Michael Jackson is dead.
I'm having a hard time thinking of someone more famous. Everyone knows Michael Jackson. Everyone. I know you've tried the Moonwalk. Don't act like you haven't. Chubby Checker was famous for creating a dance, too. But he had essentially one song recorded a half-dozen different ways. So even if Michael had just given us that move, he'd be semi-immortal.
But Michael gave us more. Incredible music. Outrageous fashion. Jokes for decades. A cultural touchstone.
Whatever Michael did, we watched. We couldn't help but stare. That was his blessing, and his curse.
When you look back at videos of a young Michael, strutting and spinning and dropping pure, heaven-sent, heartbreaking vocals, it's easy to forget that from the start, he was messed up. By all accounts, his dad was an abusive monster. The kid coped with a pet rat. His entire family knew he was their golden ticket. They didn't treat him like a person. They treated him like an ATM.
You have to wonder what he would have grown up to be if he had a stable home life. What if his parents didn't push him? Would his talent have emerged anyway? Would he still be a musical force, but without the creepy baggage that saddled him down? Or did the abuse have to happen to make him great?
We need to be absolutely clear on something; Michael Jackson was a genius. And as with many geniuses, their supernatural brilliance comes at a price. For whatever reason, Jackson was just as socially handicapped as he was musically gifted. No one in his right mind attempts that much plastic surgery. And no responsible parent would dangle his kid over a balcony. But no one in his right mind would have given us that music, either. You don't become great without being reckless.
We will never understand what made him tick. But somewhere beneath layers of child abuse, mental anguish, unreasonable phobias, social retardation and fear, there was a musical mind without parallel.
And now, looking at his legacy, it seems hard to believe he ever existed. The stories are too outrageous. He is too much a part of our lives - an ingrained myth like Santa Claus. His music, videos, dance and fashion will live far beyond him. And his skills may be even great enough to break free from his orbiting scandals someday.
There will only be one Michael Jackson. For that, we are grateful... in more ways than one.