Ben & Billie Jean

During the 16-week trial, at Santa Maria court in California, prosecutors branded Jackson a serial child molester who used Neverland as part of a sophisticated grooming process, luring children to an environment filled with alcohol and pornography – Nick Allen

He has gone. Done in or from natural causes, it still seems a bit hazy. Natural causes does not make for a good news story so speculation of something more sinister will be rife for a while at least. I never gave the man much thought but as a result of media saturation he had become such a part of the fabric that makes up our unconscious that when I glanced at newspapers in a shop and discovered he was dead I was stunned. While never an ardent fan I recognised Michael Jackson as a musical genius. Not that it should matter in terms of likes and dislikes. It is what a person does with their genius that should determine whether we like them or not, rather than the mere fact of being a genius. The ingenuity applied by Adolf Eichmann to organising trains to the death camps hardly prompts him to be admired. He is despised for what he did.

Being a year or two older than Michael Jackson it was hard to grow up in the 70s and not hear his music. As a paper boy, before setting out on my rounds prior to heading off for school, I would avidly listen to the radio at home. The Jackson Five featured on about every station on the ubiquitous battery operated transistor that accompanied me into my more conventional working years as a teenager. Not that there were too many music based stations on the go. Tony Blackburn on Radio One in the mornings, David Hamilton on the same station in the afternoons is about a much as I recall from an era of limited choice.

Jackson’s Ben was a haunting musical composition, in my view equalled only in its peculiar qualities in popular music culture by 10CC’s I’m not in Love and Judy Tzuke’s Stay with me ‘till Dawn. And if there was one song from the ‘80s that stood out from all others for me it has to be Billie Jean.

My wife detested Michael Jackson, finding him a creep. Each time his music would be broadcast in one of the many pop channels available today she would flick to another channel and make a comment about his unsuitability for children. So I didn’t get to hear much of him in recent years and he is not among the artists who feature on my MP3 player.

If the allegations of child abuse against him were true then he should have died in the frugal surroundings of a prison cell and not the luxury of his Los Angeles home. I have never followed his career closely enough to come to a decision whether his behaviour with children was unconventional or improper. His attitude was certainly out of touch with societal constraints. Dangling his child over a balcony might be a non conformist act but it was also criminally negligent. Would I want someone of his ilk as a baby sitter? I would stay at home first. He was never convicted of sex abuse despite many accusations but that can be the power of wealth for you. A hefty out of court settlement made to one alleged abuse victim helped shade it in my mind that at the very least he had a considerable case to answer.

There is a tendency for transgressions be to downplayed when it comes to certain celebrities. Whether it is as a result of slick PR work or a large section of the public resistant to its icons being subject to the scorn and derision of iconoclasts I am not sure. It can’t be claimed that the absence of a court conviction alone explains it on the noble principle of innocent until proven guilty. Move to the case of the boxer-rapist Mike Tyson and a different reading emerges. He is hardly treated as other convicted rapists are. I got a sense that his victim Desiree Washington was the object of considerable resentment because she shopped him. In her case the animosity is for no good ethical reason. She hobbled other people’s cash cow or blemished the deity that fans had created in their minds.

On the question of being a creep Jackson had something of that about him for sure. Strange might be more appropriate than creepy. Eccentricities are all too often labelled with the most pejorative terms in a bid to force conformity. A conformist attitude moves in to the extent that it pushes a creative bent out. Minds too ready to fit the groove can rarely produce anything outside it. Without question Jackson produced, but he does not merit special circumstance or mitigation because of his talent. For that alone Gary Glitter must ponder on the disparities between his fortunes and Jackson’s in the sure knowledge that the only people flocking to his own funeral will be grave diggers.

In the end Jackson might be remembered as Arthur Koestler is. Koestler was a brilliant writer but he also raped the actress Jill Craigie, who later became the wife of Michael Foot. Rapists who write and abusers who sing. If they were Christian Brothers we would speak of them in one dimensional terms only; the one that is least kind.


  1. There but for deeper pockets to settle out of court ambles Gary Glitter! Media saturation of Jacko's demise overwhelms; my son told me in Britain his fame remained less dimmed than it's been in America, among most of us sensible people, the past quarter-century. The clips of his mincing voice and fey demeanor play and play on, strange tributes to the boy who never wanted to grow old. It's a shame that Nada Soltan's image has been so quickly shunted aside for this, but if it was any different, it'd be a different world than that where millions still worship this desperate, pedophilic, freakish, lonely man. Whatever the era, the gods we create remain strange and various.

  2. Was he really a boy who never wanted to grow up? or an opportunist adult who took his pleasures where he found them and who was wealthy enough to get others to kick his failings into the long grass.

    There are victims in all this, because a child's parents trade there sons hurt for $20 million does not make the child any less of a victim. Whether it was scoring drugs or satisfying his sexual appetite Jackson used his great wealth to circumvent the law.

    I have no objection with him doing this when it came to taking drugs, it was his body after all. Although I spit in the face of the politicians who praise Jackson, but deny access to clean pharmaceutical drugs to the millions of poor souls who are addicted to illicit narcotics.

    True we should make allowances for those who bring artistic pleasure into the world, but surely we should draw a line when they harm others.

  3. FionnchĂș and Mick, not much to dsagree with there. The power of wealth opened doors for him while closing them for others.