Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29: Farewell, Peter Pan

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Troubled talent. That was Michael Jackson.

A look at tons of performances and music videos on YouTube confirms once again the tremendous musical gifts of the singer, who died last Thursday.

From his rise with his brothers as part of the Jackson 5 to his apogee with the "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" albums, his duets with Paul McCartney and "We Are the World" to his later albums, one sees his singing, dancing and performing skills repeatedly.

In one song during the 1990s, he sang "It doesn't matter if you're black or white." He became a crossover talent on a level with Elvis Presley and the Beatles; his music bridged cultures.

Sadly, he was a prisoner of that talent and success, seeming to retreat into his own world, increasingly away from reality and identity with each plastic surgery, each publicity stunt and, finally, the investigations of child molestation. The clouds on that never completely lifted, though a 2005 jury found him not guilty. Now, the hype over his death will start in earnest, as it did with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, two others with great talent who died troubled, and with a prescription drug connection.

In a 1983 interview with Newsweek, at the height of his popularity, the magazine referred to him as the "Peter Pan of Pop." Perhaps so. Take a look at his evolving facial features, and at Peter Pan the way Walt Disney Productions drew him, and see the similarities.

My favorite of his songs, a lovely ballad called "One Day In Your Life," was recorded in 1975, long before the height of his solo success. On its surface, of course, the song is about a lost love, maybe a lost romance. Given what has happened since, and his death last Thursday, it takes on new meaning, given the passion and melancholy with which Jackson, then 16, sang it. Perhaps it was a wish for something else.

Perhaps that wish has come true for him in death in a way it never did in life.

Farewell, Peter Pan.

No comments: