Michael Jackson, a Victim of His Own Making


Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Bill Wyman (not the Rolling Stone, the far-more interesting proprietor of the excellent music-biz blog Hitsville) turns a cold eye to all the media invocations of Michael Jackson as a victim of, well, the media, and a celebrity culture gone mad, a too-tough dad, and blah blah blah. Comparing Jackson to Stevie Wonder, who remained a prolific and successful artist over the years, and noting that Jackson released only two CDs of new materials in the last 18 years of his life, Wyman writes, 

If only [Jackson] had an enormous fortune, a large family, and an extraordinary network of famous friends to help him cope with [his] problems. Instead of turning to them, he chose to run away from his art, become a drug addict, ruin his personal reputation, dismantle a towering fortune, embark on transparently absurd PR campaigns, and turn himself into a world-class freak show.

In the transfixing 2003 documentary "Living with Michael Jackson," the star looks like nothing more than a latter-day Blanche DuBois, denying a sordid past and ultimately reality with a shake of his hair and a deranged titter. Jackson's tragedy was almost entirely self-made. Even his complaints about the press ring hollow. It's hardly sporting to complain about the dogs he unleashed for nosing around the spectacle he quickly became.

All of these realities are ignored by the victim talk. It's a cover for a terrible waste, and a lost chance to reflect on how not to live one's life. Michael Jackson was older than Elvis when he died, but he died the same way: alone with the one person who could have saved him.

Whole thing here.

And for music-biz nerds, read Wyman's interview with Guillaume Vieira about world-wide record sales totals. It's eye-opening, both in the way that artists and labels lie about basic facts all the time, even as they use lost sales figures to gin up stricter and stricter copyright and DRM laws.

NEXT: Congressional Motors

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  1. MJ is a national hero, and should be treated as such! This selfless individual has shown by example that a young Black man can, indeed, become rich, famous, and adored by 100’s of millions of fans. They can be at the top of their game, and the envy of the world.

    Of course, he also showed that being being an older White guy means that you’re a child molester, drug addict, and bankrupt.

    A lesson to us all!

  2. Wait, Michael Jackson died?

    When did this happen?

  3. There’s also the fact that Michael had several brothers and sisters, some of whom (not LaToya) managed to do very well for themselves in entertainment and not become freak shows. Well, other than boobs at the Super Bowl.

  4. I think we’re not giving enough attention. After all, Thriller sold as many copies as the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, the soundtrack to The Body Guard and the Backstreet Boys’s Millenium combined.

  5. This

  6. Is this the zombie thread?

  7. That’s robot zombie thread, and no.

  8. It’s about time you guys talked about Michael Jackson again. I’m starting to think the media is forgetting about him.

  9. I think MJ’s story is one of penultimate success. He was born a poor black boy and died a rich white women.

  10. Has it occured to anyone else that perhaps the reason for all of Michael’s plastic surgery was because Bubbles the Chimp ate his face off? That would also explain the gloved hand.

  11. So, you’re saying it was… The Man in the Mirror?

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