The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones
So said Mark Antony in verse written by Shakespeare, but the subject of his eulogy was only a Caesar. The King of Pop is quite a different story.
So sure, for weeks, months, likely years, newspaper articles, TV and radio shows, not to mention Internet chatter, will center on all the ills of pop star Michael Jackson, who died unexpectedly Thursday of cardiac arrest.
But long after the conversations about his legal challenges, financial hurdles, — and, OK, his weirdness — have ended, Jackson’s music will remain.
And his music was only bad in the way Jackson used that word to describe what is unquestionably good. Jackson’s music won’t be buried with him. One can expect the best of it to survive just as long as the best works of even the classical masters.
That is not to say the bad about Jackson should be ignored. In his life story, there are many lessons in what a person shouldn’t do.
His Neverland Ranch, with its exotic animals and carnival rides, ought to be remembered for all the good he did for sick and indigent children, who were invited there for a free respite from their troubles. Instead, the place will be infamously recalled as the setting that Jackson allegedly used to seduce young boys. He was tried, but not convicted.
Even as Jackson urged greater human compassion and racial harmony through songs like “Heal the World” or the more rhythmic “Black and White,” he underwent numerous plastic surgeries and bizarre procedures that made him pale and removed most visible traces of his African American heritage.
But there is more than one side to any iconic figure. And in the end, most are remembered for what they did best. Jackson was unquestionably one of the greatest entertainers, if not the greatest, that the world has ever seen. His dancing eclipsed his singing, and the combination was a powerful force.
In India, Zimbabwe, and other far-flung places people are crying because the man who wrote “We Are the World” is gone. A scheduled comeback tour to help dissolve Jackson’s massive debt will not occur. All that’s left is the family that created the pop star of all pop stars, and his three children.
It’s too bad. Maybe given more time on this earth, Jackson would have finally followed the advice he offered in one of his biggest hits, “Man in the Mirror”:
If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change