dysfunction, played a significant role in all that. I think RU Sirius got it right when he wrote recently that "in some odd way, [we] will learn from his many mistakes."
And I think Hitsville's Bill Wyman (formerly of NPR and Salon but not the Rolling Stones) is onto something in his piss-take on Jackson's (and Steve Jobs'!) defenders from media mean-ness:
As for Jackson, jesus-his biggest claim to fame is his celebrity qua celebrity. He's an amazing pop artist, of course, but he's no Stevie Wonder, to name just one Motown fellow. He's no Springsteen, either, and he's no Prince. A lot of black activists, like the buffoonish Al Sharpton, have been trying to prop up his rep as a breakthrough black artist; I take the point that "Billie Jean" was a watershed for MTV, but Wonder was hitting crazy commercial landmarks in the 1970s. (Songs of the Key of Life debuted at number one, for example, an almost unprecedented event at the time, and while I don't care much about the Grammys, his dominance of the event in the middle part of the decade was nearly total.)