It’s a lot of death in a week: first Ed McMahon, who we knew was ailing; then Farrah Fawcett, who was fighting her illness with bravery and in the spotlight, and then Michael Jackson – who was always ailing, invisibly.
Maybe it’s unexpected that I should admit I liked Farrah Fawcett, pinup as she as for the dumb blonde, but I was a tomboy in the 70s, and Charlie’s Angels were fantastic. They really were, in those crazy velour shorts and flippy hair. But I had the trading cards, and I remained a fan even through the Cheryl Tiegs season(s?). I became a fan of Fawcett’s when I saw her in Extremities and in Between Two Women – both of them, believe it or not, cementing what I would articulate as my first feminist awareness.
But Michael Jackson’s death is unreal, much like his life was. Keith Olbermann used the word “human” a lot tonight in talking about Jackson’s death, which is something we all need to be reminded of. He was a person, a broken, fucked-up soul, maybe wrong and bad in criminal ways, maybe just broken and sad. We don’t really know, and won’t really know, I don’t think.
As someone who loves to dance, though, there is no denying his talent: Off the Wall is a perfect gem of pop music, and it dances from track to track. I have it on vinyl from way back when – the secret perfect dance music of a punk rock child. I was a little surprised tonight to remember exactly how many “world premieres” of his videos I saw – “Thriller” I remember, as many Gen Xers do, but also “Bad” and even “Remember the Time,” which is a hokey but perfect little romantic song. It’s impossible to deny a man’s talent who was – despite your best efforts – a major soundtrack of your life. His music had something so perfectly immediate about it; I remember where I watched all of those world premieres, and I remember the first time I saw, and held, a copy of Off the Wall, and the party I was at the first time I heard the tracks on Thriller.
It’s hard to explain to younger people than me that MTV never ever showed videos by black artists before MJ (and that hip hop had its own special show in the late 80s, because hip hop was just too *whatever* to mix with the rest of what they played). & You can’t hate a man who obviously took notes on every move James Brown ever made & every sound he could make.
So goodbye to Ed, to Farrah, and to Michael. As the duo Yazoo once put it, a little early, Goodbye Seventies, too.