Never Can Say Goodbye

I am still mourning the death of Michael Jackson.

I mourn as a fan, because that is the only way I knew him.  I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends — especially his children — but I do not pretend I knew Michael Jackson as anything other than an entertainer.  A great entertainer.

Of course, there’s the dancing.  My son plays the Bad video incessantly on YouTube, and tries to imitate the moves.  For me, it’s the Smooth Criminal video.  I can’t watch it enough.

Right after his death, I went into MTV overload, watching every MJ video on every MTV channel available, enjoying MTV’s brief return to its musical roots.

But really, for me, it’s all about the way Michael Jackson could interpret a song.

There’s no denying that Michael Jackson was a preternaturally gifted singer.  He had no life experience to tap into at age 8 to pull off that famous rendition of “Who’s Loving You.”  That performance came from a place few singers, even the ones who have actually experienced the heartache and loss of a broken relationship, find easy to access.

And there’s no reason a 12-year-old should have been able to sing THE definitive version of “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Maybe, even at 12, the lyrics had special meaning for him:

Even though the pain and heartache
Seems to follow me wherever I go
Though I try and try to hide my feelings
They always seem to show

But I look at my own 12-year-old daughter, and I can’t imagine any 12-year-old understanding the emotions behind this lyric, which sustained me through many a breakup:

I keep thinkin that our problems
Soon are all gonna work out
But there’s that same unhappy feeling and there’s that anguish, there’s that
doubt
It’s the same old did ya hang up
Can’t do with you or without

I watched Michael Jackson the consummate professional, the confident performer, and enjoyed every ounce of what he gave to his fans.  And I know that, despite what we thought we knew about Michael Jackson, we didn’t know him at all. 

Many said his televised memorial put a human face on the man who had become known more for his weirdness than his music.  It certainly conveyed a different aspect of him — Michael as doting father and playful friend.  

The coverage of his death seems determined to uncover the “truth.”  I have long since stopped paying attention to the coverage.  I don’t care anymore whether his death was deliberate or accidental, whether or not MJ’s kids are biologically his, or any of the other issues that amount to “breaking news” on TMZ.

The only “truth” about Michael Jackson that I know is this:  despite the fact that so much of his life was lived in public; despite the fact that I grew up with him, reached middle age with him and looked forward to growing old with him — he managed to carve out a very private existence for himself and his children, behind those veils and underneath the umbrellas. 

Thanks to the veils and scarves and blankets, the Jackson children appear to have lived a fairly normal, regular life.  They were able to come and go in public in a way that Michael Jackson could not.  Michael kept their faces covered in public, so the public never really knew what his children looked like until that memorial service.  We aren’t entitled to his children.  He understood that.  I hope we can remember it.

Michael Jackson was a man — not a boy-child, not Peter Pan — but a man who was loved by his children, his family and his friends.  Only those who were privileged to know him personally have any inkling of who and what he really was, to the extent any person can ever know anyone other than himself. 

We may never know exactly who Michael Jackson was, or wasn’t.  I’m not even sure we have the right to continue to probe and try to find out.   What counts most is that his music, and those amazing performances, will last forever, even longer than our own individual memories of him.

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One Response to “Never Can Say Goodbye”

  1. Tweets that mention Never Can Say Goodbye « Carolyn A. Edgar -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by innerfamilylife and Carolyn Edgar, Carolyn Edgar. Carolyn Edgar said: Never Can Say Goodbye: http://wp.me/psOZx-2H […]

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