Some of my first media memories include the Challenger shuttle explosion and the premier of the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It probably didn’t hurt that we recorded the video on VHS–at the behest of my sister, I’m sure, who was ten at the time–and for years I kept going back to it. And during the years following the LP’s cover is one that always stood out in my mind when I would flip through my family’s record collection. I finally rediscovered and began to appreciate the album in college when the LP, transferred to tape, kept me company during many hours in the dark room during Intro to Photography.
Michael Jackson’s death upsets me more than I expect. Maybe I had been holding out hope that there would be some sort of late career redemption from the slow, sad, steady decline of the last couple of decades. I have a friend who just wanted answers about his enigmatic life. The assumption also seems to be that he was incredibly unhappy and tortured, which I expect is right. In the end this last part is the greatest tragedy. Fifty shows in London or revelatory autobiography would have satisfied something in his fan base. It is certainly possible that Jackson would have preferred this to his own happiness but unfortunately we are left with neither the comeback, the explanation, or the fulfillment.