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Once in a Hundred Years
From an e-mail to my son Eli, who was born in 1981 and who is therefore too young to remember and appreciate the greatness of Michael Jackson:
Michael Jackson was a once-in-a-hundred-years phenomenon. Elvis and a few other rock-and-rollers, black and white, took “black” music and made it appealing to white audiences. Elvis’s “Hound Dog” is strictly twelve-bar blues. (“Hound Dog” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952.)
But the rock-and-roll of the late 1950s and early 1960s was pretty white-bread, for the most part. Ironically, it took the British Invasion, with great bands like the Rolling Stones, to bring the blues back to America. In a different way, the Jackson Five reintroduced “black” tonalities and syncopation. So did James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and some others, but the Jackson Five had almost universal appeal because they were kids, and their LEAD SINGER, whose voice was razor-true, was an 11-year-old kid who had moves like nobody had ever seen.
What’s even more impressive is that Michael Jackson was able to spin off on his own and become a one-person hit machine AND a genuinely gifted musician. If he had died at the top of his form, like George Gershwin and Mozart, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We wouldn’t be looking back through this dark lens —which was the disintegration of a human being — to see the good stuff — and, with respect to the good stuff, it was brand new, there had never been anything like it, and that was true of Elvis, too.
Here is my theory, which is based on my madcap drug-experimentation days, during which I took ONE Vicodin: People who are rich and famous NEVER have to be uncomfortable. They don’t have to sweat in the heat or shiver in the cold. In the winter they drive from one heated garage to another heated garage. All their physical needs are met instantaneously. So when they have pain of any kind, they just have their doctor-at-the-ready take care of it, and, wham, they’re addicted to painkillers, and the cycle toward death begins.
Farrah Fawcett, on the other hand, chose to remain alert and aware through her pain. She could have been sedated all the time until she was little more than a warm body, but she chose not to be.
I base these observations on my ONE Vicodin. I took it for debilitating pain, and the Vicodin got rid of that pain plus other pain I didn’t even know I had. I didn’t just feel pain-free, I felt like SuperMary, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. That is a very seductive feeling.
IN CONCLUSION — I think that drugs, for the most part — especially painkillers, antidepressants, A.D.D. and ADHD drugs, any medications that are intended to relieve symptoms but not to heal the disorder that causes them — should be used as tools to become healthier… like, if you take Prozac because you’re depressed because you’re a professional victim, Prozac can help you remain a professional victim and not feel bad about it… OR it can be a tool that gives you a break from feeling shitty all the time so that you can get your life in order and stop doing the things that make you depressed.
I don’t know if Alexander the Great really cried because he had no more worlds to conquer, but I know how he felt. Once your most basic needs are met — once you have solved the problems of food, clothing, and shelter — it requires character and discipline to continue to stretch, for your own sake and for the betterment of humankind.
I guess that, in a way, Michael Jackson — AND Elvis — died because they had run out of problems, or else because they lacked the will to solve them.
And may Whoever Is On Duty bless you and your endeavors.
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