Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bring Out Your Dead

What a totally insane last few days it's been. First, Johnny Carson's right hand man Ed McMahon passes on, then today comes news that...

Michael Jackson has died at age 50. You can't deny that he was a singular talent, which made it so baffling and sad when his own personal freak show began in the 80's in the wake of his mega-success via the Thriller album. I must admit that I wasn't especially a big fan when I was growing up; I knew him best, as a grade schooler, as a cartoon character member of the Jackson 5, and of course, the J5's bubblegum pop hits were all over the radio. They were cool, and I especially liked "The Love You Save" and "I Want You Back"...but I didn't come to appreciate them until much later. When he reached puberty, and the Five were no longer such hot commodities, it seemed that they would fade away until MJ went solo, first tentatively (and incongrously) with the lilting title song to the 1972 rat-horror flick Ben as well as a lively solo version of the old 50's hit "Rockin' Robin". I also remember attempts at acting in films, most notably his turn as the Scarecrow in Berry Gordy's The Wiz. Really, though, I didn't really pay attention to him until his 1979 breakthrough album Off the Wall; you couldn't go anywhere without hearing "Rock With You" and the title track playing in stores, on the radio, even where I was working in my first "real" job, in the prepress of R.R. Donnelley where they used to play one of the local radio stations over the intercom 24/7. Of course, after that came the rise of videos and Thriller; like many I bought it initially because of Eddie Van Halen's guitar work on "Beat It", but also reading all the rave reviews and how sonically diverse it seemed to be. His appearance at the Motown anniversary bash cemented it, with his bravura performance which, if I recall correctly, introduced the moonwalk step he took to the bank. There are just so many remarkable and memorable things he took part in for a long while there. Then, things got really out of hand, and Mike let his life devolve into a horror show of monumental proportions- with each new alligation of aberrant behavior and each subsequent, more-and-more desperately trying to sound current and hip music release we watched his reputation erode almost as quickly as his facial features. Not to condone some of the things he was accused of, but the guy never had anything that even remotely resembled a normal, stable upbringing and early life; I guess it was inevitable that he should come to such an end. So RIP, Mike. Thanks for the music and the fun, it was nice while it lasted. It's a shame it turned out like it did.

Earlier today, it was reported that former Charlie's Angel and film/TV star Farrah Fawcett lost her long battle with cancer. Upstaged again. Seriously, though, she was a true 70's icon; everybody, well, guys anyway (and come to think of it, I think I saw it on some girls' walls as well) had this poster. She was one of the first to become more popular via that format, I do believe, and inspired many a lustful thought in many a young (and old, I'm sure) person's minds. After Charlie's, she went on to try to parlay her noteriety into a film career, with mixed results; I remember the fuss over her first post-Charlie film, Sunburn- it was not a hit, and neither was the middling Sci-Fi saga Saturn 3, which has its fans. I remember her fondly for her part in Cannoball Run, as she took up with stars Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, but she was just one of a multitude of stars. Really, she didn't make her mark and get taken seriously until returning back to TV for the one-two punch of The Burning Bed and Extremities, playing battered housewifes and showing that she too could be an ac-tor. She never really topped those films, but she worked steadily after that until about 2004 or so, when her health issues took over. Hope she's at rest now.

Finally, Sky Saxon, of ...and the Seeds fame, died today as well at age 63. They're best known for the garage-rock hit "Pushin' Too Hard". I remember "Pushin'", of course, but I didn't know too much else about those guys.

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