Monday, August 17, 2009

As they knew him

When "A blanket in the clover" launched, it was with a sidebar that included links to newspaper articles and other content published in the immediate aftermath of Michael Jackson's death. These items focused mainly on his musical legacy, though some dealt with
other topics.

Today I am taking this sidebar down, but I thought it would be a good idea to embed the links in this post so that I (and my thousands of readers, of course!) can still have them for easy reference.

  • Album reviews (Los Angeles Times) — This LA Times blog item is a convenient reference of contemporary reviews of MJ's solo albums. I don't agree with all of them, but it's kind of cool to look back and see a sampling of what the Times' critics thought of these works at the times they were released.

  • "Bad" concert review (Guardian) — I loved this 1988 review by John Peel of a stop on the "Bad" tour. He conveys a sense both of the quality of the show and the texture of the event.

  • "Off the Wall" retrospective (New York Times) — This was an editorial board item (the only one I saw on MJ in the Times) published the day after he died. It's a nice spare review of the album, one that emphasizes the great departure the record marked from MJ's previous works.

  • On "Off the Wall," "Thriller" (Wall Street Journal) — This piece describes the amazing collaboration that went on in support of these two albums. My only gripe is that I thought the author de-emphasized MJ's role as songwriter of some key songs. Still, an interesting look back. Minor warning: Journal stories are dreadfully slow to load. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch.

  • Tina Brown's recollections (NPR) — This is a short interview, but a good one. She recounts the "bicycle" story about Billie Jean (he was riding a bike when he came up with the bass line). I'd read that before quite a long time ago, but I'd never seen it repeated or been able to find it online until now.

  • "Remembering Michael: Help me sing it" ( — I stumbled across this piece by accident while googling the lyric "Help me sing it," which I was thinking of using (and did use) as the title of one of my own blog entries. The author of this well-written tribute says, "His celebrity seemed a miserable burden, and no small number of critics jeered while he carried it." It's so true.

  • Robert Hillburn on MJ's loneliness (Los Angeles Times) — This is one of the most depressing things I've ever read. Hillburn, the Times' long-time pop music critic, talks about meeting Michael when he was 11, then again 12 years later, by which time all happiness and confidence seemed gone from the singer.

  • Wesley Morris on MJ's changing appearance (Boston Globe) — This piece offers a look at how African-Americans viewed Michael's radical reworking of his physical self. I'm not black, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the article, but I thought it was really interesting and well-written.

  • Lisa Marie Presley's blog — In the first few days after Michael's death, most major publications were quoting this post by Lisa Marie. The excerpts were painful, and the full text of the entry is even more so. Anyone who thinks that MJ and Lisa Marie weren't a real couple might think twice after reading this anguished account, parts of which may sound familiar to those who have been hung up on an emotionally unavailable guy at one time or another.

  • "Life in the Magical Kingdom" (Rolling Stone) — This 1983 interview with MJ describes the disparity between the man and the performer. Sadly, this online version does not include an intro that appeared in a recent RS re-print. In that intro, the writer described MJ as a "touchingly inept" host who refilled her empty lemonade glass with warm Hawaiian Punch.

Note: The title of this post was ruthlessly stolen from David Gallen's fantastic book by the same name on Malcolm X. No comparison between Michael and Malcolm is intended; I just liked the phrase and hope that Mr. Gallen would not object to my borrowing it.

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