I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth… not so much the stunning actress, or the husbands or the caricature, but the humanitarian… the woman who helped give a voice and a face to a community forced to live in the dark for too long… still, in places, forced to live in the dark.
I thought about Rock Hudson and Richard Burton and Michael Jackson… I thought about death. In the last few days I have watched Rabbit Hole, directed so tenderly and brilliantly by fellow NU Alum John Cameron Mitchell. I got to see him on Broadway in Big River, one of my all-time favorite shows, and loved his utterly astounding Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I also saw Hereafter, directed by one of my dream directors, Clint Eastwood. Heady and powerful stuff, both… and one on top of the other in a span of only a few days is a bit overwhelming… but there it is. Death.
Turn on the news and you cannot escape it… total devastation in Japan (which also makes Hereafter even spookier)… a bus bombing in Israel… snipers and missiles in Libya… a hit and run in LA… Elizabeth Taylor.
With life comes death… it is the only thing that may be truly inevitable… It’s a part of the process. And so, in an odd way I come to Michael Jackson’s This Is It. It is a bit of a cheat, I suppose, in that it allows me to talk about the soundtrack AND the film, but so be it. I am trying to always be spontaneous and listen to what and where the day takes me. This is it.
The movie is a joy and a heart-break simultaneously. We get to see what true artistry is and how it is created, and yet, we cannot watch the film without realizing the significance of what we have lost. I would literally move from smiles to tears in a matter of seconds. Perhaps quite selfishly, as an artist, I felt especially sad for the dancers and back up singers and musicians, many who thought they had achieved their life’s dream, only to see it disappear before fully coming to fruition.
The movie also makes me mad. It is hard not to think of the talent and humanitarian efforts that will now go unfulfilled because Michael manipulated not only himself, but those around him to risk all rationale and intelligent thought to fill his body with drugs and surgeries and things he thought he needed.
I will most likely never know what it is to be the center of a storm that is Michael Jackson… the pressures, the pushes and pulls, the responsibilities thrust upon him… But I do feel he let me down… It is a similar feeling I had when John Belushi died. I idolized that man… and while part of my sadness comes in that I did not fully follow in his footsteps (career-wise) and did not fulfill what I thought was my destiny, I devoted hours and dollars and parts of my very being to watching him and connecting with him, only to be let down.
With power and celebrity comes great responsibility… and while it may not be fair to expect our idols to behave properly and ethically, it is part of the territory and part of the job that they must expect. That is not to say they do not deserve privacy and as much of a private life as they can get… they do. But if you put yourself on a stage for all to see, all will see.
There is no need at all to go through each song. Suffice it to say, Michael moved us… in our hearts, in our minds and always in our bodies. His music did everything music is supposed to do. It is powerful and immediate. It makes us laugh and cry and think. It motivates us. Death will only come when the whole world goes truly silent… when we can no longer hear the music. Whether we hear the actual notes or the vibrations… music endures.
There are many that are physically gone, but as long as we listen, the music lives on.