Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bob Herbert on Michael Jackson


Behind the Facade by Bob Herbert, The New York Times, July 3, 2009

I have great respect for Bob Herbert, and it is a delight to read his analysis of the degradation of values through passing generations, tracing down the path using musical analogies from Motown to Hip Hop, all in connection with his opinions about Michael Jackson, the celebrity he'd met once. It's an interesting piece - a poignant one, no doubt, as I, too, am concerned about the growing trends towards misogyny and degradation of family values. The piece could read like a paternalistic scolding of younger generations, but it's really a commentary about the politics of our time, breaking down the generations in terms of governing bodies more so than a blanket judgment of the masses, although it also touches upon the tragic effects of the escapism of our modern day culture. I agree escapism to the point of being celeb-obsessed is unhealthy, but it's neither new nor unique to younger generations, and he's also not separating it from the form of escapism which music offers, which is actually healthy, even healing. Let's not demonize the arts while making a point about irresponsibility, especially if he's going to bring the concept of the draft into the picture. I'll keep my hair long, play music and protest that, thank you very much.

Also, creative people will tend to be a little spacey from the perspective of a heavily sense-oriented individual, but that doesn't mean we're space cadets. Some artists actually think deeply about the world and its troubles, and work to help in ways that might not be as obvious to those who take the familiar route. Many people are weirded out by people who they think are just too different from themselves, but that doesn't make them irresponsible or criminal (and I don't know enough about the details of the allegations and the cases - all I know is that the accusers took the money, which I can't imagine anyone doing if they really wanted to see the accused in jail. Sorry, Mr. Herbert, as you were probably closer to the case being in the news biz, but it's all gossip to me).

Even Bob Herbert takes time to comment on music, because we can all use emotional catharsis to better deal with our everyday realities. I must disagree completely with his assessment that the Motown era is the best and most musically innovative (not that I care so much about innovation as I do about the simple good quality of musicianship and music being in my personal taste), but then, I like Michael Jackson's later works better. Anyway, it's a good read, a worthy bit of political and social analysis mixed with a bit of entertainment to chill out and have a cuppa joe with. I'm not sure if I'm going to participate in watching the media circus funeral that's about to start, but, like Bob Herbert editorializing about the King of Pop, I probably won't be able to escape the hype completely. He's right; all I want to do is tune in to the music and drop the hell out. As much as I've mourned, empathized with the child abuse he'd endured, I've got enough going on in my own life to not care too deeply - ya know? (Edited to add: I did catch some of it (it's still on, actually), and thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton. You brought the house down, and put the feelings of many so succinctly. It's the unity symbolized by Michael Jackson that also touches our hearts.)

But I'd love to see the fruition of his life's work enter the pantheon of immortal musicians alongside The Beatles. I just think good work and talent should be recognized. If that's a sign of my escapism and lack of values, so be it - but I care. I also care about world events and the fate of drunk breastfeeding North Dakota mom.

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Related articles:
"Maybe the media had better take a closer look into the mirror themselves."
Allow Jackson Family to Grieve before Media Circus continues Freak Show by Francesca Biller-Safran, Huffington Post, July 8, 2009