The last couple of weeks have been heavy with tributes to the recently deceased King of Pop, with fans reminiscing about listening to "Thriller" for the first time and critics wondering why everyone seems to be giving him a free pass on the last fifteen years of his troubled life.
Here's my favorite tribute so far: a T-Shirt on Threadless that illustrates the Thriller Dance. Even though I think the dance has become too cliched over the last couple of years, the idea of illustrating the whole thing on a single T-Shirt is pretty funny. Plus it's got zombies, and you know how I feel about zombies.
How I feel about Michael Jackson is a little harder to categorize. "Thriller" was one of the only albums I listened to as a kid that wasn't already twenty years old the first time I heard it, and I still love tracks like "Human Nature" and "PYT", with its Chipmunk back-up vocals. On the flip side, all the childhood issues in the world can't justify his actions if he did what people say he did as an adult. There have been a lot of times I've wished the last fifteen years were an elaborate publicity stunt, but they weren't, and it looks like in the end, Michael Jackson is going to become my generation's Elvis Presley: An early meteoric rise to fame that surpasses any mere role as a musician, then a gradual descent from cultural icon into a troubled outcast that ends in a medically-related demise.
If people seem to be giving MJ a free pass on all the skeletons in his closet, it's because the kid we all knew and loved has really been dead for twenty years. This is just the final nail in the coffin.