Michael Jackson Tribute – Huh???

Glitzy sendoff leaves a bad taste in Danny Eccleston's mouth.

While this is still the official period of mourning in which it is not permissible to say bad things about Michael Jackson, can we be the first to ask of yesterday's tribute gig: What in the world was that all about?

If the vision of his not-always-supportive family dressed up in the shades 'n' glove uniform and faking the solidarity they could never manage during his lifetime was not weird enough, what will be the lasting (further?) damage to his poor kids--Prince Michael, Prince Michael II, and Princess Michael Of Kent (or whatever she's called)--of this garish and hypocritical wake-cum-PR-circus, this tribute to their father and (frankly) all the money he made for lots of people once upon a time?

While you'd need a heart of stone not to have appreciated Stevie Wonder's intense performance--at least he knew MJ, if anyone did--and, bless her, Jennifer Hudson did well, the rest of it was mind-boggling, a buildup of encomia to Jackson's character and generosity that at no point felt convincing or heartfelt.

The worst was Al Sharpton, talking Jackson up as if he were Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King combined, and not the merely supremely talented musician and singer he undoubtedly was.

The purple-prosin' pastor highlighted Jackson's role in the creation of 1985's famine charity single "'We Are The World' long before Live Aid," creating the erroneous impression that Jackson was way ahead of Bob Geldof and company, who'd released "Do They Know It's Christmas?" months previously. It was typical of the day's hyperbole, which had the general effect of burying Jackson's actual achievements under a shower of specious garbage.

The irony is that what Jackson really lacked in his lifetime--some basic respect and sympathy as an actual human being--was denied even in death. Instead, the crowd were worshipping--yes, worshipping!--a glove and a golden casket. It was the kind of sendoff you'd expect of a mad dictator (except mad dictators usually end up gibbeted in public, like Mussolini, or shot in a car park, like Ceausescu). Perhaps Kim Jong-il was taking notes.

Meanwhile, there were no recollections that suggested that any of the speakers had really communed with the much-vaunted "love" that Jackson had for the world in general and his black brothers and sisters in particular. L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson's keynote speech revolved around the heady revelation that Jackson was fond of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Far more instructive was Johnson's obvious amazement that MJ would have indulged in anything so normal.

In the end, you have to ask, who was this spectacle for? For Jackson, looking down from above (everyone present seemed pretty sure he was "above")? For AEG, whose TV income will presumably defray some of the lost profits from the now-moribund O2 Arena shows? For the Jackson kids, just in case they might for a second have wondered if their father's death was the start of something resembling a healthy ordinary childhood? Or for father Joe Jackson, whose controversial governance of the Jackson brood was praised by all and questioned by none?

In death as in life, Jackson was the canvas on which the circling carrion-birds projected their desires: for love, fame, money, and copy.

Next up: the "revelations", fact and fiction, with no way of telling one from the other. After all, you can praise the dead, or bury them--or both--but one thing you can't do is libel them.

Meanwhile, our favorite Michael Jackson tribute was by the inmates of this Philippine prison...

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