It's been five years since Michael Jackson died/was murdered by someone on behalf of his record company (just kidding!)
A year before he died I was on TV as part of a panel discussing the impact of MJ, the world's biggest pop star, a global pop phenomenon. It was the Good Morning show and it was, of course, embarrassing. The segment ended with us having to act out Jackson song titles in a game of Charades. I had Smooth Criminal. No one guessed it. I wasn't so good at trying to act out the word 'smooth'.
And then a year later, not quite, I was writing an obit-piece trying to sum up how I felt about this giant of music. Thing is - I didn't really feel anything. I'll always tell you that the art is separate from the artist - when there was the hysteria around Woody Allen at Oscars times this year I could handle being unfriended and mocked for liking his films still. To me it wasn't a case of deciding whether Allen was guilty of anything other than self-indulgence. And by not deciding, by not taking a stance, that was not victim-blaming. It was about enjoying his work - and I love a lot of his films and most of his writing. If he turned out to be the world's cruellest villain I'd still want to re-read The Complete Prose of Woody Allen every other year. It would remain one of my favourite books. I'm not going to boycott art works I've already enjoyed because the artist, it turns out, wasn't such a smooth criminal. If anything it makes me look to the work again, you start wondering, looking for clues. You become intrigued.
But when Michael Jackson died he had reduced his career down to silly tabloid headline shockers. He had done this. It wasn't (just) the press. Of course there are monumental highlights if you do look back - it was just hard to care.
Truth is it was hard enough appearing on that Good Morning show to talk him up on the occasion of his 50th birthday. Thriller and Bad were mega musical milestones in my life - and I still love Off The Wall, that's the favourite now. The one album of his I can always play. But I never feel like listening to it these days.
Michael Jackson died for me well before he actually passed away.
Still - today you'll find plenty of online tributes. Here's one - a pretty good read. It covers the timeline, marks out the magic.
For me it wasn't ever about whether Michael Jackson was guilty, not that choosing to not have a definite take on it is in any way condoning the alleged actions. It was about the fact that he had transmogrified - he was a grotesque, a sick, silly, sad caricature. There's no question that the best of his music was innovative and exciting pop music and that the fanaticism around him created a type of hysteria that was part of his downfall. But it seems like he's been dead for a lot longer than five years.
What do you think? Can you listen to Michael Jackson's music now? Do you mark the occasion of his death? Are you a fan for life?
Postscript: I couldn't even bring myself to review the 'new' Michael Jackson album.