Friday, June 26, 2009
Come on in ya'll it's about to start. My cousins and I (all between the ages of 5 and 8) dropped what we were doing, ran into the living room, quieted our voices and together with our families gathered in front of the t.v. to watch the Jackson 5. We were mesmerized, enthralled, entertained and impressed all at the same time. And little Michael Jackson was the star of the show. Here was a kid just a bit older than we commanding the stage and giving hope (shortly lived for the vast majority of us) that we too could do the same. It's difficult to put into words what the Jackson 5 meant to me and most every other black child in the late sixties and early 70's. Their sound, dancing, songs, clothes and afros signaled one thing and one thing only. They were BAD!
For many within the Black community during that time the Jackson 5 were more than just a group of talented brothers from Indiana who happened to have one unqiue, extraordinaly talented brother. They were part of the Motown business phenomena that produced hit after hit after hit with multiple groups and singers. The same crowd that filled the Spectrum in South Philly to cheer the Jackson 5 returned for the Temps, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops. Motown, The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson in particular were an important part of our lives. They provided the soundtrack that helped get us through the 60's and into the 70's.
But things change, music progresses and little kid stars grow up and move onto other things. By the end of the 70's Motown moved to L.A., the Jackson 5 broke up and Mike went out on his own. My musical tastes in the the teen years veered from Billy Joel, to Earth Wind and Fire and other grown up acts. In the early 80's just as the black community was getting used to a new form of music called rap, Michael Jackson roared back and became the king of pop. Michael Jackson went from child prodigy to a legitimate on his own mega-superstar that did what few if any had ever done. He literally dominated the mid eighties making him one of the few singers who enjoyed significant success in three separate decades.
Much will be said about Michael's troubling and turbulent life. But before we evangelicals wax eloquent on another life that had everything but Jesus let's keep something in mind. From the time he was a small child Michael Jackson was pushed into the massive celebrity and fame. While we can lament how his life unfolded we should at least understand how it could have unfolded in that manner and be humble enough admit that we too would have had a difficult time had we been blessed with such once in a lifetime talent. And as far as I know most highly talented, very wealthy and famous people live and die without Jesus. I don't know Steve Jobs but my guess is that he was closer to death than many and yet I don't know if the man has repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. But I'm pretty sure that most evangelicals who swear by their Macs don't think much about that as they fire up their machines, listen to their ipods and download apps on their iphones. True, Micheal's life and story were tragic, but judging from the rest of the celebrities in our fame saturated and ravaged culture it was not unusual. Speaking of the cult of celebrity let's be sure to check ours before we excoriate the world who swooned over Michael and stoked the fires of his double-edged fame. As much as we try and separate from the world we too like our celebrities and we do indeed celebrate when one of our own gains a bit of notoriety among the culture.
Sadly Michael Jackson's life was tragic and his death perhaps even more so. But remember saints but for the grace of God there go I. We usually invoke that phrase as we pass the homeless soul begging for his daily bread at a major intersection. However, it's probably more appropriate to think about it when we lose someone of Michael Jackson's stature. His life and death highlight our need for God's grace because apart from it we'd be just as lost regardless of whether or not we had all the other aspects of our lives together which as we know Michael did not. Michael Jackson entertained and impacted millions of people during his life. They will celebrate his talent and mourn his death. Should our Lord give us the opportunity to do so let's mourn with them and if given the chance to talk about his life be sure to remember that we too would be broken, confused and lost apart from God's marvelous grace found in Jesus Christ.
To Him Who Loves Us...