What do we miss about Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson 13 years old on the album Ben released on 3 august 1972

Michael Jackson 13 years old on the album Ben released on 3 august 1972

I decided to write about Michael Jackson when I realized how much I missed him. And that’s never happened before. An iconic master of our universe: why would I miss him? I never even met the guy. And how could I feel like him?

Symbols and Logic

Perhaps the connection begins with the fact that Michael and I are painters. We have symbolic thinking down to a science. I like all the symbolic icons Americans groove on and I don’t think I have arrested adolescent development. I simply think I’m an artist. Symbolic thinking, something any philosopher of logic will tell you, is useful when you want to project into the media to show the public in visuals, words, deeds, artistic talents, the important iconic symbols that are grabbing the attention of the pop culture. Being relevant is essential.

The simplest answer I can give to the question why I miss him is that the fans, including me, love him as well as his message and music. We really love him. You see, from what I can figure after watching everything I could on this incredible man, and reading his biography: he told us our story. He had fans all over the world of course but here I mean specifically the Americans’ story.



He did it, to begin, with his feet, which is why one fan has employed YouTube to give the world this compilation of MJ’s best dance moves, and why THAT has gotten more than 3 million views. Click here.

He told our story too, with his lyrics, his association with reality … and he showed us what is possible in post-modern America. Ntongela Masilela, a professor emeritus at Pitzer College, writes about what he calls “the incomparable postmodern dancing feet of Michael Jackson” and goes on to say that the music video as an art form, the form that we associate so closely with Jackson, is something that “could only have come into being under postmodernist conditions.”

He really wasn’t a wild guy, just the new normal. But his fame? Now that took on epic proportions and that can happen to only a handful of people on earth during one full lifetime.

Michael and Baby Boomers

jackson-5Baby Boomers got the chance to see him, figure out what they never got to do as a child, and we got to see it in such a big way that we got to love him as the boy we wished we could be. The Jackson Five were playing gigs as early as 1965..

Then the teen and suddenly, for purposes of knowing we were supposed to have a career, he helped the next generation figure out how to handle life when in the twenties, thirties and forties. He made all the difference to our youthful impressions of what one can do during one lifetime. He sang to us, when we were down and troubled and need some love and care, and nothing, no nothing was going right, we’d just close our eyes and see MJ.

jackson-got-to-be-thereHis musical lines would resound in our heads. The euphoria presented itself because he assured us we could be who we are even though it’s an emotional and intellectual challenge! He painted us to an imagined stardom with laughter and tears, magical thinking and symbols that became sexier and sexier. He let us let our own loving kindness lift us up. We’d think of him when we saw places to share. He confirmed that we could be taken back into love with our baby. A remarkably profound truth, even if we aren’t conscious of it being true while so young.

He said it straight long ago and it still applies today to all young of the world. It ain’t no sunshine when our boyfriends or girlfriends are gone. The song was the work of Bill Withers but the sensibility was Jackson’s.


Bill Withers

We wanted our special loves to stay a while. When we’ve been together for such a long time, that is when we’d been with our music, our music for so long, it didn’t matter about anything else.

And Ben: I bought that song, replayed it and stored it when I was over fifty. I needed it again as I traversed America’s pop culture in the no-job economy. I didn’t care about the money, I just cared about friendship. I loved his crying sound about how long we’d been together.

The lyrics of Ben, are so poignant:

“Ben, the two of us need look no more. We found what we were looking for. With a friend I call my own, I’ll never be alone.”


Charlton Heston

I had to be there in that song. And as for my lovers, I wanted to be there in the morning. Michael told me it was okay. When he begs the girl he’d loved to stay, I hear him in my story too, just like millions of young people today and forever, will.

In 1973 None other than Charlton Heston introduced MJ at the Oscars. Heston called him “one-fifth of the Jackson Five,” and that is how he was still best known.

Jackson sang Ben to everyone. We melted in awe and could relate as he sang, I use to say, I am me, now I say, now it’s we. Ben, most people would turn you away. I don’t listen to a word they say. They don’t see you as I do. I wish they would try to. I’m sure they’d think again if they had a friend like Ben.

I always wondered, and still do, who he was singing to. Or was it just that he loved friendship? His fame brought him into many a friend. But in this song, Ben, I also heard the hidden concept of disability, which, when we look hard, we all have with regard to something. His was vitiligo. And he certainly did as best as he could while a slow debilitating immune disorder came on: He let it be as it was meant to be and still kept trying and succeeding.

A Skin Disease

Before I end this piece today, I have to speak to the people who never researched vitiligo. While costuming and make-up and hair are part and parcel of the show biz world, Michael had a terrible skin disease, and it literally made his skin go from brown to very white. It also caused immune disease sensitivities. And imagine how you would feel if you had to adjust to wearing make-up that matched the brown, to make-up that matched the white. Some cosmetic surgery substantially altered his looks but how much of it was repairing the damage of his illness. Drooping lower eyelids are caused by something, you know. I heard him tell that his nose was operated on so he could breathe better. How do we know about his breathing issues?

Some things are intimate to one’s self because it’s awful hard to deal with. I never heard why he’d make public appearances wearing a surgical mask. I can guess though. I became empathic for his sake. Before any more critics wield nasty comments to the man who is so very loved and remembered around the world, please consider the coping mechanisms you use to deal with your hatred and the coping skills necessary to deal with an auto-immune disorder. Singing a cappella, I’ll Be There, to comfort you, he lived up to his promise.

This is the first part in a planned four-part series about Michael Jackson. The second part, “Investigating Michael Jackson’s Subjectivity,” will be ready next month. Until then …



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