03 July 2009


“Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight,
Here one day, gone one night;
Like a sunset,
Dying with the rising of the moon;
Gone too soon…”

The Rise
How poignantly these lyrics describe the rise and fall of the departed King of Pop, Michael Joseph Jackson. Little could anyone have predicted that this hugely talented boy from Gary, Indiana., would one day take the music world by storm.
Starting his career as the lead vocalist in the Jackson 5 along with his brothers, Michael, came into his own in 1982 when he stunned music fans across nations with his pathbreaking album ‘Thriller’.
For those of us born in the late 70s and early 80s Michael Jackson was a staple diet on the music front. His “hoo, hoo!” “Aowwww!’ and vocal hiccup were imitated by almost everyone I knew – not to mention poor attempts at trying a hand at his impossible dance moves!
His songs have become a major part of the soundtrack of our lives. “Thriller”, “Man In The Mirror,” “Black Or White,” “Billie Jean,” “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” “The Way You Make Me Feel”. The list is endless!

Michael Jackson was the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong crossover following on MTV. In fact, he was the first coloured artist to be featured in an MTV video (Billie Jean).
Michael was larger than life and yet appeared unassuming at awards functions, interviews and performances, such as the Grammy’s, which we got to see, courtesy Doordarshan. Those were times when the world hadn’t woken up to the wonders of internet technology, so whosoever was lucky enough to own a television set would invite their neighbours and relatives to watch late night programmes of the master weaving his magic on stage. Michael mania was all around.
Every song that Michael sang raced to the top of the charts in America and elsewhere. This coupled with his phenomenal dancing prowess steadily earned him fans from as far away as Japan.
At about this time, Michael co-wrote the charity single “We are the World” with Lionel Ritchie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in Africa and the US. He was one of 39 music celebrities who performed on the record. The single became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. In 2000, Jackson was listed in the book of Guinness World Records for his support of 39 charities, more than any other entertainer or personality.
The early 90s saw a different Michael… his facial features and skin colour had changed, making him look almost effeminate. Naturally, people speculated on this and arrived at the conclusion that the pop star was bleaching his skin a lot and that he went under the surgeon’s knife in a bid to change his looks. While the latter was true, Jackson gave a 90-minute interview with Oprah Winfrey in February 1993 during which he explained that his pallor was due to a skin condition known as Vitiligo. Fans sympathised. But with Michael one couldn’t be too sure. After all, he’d claimed in the mid-80s that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow down the aging process. And what can you make of a person who shared his bed and bathroom with a Chimpanzee?
Despite being the superstar who commanded worldwide attention and respect, Michael Jackson was a loner at heart with severe traits of eccentricity, which nobody could quite comprehend. He recounted in an interview about his troubled childhood and adolescence. The confusions and depressive things he had to endure when those of his age were living a carefree life. Images of his brutal father who thrashed him senseless for the smallest of mistakes, haunted him even years later.
Thus, Michael chose to live in the secure confines of the fictitious world of Peter Pan… a place where boys never aged nor shed their innocence. He even named his 2,500 acre ranch Neverland in honour of the author of the book J M Barrie. This vast place with its train rides, zoos and giant wheels would prove to become a symbol of Jackson's success and excesses.

The Fall
Neverland welcomed one and all; in particular, children. Michael took personal interest in catering to the needs of the (often unfortunate) kids who visited his ranch. It seemed that the super singer who donned the role of Peter Pan took care of the boys with kindness and immense love. He organised “sleepovers” and entertained droves of kids who flocked to his gates to savour the magical world called Neverland. But the supposed dark and seamier side of the place got exposed in 1993 when Michael was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler, who was a regular at Michael’s home.
The press tainted the image of the pop icon by likening him to a lecherous predator, who exploited the vulnerability of visiting children… a paedophile. These stories inspired the pejorative nickname “Wacko Jacko”. The tabloids in particular were ruthless in their reportage. The “revelations” shattered Michael a great deal. So much so that he began taking prescription medication in large quantities. His health deteriorated to the extent that he cancelled the remainder of the Dangerous World Tour and went into drug rehabilitation for a few months.
However, in 1994 a 22 million dollar out of court settlement meant that no criminal charges were brought against the singer. The question arises – If Michael Jackson had been sexually exploiting Chandler for a period of time wouldn’t his parents have been in the know of it, and wouldn’t the boy have protested the first time Michael (allegedly) laid his hands on him? Whether it was a strategy to finish Michael financially and professionally no one can say. It seems to me, it was. Stranger still is the fact that the boy’s mother vehemently denied that Michael had ever behaved inappropriately with her son. You be the judge.
In May of 1994, Michael married singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of King of Rock n’ Roll Elvis Presley. Their marriage (of convenience, as the newspapers dubbed it) ended less than two years later. Amid all the controversy in 1995 Michael released the “HIStory” album. During the Australian leg of the HIStory World Tour, Jackson married dermatologist nurse Deborah Jeanne Rowe, with whom he fathered a son, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (also known as "Prince"), and a daughter, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. The couple divorced in 1999, with Rowe giving full custody rights of the children to Michael.
The “moonwalker” performed a gig in India at the insistence of the Shiv Sena in 1996. When he left he wrote the following message on his pillow cover: "India, all my life I have longed to see your face. I met you and your people and fell in love with you. Now my heart is filled with sorrow and despair for I have to leave, but I promise I shall return to love you and caress you again.
"Your kindness has overwhelmed me, your spiritual awareness has moved me, and your children have truly touched my heart. They are the face of God. I truly love and adore you India. Forever, continue to love, heal and educate the children, the future shines on them. You are my special love, India. Forever, may God always bless you."
Jackson's third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (also known as Blanket) was born in 2002 to a surrogate mother.

