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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Between metaphysics and KFC, Michael Jackson's 'just another part of me'

click to enlarge MJ IN BLACK AND WHITE: Shot out in Little Five Points
  • MJ IN BLACK AND WHITE: Shot out in Little Five Points

Who knew the King of Pop was a Kentucky Fried Chicken eatin', straight out the bucket finger-lickin' type of brother, as Magic Johnson revealed before mourners inside L.A.'s Staples Center on Tuesday.

Even in death, it seems, Michael Jackson found a way to defy expectation.

For nearly 50 years, the pop icon did such a good job of convincing us that he was no mere mortal, with his supernatural gifts and a seemingly innate ability to create a spectacle of himself whether onstage or off, that we never imagined a real man existed beneath all that mystique.

But a public funeral attended by about 20,000, and simultaneously viewed by millions more around the world, did something the circus-like media coverage, which is now slowly starting to subside since his June 25 death, could not — it brought him down to earth.

"Wasn't nothin' strange about your daddy," Al Sharpton preached from the podium-turned-pulpit, couching his criticism of the recent media coverage within a statement directed toward Jackson's three children on the front row. "It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

Whether you count yourself among the many mourning his loss or those confounded by all the hoopla, it's impossible to imagine a superstar of Jackson's magnitude ever moonwalking on Earth again. He made a undeniable impact on our planetary psyche. More than any pop idol before him, the gloved one personified our wildest dreams and, in instances both grounded and unfounded, our most worrisome nightmares. For better or worse, he was our metaphorical "Man in the Mirror" reflecting the collective consciousness while challenging us, in song, to rise and fulfill our human potential.

Peep the first verse and hook from "Another Part of Me" (Bad, 1987) for proof:

We're taking over

We have the truth

This is the mission

To see it through

Don't point your finger

Not dangerous

This is my planet

You're one of us

We're sending out

A major love

And this is our

Message to you

(message to you)

The planets are lining up

We're bringing brighter days

They're all in line

Waiting for you

Can't you see....

You're just another part of me

In light of that, it's almost odd, yet fitting, that news of his death provoked a response nearly divided down racial lines in the U.S. While Pew Research Center statistics released last week reported 80 percent of blacks were following his story closely, only 22 percent of whites were doing so. Meanwhile 70 percent of whites felt he was receiving too much coverage.

Perhaps that, too, could be interpreted as a sign of the times. Even Barack Obama's successful presidential run faced a point of contention when the nation's unresolved racial issues reappeared during the campaign.

As for Michael, talent alone did not make him the King of Pop, though he possessed it in abundance. It also took a wide-eyed world willing to believe that a black manchild, born in Gary, Indiana four years after Brown v. Board of Education and a decade before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., could grow to become "the greatest entertainer that ever lived," as he was crowned at the service by Motown founder Berry Gordy.

For an extended moment in time, we suspended disbelief, and got magic in return.

But one nagging question remains. Did MJ dig into his bucket of KFC with or without the glove?

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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