Conrad Murray was the worst kind of doctor. Michael Jackson was the worst kind of patient: A drug addict who needed desperately to sleep.
Together, they were a terrible, combustible, ill-fated combination. And now Murray is headed to jail, and Michael is still gone. We are left with a trial that forever put into the public psyche the hazy image of Michael, wrapped in a gown, laid out dead, and a recording of him a month before that grisly photo, his voice frighteningly unrecognizable. When I heard it the first time, the description that his voice was ‘slurred’ proved woefully inadequate. His voice wasn’t slurred. He sounded as if he’d had a stroke. For one of the signature voices of my life to be corrupted like that was unforgivable.
Let me be clear: I was a Michael mark. Not in 2009, no. But from the time I was a tot growing up in Motown until my 20s, Michael could do no wrong. My older sister got the Jackson Five’s Third Album back in 1970, and from then on, she and I waited with the impatience of small children whenever our favorite brothers were going to be on Flip Wilson or Carol Burnett or Sonny & Cher. There were no forgotten chores, no missed homework assignments, no trouble of any kind from us during one of those weeks. When the Jackson brothers came on, we would be front and center, singing along to every song.
As I grew older, and Michael starred in The Wiz, then released Off the Wall and Thriller, and then brought back the Moonwalk on Motown 25, I was along for the ride. I owned every album, knew every word of every song, plopped down a $20 and a $10 for a ticket to the Victory tour.
But shortly thereafter, I took my leave. Yes, I bought Bad and Dangerous. But Michael was getting weirder—you know all the reasons why—and Public Enemy and New Jack Swing and hip hop and younger artists were making better music than him. To my mind, Michael had a great run, 20+ solid years as an important hitmaker, a streak much longer than the Beatles or Prince and rivaling that of Elvis and Stevie Wonder. Michael’s weirdness and settling with Jordy Chandler made me tune him out. From time to time, I would hope that Michael would stop giggling, would stop speaking in that fey, soft tone, would put out an album that revealed the musical genius I knew him to be. But it never happened. I grew further from him.
So just before that terrible moment on June 25, 2009, when my colleague came running down the hall with an insistent He’s dead, and I stepped into the hallway to ask who, and my legs stopped wanting to support me when I heard, and I called the only person who mattered in that moment—my sister—Michael Jackson was just the name of someone I used to love. I had no desire to go to his London concerts. I assumed they would be a ballyhooed flop, if he even completed them. And just so you understand I’m not a hypocrite, when he was no more, I thanked him on these pages for the joy he had brought me in his first 25 years, while acknowledging that his last 25 years would complicate his legacy for many.
Michael is dead. The man who escorted him on his death path has been punished. Conrad Murray gave us Michael’s last recording. One a far cry from Earth Song, Jam, Billie Jean, Let Me Show You the Way To Go, Looking Through the Windows, I Want You Back. One that has no falsettos. No ‘hee-hees.’ No ripping growls. Instead, Mike is drugged and the tape is frightening and thank God I have MP3s and youtube and CDs and This Is It and everything else. Because goodness knows, this terrible, awful final recording is not how I want to remember him.
© 2011 The Peoples News