In 2003 in a Granada Television documentary titled ‘Living with Michael Jackson’ the singer was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with Gavin Arvizo, who would later accuse him of child sexual abuse. It seemed like someone, somewhere was out to get Michael and his millions, but who and why remains a mystery. The trial lasted five months, until the end of May 2005, he was acquitted on all counts. Jackson then relocated to Bahrain as a guest of the ruler’s son, Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Reports are now emerging that resorted to doing one-night gigs for private parties for Arab sheikhs and Russians in London. These gigs apparently commanded up to 2.5 million dollars for an hour performance. Oh what a mighty fall the King of Pop had suffered!
Upon his return to the United States, Michael announced a series of 50 concerts in London in a comeback tour ironically titled “This is It”. He worked hard every day to make sure the shows, which were to begin from July 13 this year, were a success.
However, on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson collapsed at a rented home in Holmby Hills in Los Angeles, and died shortly thereafter leaving a void that nobody can ever fill.His funeral is scheduled to be held on July 7.

@A tribute to MJ by Anand Balaji (First time online after his "greatunknown" blog shut down).
Anand Balaji, had been a Journalist with leading English newspapers in Bangalore, and later worked as a senior copywriter in an ad firm. He was a successful blogger in 2007. He quit his profession to pursue work as a freelance writer. Backbencher wishes him the best in all his endeavours.


Sanjay M said...

Hmm really nice tribute to this legend... I personally have been following every one of his albums right from 1980s. Gone too soon is a really beautiful description you couldn't have said it better!

On the one hand Onion writes a sattire that MJ never grew up: King Of Pop Dead At 12 . On the other hand, Deepak Chopra a good friend of MJ says in TOI that Jackson was pure, childlike. Maybe there is a bit of overlap in these two. He has also written a tribute.

Sanjay M said...

hope greatunknown e-reincarnates soon - and am wholeheartedly with Backbencher wishing you all the best with any endeavours!

RDK said...

Very good tribute........ MJ was the King.
Great writing ANAND
Kudos !!!!

Kevin said...

It's very tragic that Michael had to die this way. Couldn't anyone have stopped his mindless use of drugs? Or were the coterie standing by waiting for the King of Pop to self-destruct?
The singer made a tragicomedy of his life in the past decade.
I've been to many blogs to read about the things people felt for Jackson. This tribute is comprehensive and very well written.
RIP and rock heaven MJ!

Anonymous said...

jackson was a talented paedophile. That's the best way to describe him. Think about soldiers who die in Afghanistan instead. They're the real heroes.

AB said...

Hi Anonymous, haven't you heard the axiom 'Speak only good of the dead'?

Srik said...

Yes, Soldiers are real heroes, no one contradicts that, anyway. But those who comment on others and hide their identity are cowards. So, I assume you have no rights, nor morality to talk about MJ.

Moreover, all the charges you are accusing on him have been proved wrong multiple times, isnt it?

In any circumstance, even the soldiers in Afghanistan require an entertainment which is provided by different artistes. MJ was the best among them.... You can not ignore this fact. To a Person, who kept us entertained for such a long period, it is a right, if not a duty, to pay a meaningful homage.

A sportsman paints Pride in us, while an artiste gives us moments to cherish. Any one who want to comment here, please avoid making accusations on anyone directly or indirectly.

I was tempted to remove such a comment, but want to keep it to have none further such.

mouna said...

anand!! :D
it's so nice to have u back!! long time...hope u are doing well. i guess some more of this would make have your own blog again!

and srik, hope u never hibernate again!! nija... btw ipl hapenned, and nimminda ondu post barlilla, ascharya!!

actually i was wondering; i checked my mail a few days ago, and i had srik commenting on one of my posts. i thought i would never see that. now that i'm back to b'lore, i hope to see more blogging from both of you...

Anand Balaji said...

Thanks mouna! It's great to hear from you too!
All credit belongs solely to Srik for dragging me out of my shell and making me write after nearly two years.

Niti Panta Negi said...

Great piece Anand and i believe you manage to unfold the lesser known truths of MJ's life. Well researched and thoughtfully written indeed.

Anand Balaji said...

Thank you for your kind comments Niti:-)
Hope you and hubby have settled well in Hyderabad.
Take care.

Shilpa said...

Hi Anand,
Got your mail to read this piece. Very nice, and good writing as always. You were the most talented around I've known. A pity you aren't in any newspaper.
Where are you these days? Haven't heard from you in months... Sorry to be saying this on a friends blog, but no one I've contacted seems to have a clue about you. Why have you become reclusive? I know that also wanted your personal space, but this is too much.
MJ has affected you a lot huh?
Take care.
(I've mailed you, pls reply).

Florine Roche said...

Hi Anand

Sorry for my late response. I read your write up on MJ and found it to be the most comprehensive write up on the pop legend.

Good effort and good work. I read the note in the blog that you are back into writing for the blog after a long gap. Luckily you have not lost that rhythm of writing. Good buddy. Keep the good work going.

Amit said...

namaste srikanth,

i am amith., i stumbled upon your blog while searching for Bhairappa.
nice writeup, thanks.
i just wanted to tell you about the slogan you have on your blog.
ekam sat vipraah bahudha vadanti
एकम् सत् विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति , small corrections , a visarga for virpaah and alpa prana da in the last word.
please delete this commment as it is irrelavant to this article. sorry i am posting this here .